I’ve mentioned my dear friend, Drama Mama a number of times here. She writes a wonderful blog that she calls Like a Shark. Though I may well be off base, I’ve always assumed that the rationale behind her title was that as mothers, particularly the kind of mothers that she and I are, we have no choice but to keep moving. That may not have been her intention when she named it, but nonetheless that is what it has come to mean to me.
No matter what sharks do, they don’t stop moving. They sail through the water at mind boggling speeds and change direction without warning when they have to. They mate, they hunt, and they swim. They do not stop moving.
Weeks like this one remind me, in no uncertain terms, that I am a shark. Whatever happens, I keep moving.
The week began with the teasing incident on Sunday afternoon. I licked my wounds on Sunday night. On Monday, I struggled to find a way to handle it that I could live with. You generously offered your insightful advice and your support, and I am grateful for both.
In case you didn’t see it, I left the following update in the comment section following the post:
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your collective advice and support. I also know I don’t have to tell you. That’s the best part.
I also appreciate your anger. It sucks for all of us.
I feel like I owe it to you to walk you through my decision. So here’s what I did. I’ll get to the why in a minute.
I opted against making the phone call to the little boy’s mother. Instead, I chose to speak with their teacher. (The boy is in Brooke’s class.) We spoke first thing in the morning, before school started. She was satisfyingly upset. She gets it – she’s one of the good ones. She feels this stuff.
She was eager to help. She was everything one would hope when making this kind of heart-in-the-mouth call. She immediately had a plan of action. She promised to be on high alert for a similar situation. If it arises (as I suspect it will) she will be all over it and I can assure you there will be a lesson in it. She also assured me that she would revisit the basics with ALL of the kids regarding respecting and understanding each other’s differences, how to use words respectfully, how to express their feelings, and what kinds of words are not acceptable – ever. There was more. That’s what I can remember.
Now – the why.
I had decided last night to wait until I had calmed down (meaning after a night’s attempt to sleep) to make the call. Luau very wisely suggested that before I do anything, I call my dad and seek his advice. I suspect he did that because he knew what my dad would say.
You may remember that my dad was a middle school principal for forty-five years. There’s not much that he hasn’t seen in the way of inter-parental interaction. He knows people, he knows kids, he knows parents – he’s seen nearly every version of these movies played out time and again and he knows how the different scenarios tend to wind up. Yeah, I so have the best dad ever! Anyway, he’s my sage and he knows of what he speaks. So I called Dad.
He made an extremely good argument for NOT calling. I was disappointed. I was revved up. I was ready for action. Mama Bear was looking to change the world one phone call at a time .. GRRRRR. But I listened. Cause well, see above. He knows his stuff, people.
Dad’s point was that there was some fairly significant downside risk in making the call. Aside from the expectation that the mom would likely be understandably defensive (which I dismissed believing fully in the power of my charms, thank you, April .. lol) there was a likely outcome that I would not have considered.
He said that he’s often seen these situations backfire. Ultimately, thanks to an attempt by the parents to fix it, the kid in question winds up focusing all their attention on their target. In all likelihood, he said, the parents would not know how to handle the situation in a way that would deter him. They might very well inadvertently add fuel to his fire.
For all the world, it certainly appeared that the boy was seeking attention with his actions. The great thing about Brooke’s presumed lack of awareness (I hope) is that he didn’t get it. He DID get it from her big sister, but since she’s not typically around them, that would not normally be the case. We’ve all studied at least enough ABA to know that when we don’t get attention for our attention seeking behaviors, we eventually give up and try a different tact, right? So, the idea of purposely focusing attention on all of this may well be counter-productive.
The teacher will more likely have the tools to handle it productively, sensitively and appropriately. Thus, I defer to her for now.
Sooooooo, in the end, I have decided that the real gift to my daughter in this situation is not the tough call, but the restraint not to make it. You’re right, M, it won’t be easy. I have found that parenting often is not.
Thanks again for all of your support. Y’all rock!
The conversation with Brooke’s teacher was wonderful. She is this week’s personal miracle. She sent me a long, detailed e-mail at the end of the school day. She thanked me for bringing the incident to her attention. She outlined the actions she had taken during the day and told me about how she planned to proceed.
She told me about the wonderful book that she had read and discussed in depth with the kids that day - a story called Odd Velvet. She told me about the conversation that they had around it about how to look past their own assumptions, how to see the beauty in people, about what it means to be a real friend.
She talked about specific actions she took with the little boy to help work on his social growth and understanding. They worked through scenarios. She has a plan in place to continue the effort. She will follow through with it. I trust her.
She ended her note with the following:
These kids have taught me so much in the 88 days we have been in school. I love it – especially Brooke. She is a little girl who has taught me things that I can’t even put into words, and has helped me be more aware of my interactions with other people. Kindergarten is the best and having an inclusive classroom is even better!
There are teachers and then there are heroes. The ones who stretch and challenge not just their kids, but themselves. The ones who learn while they teach and teach what they’ve learned. The ones who are helping us make a better world for our precious kids.
So yes. We keep moving forward.
I’ll talk about the rest of the week’s events when I can. Suffice to say that it’s been the kind of week that shows you what you really value – and even more importantly, what you don’t. It’s the kind that reminds you that stuff is just stuff and that the people that you love are all that matter. Times like these make you remember just who you are.
And me? Well, I’m the kind (just like you) who keeps moving. You know – like a shark.