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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Week #24 - Popularity

Monday night while trick or treating my 8-year-old has asked me not to hold his hand.  There were a lot of kids from school around and, unconsciously, as we walked down the street I had automatically reached out to keep him close. He said he wasn’t a little kid, and I didn’t need to hold onto him.  I think all you parents will understand when I tell you that it broke my heart a little. This is not the first or last time that will happen while watching him grow, it has been a series of steps and leaps and bounds he has made since last June - some so huge that friends and family who haven’t seen him in more than a week or two remark to me how different he is, how he’s grown and changed.  

As a parent, you celebrate your children’s successes, and this independence is a huge accomplishment for him because when he was in kindergarten, my son suffered trauma at a daycare center.  For about 6 weeks, two older boys hurt him on a daily basis.   It has radically altered his life and his ability to react in social situations, and to read the clues of others.  He suffers from post-traumatic stress and is re-learning how to get along with children his age, to make friends, to fit in.  

He is intelligent, bright, and funny to the point of being goofy.  He has a very active imagination and is incredibly creative.  He can tell you anything you ever wanted to know about dinosaurs.  He can talk to adults, children younger than him and much older than him about anything and everything.  

Sometimes though, he finds it hard to walk into a room of his peers.  He would rather play by himself, or not go outside at all so he isn’t ignored or teased by boys his age.  He can be incredibly angered by the smallest of incidents that trigger some memory of his own helplessness and fear.  

He does make friends though, and is learning to trust in that.  He likes to go to school now and see them.  He is blossoming in new ways every day and I am grateful to watch it, and proud of his strength and courage to open himself to what could happen.  The alternative is to be afraid and closed off, to be singular - and you can’t really live your life like that, can you?   

He may never be part of the popular kids, engulfed by the masses, trying to fit in and do what everyone else does.  But he will be himself, making his own choices out of what works for him.  I'm not sure if I could be more proud of who he is.   

A few weeks ago, he wore a hat to school, and some kids were teasing him about it.  I told him that he had to make a choice to either wear it and understand that some kids wouldn’t like it and they may make fun of him over it, or to leave it at home and wear a different one knowing that teasing could happen, but understanding that it was okay to be who he is, and do what he wanted no matter what anyone else thought.  He wore it to school the next day and dealt with the consequences.

Monday was one more example of him making choices.  Sometimes I know that I hold on too tight because I have that lingering guilt that I didn’t protect him better, didn't see something wrong sooner.  I live with knowing he had to grow up faster and harder because of what happened to him.  I also know that I have to show him that trust is earned, and opening yourself to the lessons that happen in your life and still moving forward is important.  I am trying daily to teach him this lesson - Oscar Wilde said it - “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  

So Monday night, I swallowed hard, and opening my fingers, let him walk away.


  1. Bless his heart. I believe you are doing exactly the right things. Life can be rough for kids and a loving supportive Mom can make all the difference, as you are seeing.
    Great post and lucky boy.

  2. People just don't know the extent to which they hurt others. He's lucky you are there for him.

  3. I am going through the same types of things with my son who is in kindergarten. He is my baby and I want so much to make things better for him and help him find his way!!


  4. WOW this got to the hell did you deal with those two brat children......DANG...i am still focused on that part of your writing. EXCELLENT post and KUDOS to you day when he is "all grown up" i hope he reads your memoirs! ((hugs))

  5. All you can do with your kids is the best you can. It is horrible that children are hurt, often by other children.

    My niece and nephew were molested, when they were about 7 & 5, respectively, by their 10 year old female cousin, over a period of about a year. Their mother had no clue until they were teenagers and finally told her about it. This happened while they were at their father's (her ex's) and she still feels very guilty she didn't realize "something" was going on, but they were having a hard time adjusting to the divorce, and she'd always done a good job (so she thought) of teaching them autonomy about their bodies. She didn't want to cross-examine them every time they came back from their dad's, though of course she asked how the visit was, and tried to leave the door open for discussion.

    The hard reality of parenthood is stuff is going to happen to our babies - some good, some terrible - that we can't always control. We just have to protect where we can, without creating more of a problem by being OVERprotective.

    And I think that even the popular kids don't really FEEL popular, most of the time.

  6. @Jo - Thanks.. and really, lucky me. He is pretty darn amazing!

    @Pam - This was the hurt that keeps on giving. It's been years now and he is still in counseling, he still has bad days, and he still flashes back. Some hurts never heal, but some scars shape who you are.

    @Kathy - It is SO hard to let them find their independence, but the great thing is that they let you know when they are ready, and you find it within yourself to do it.

  7. @Brenda - I didn't deal with those children. I removed my child from the daycare, took him to his physician, worked to find a good therapist, and we reported the abuse to the daycare owner (who denied it could happen in her facility) and the local police department. Children that age (6 and 7) do not do what those children were doing and say what they were saying without suffering the same thing themselves. Children learn what they live. I couldn't afford the emotional energy to be angry with them. I felt sorry for them, and I had conversations with DCYS regarding my belief that someone was hurting them and they were doing what they were 'taught'. They were investigating but could not discuss their findings with me. And I had to let that be enough while I took care of my child.

  8. @Beverly - You made some really good points. I am firmly of the opinion that we need to stop the silence about these kinds of things. We need to live in a world where our children are safe, and the way to do that is make sure that the statistics about abuse are known.

  9. This one tugged at my heartstrings--hard. That your son was abused and now has to relearn to trust is an awful, awful thing. If we could only protect them, but no matter how diligent we are, we can't. The best we can do is exactly what you're doing--offering support, celebrating his gifts, and allowing him to make choices that little by little, empower him.

    And separate from his history, just the growing process--the teeny steps away--are so bittersweet. Your last sentence was absolutely perfect and spoke right to my heart.

  10. I have to wonder where the teachers were when the teasing was taking place. Now-a-days if we catch it, there are serious consequences. I would contact the teacher for a conference. Let her know that this has happened. There are ways for the adults to nip it, or at least be watchful of it so that they can catch it and tear up those little buggers. Good luck.


  11. I'm struggling with the letting go, too. You and I have had the discussion so many times - what decisions could we have made to protect them from any heartache or hurt? But, it is you who taught me to not be so arrogant as to believe we have that much power. As with us, they too must experience their lessons to become exactly who they are meant to be.
    I keep watching Kayla...6th grade. Off to Junior High next year. This is such a year of transition. I cannot fathom a time in my life when the needs of my three children will not be the very air I breathe, yet the time will come to let them go off into the world with all of their lessons in tow. What a short, precious time we get to share their days in the first person and watch that progression. It is indeed bittersweet, but as Garth Brooks sang, "I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance." Enjoy the steps, savor the music, and hold them tight!! ILYBM

  12. I think it is so hard at times to just trust the process. My middle son went through a bullying stint at his school...but the teacher "never" saw it happen. Of course, she wanted my son to come tell her the moment it happened--and he knew the consequences of being a snitch. She didn't understand that. Finally a parent volunteering for the day saw it and reported it immediately--but my son lost all faith in the system and begged to be homeschooled. He also started that year with behavior problems that extended beyond my reach or control and we had to take him to a psychologist.

    Homeschooling--unfortunately was the wrong thing to attempt with him. I learned the hard way but I wanted to protect him. I enrolled him into a public school for the first time and realized that his anxiety level shot through the roof and no idea what to do about it. It took two weeks--but then he loved school--he began to see that not all kids are bullies--and I'm proud because if he sees a kid being bullied he is the first to stick up for them. I have to say though, for 3 solid years I doubted myself as a parent because that bullying incident in a private school brought out some pretty ugly stuff.

    ((HUGS)) to you--I know it is sometimes not the easiest thing seeing our kids be hurt in any capacity.

    Cheers, Jenn