Oh, momming. It’s the most awesomely hard, yet amazing job there is. It’s this incredible journey that I am finding is full of joy, fun and promise, and yet, can sometimes be an unwelcome trip down memory lane.
When I first became a mom with Gavin, and then again with Grace, I remember holding them as newborns and being so filled with love. I remember my mind traveling down so many paths: falling in love with Kenny all over again for the amazing gift of this beautiful, healthy baby; looking at the tiny, never-before-seen, yet-oddly-so-familiar face as I wondered about and anticipated who they’d become; making quiet promises to be the mom I always dreamed I’d be if I was given the chance and softly reassuring them I would always be there for them. (Yes, all this, despite the fact that I was really just a warm body and food source for them at that point. Haha.)
Fast forward to now, and I’ve found my love for them grows as fast as they do. And I am far from the mom I dreamed I’d be. (You know the one. She’s gorgeous and relaxed and blissfully sipping hot coffee while happily sitting in her beautiful, pristine home with smiling, clean children strewn about her feet neatly stacking blocks and sharing toys. All of this is, of course, occurring after she’s worked out, served a fully organic breakfast, a healthy, homemade snack and done three different crafts / learning activities that she whipped up from scratch (read: zero screen time for anyone). She’s in the pages of the parenting magazines you devoured when you were pregnant with your first child, but have since abandoned because, well, who has time to thumb through magazines now!?) Naturally, as they grow, I face(d) the normal mom challenges and self-doubts over things like feeding them properly, discipline, and bed times and routines while trying to personally find proper work / life balance that includes time to shower regularly and eat healthily. To be honest, I am still trying to figure out how to raise kids that don’t become jerky adults. This is very important to me. I am finding, too, as they get older, they are starting to face things that I am not necessarily good at navigating myself, so I am always questioning the advice I share with them.
Which brings me to today.
My heart is breaking for our sweet little Grace who is experiencing, first-hand, at the ripe old age of five, that “kids can be cruel”.
Yesterday, I had to send her teacher an e-mail that went like this:
And, sadly, the teacher wrote back that, yes, Grace is having a tough time with her friends. The gist of her email was:
- Grace has been having a rough time
- Grace finally confided in her (the teacher) yesterday, and the teacher had a long talk with Grace and some of the girls in the class
- She wasn’t aware of the “friends group” and was appreciative that I mentioned it
- Now that she know what’s happening, she will be watching daily and checking in with Grace
Definitely not the most severe case of “bullying” out there, but for a five-year-old (and apparently, the five-year-old’s mom), it’s shaping up to be pretty impactful.
I cried when I read her e-mail. I feel so bad for Grace, who I think is genuinely confused about why this is happening. It’s the first time we’ve experienced something like this. I also shed a few tears because I doubted Grace a little bit, and thought she may have been being a little dramatic. Luckily, I didn’t let her know I was questioning the events, but still, ugh. Definitely not being the mom I was in my dreams. I shed a few more tears because I am terrible at dealing with conflict (like literally do everything in my power to avoid confrontational situations) and I don’t really know what to tell her. We’ve been talking about it every night so far this week and I am doubting my ability to help her through this. Everything I say sounds like a platitude.
I pulled myself together and sat and thought before I replied to her email.
I feel relieved that we’re working together to figure this out, but I am so sad that this is actually happening to her!
Yes, she’s mentioned some specific girls, but it didn’t seem that all of the friends she speaks about at home are included. I have been encouraging her to play with those girls instead (not sure this is the right move, but I am trying to build up her confidence again. She loves going to school and I don’t want this to deter her.) It seems they are telling her that she’s their old friend and they want new friends and then saying things like “maybe we’ll play with you tomorrow.” I know some of this stuff is normal as kids explore social dynamics / boundaries and such, but, naturally, I am worried for Grace. I am sure the pendulum will swing back here soon enough, but I appreciate you keeping an eye on the situation. Do you know if the playground monitors keep an eye out for this stuff and encourage the kids to include everyone?
I hope she’s able to work it out with the girls.
Thanks for taking time to speak with her about it yesterday, I really appreciate it. I know she really likes you, so hopefully she’ll continue to confide in you to help her while she’s at school. If there’s anything that seems to be working with her at school, can you please let me know so we can reinforce those same messages at home?
Thanks, again, for your help with this.
So, now we wait. And check with Grace and see how things are going. I am thankful for her teacher – she’s a great woman who genuinely cares about the kids in her class. I know she will keep an eye on things. Kenny and I sent a flurry of emails to each other today thinking of ways we can do better for Grace – you know, to expose her to more activities so she starts to create a wider circle of friends. Did we panic a bit? Maybe go a little overboard? Probably. But it’s one of those things where you internalize what’s happening to your child and feel like you personally need to try harder, even if that won’t fix the issue.
Of course, I now have the benefit of hindsight, and am stringing some things together. Grace – who was diagnosed with a double-ear infection last Thursday night, asked on Monday morning if she was “too sick to go to school”. This was after she skipped out the door on Friday morning (the day after the ear infection news). Friday was the day she “got kicked off the friends team”, and now she was hedging her bets on being too sick for school. I got a note on Tuesday that Grace was complaining to her teacher that her whole body hurt, but they worked through it. She has been very clingy with me. Not terribly unusual, but we had a birthday party for a girl in her class yesterday and she wouldn’t sit down at the table without me. She eventually warmed up and played, but only after a few of the “friends team” had left. She’s just been a little off, and now it’s all coming together.
I totally remember going through things like this when I was younger. I don’t necessarily recall them happening at the age of five, but I remember being in that weird spot where friends paired off into ‘best friends’ and there were third wheels. I’ve been on both sides, multiple times. I’ve been taking that unwelcome walk down this particular part of memory lane trying to figure out any tactics I can use with Grace. But really, all I remember is not knowing how to really deal with it, other than following my mom’s advice to just be myself and friends will find me. And they did.
I know that this will happen for Grace, too. And I know that this is a ‘kids will be kids’ type of thing that will soon pass.
I also know that this is only the first of many trials we’ll experience with friends and growing up. Yet, as I navigate through my first of these trials – this foray into “bullying” – I am kind of surprised at how poorly I am handling this, hahaha. I always imagined I’d have a ton of answers and good advice. I guess I can’t deal with looking at her hurt face. Oh my. I better take some mom classes or something. (Imagine the first time she has a break-up? I am going to be a hot mess!)
Grace is generally a confident little girl with a fun personality – I am just crossing my fingers that this “everyone avoid Grace” game ends really soon so she doesn’t lose that. She’s typically pretty strong-willed, and likes things to be right / as they should be – so I have been encouraging her to stand up for herself. Hopefully, she is. I asked her if she was yesterday and she said, “Yes, but it’s hard. They just run away from me.” 🙁 I told her not to worry about or chase them, but to go and find her own thing to do. (A feeble attempt to make sure she’s protecting herself and learning self-reliance, I guess?!) She said that’s also hard because they try to find her. 🙁
If I try to find the positive here, maybe it’s good for her to experience this now so she realizes it’s not OK to exclude people, and is, in turn, kinder coming out of it?! Who knows. I guess time will tell. Hopefully soon. Very soon.
In the meantime, if any of you have any tips or tricks that might help me help Grace, or help Grace help herself, I would love to hear them!