“Hey Mom, look what happened,” he mumbled as he pulled his pant leg up to expose his knee, which was red and scraped.
I frowned, “When did that happen?”
“At school. Mean Kid (name obviously removed here) pushed me when we were playing tag.”
My frown became deeper,
“What do you mean he pushed you?”
“He didn’t like me, he said, so he pushed me. We were playing tag, everyone was!”
This time the frown disappeared, and I began trying to figure out how to word my response without obscenities toward a little six year old Mean Kid.
“What did you do when he did it?” I asked, trying to get more information.
“I told him I didn’t like it, and to stop.”
“Did you tell an adult, like we practiced?”
He shook his head no and I sighed.
“Why do you keep playing with him, hun?”
“I just like him so much, and I want to make sure I play with everyone!”
I felt my heart break just a tiny crack, tears welled up in my eyes, and I started the speech that’s become a routine since news of this Mean Kid broke.
“Some people, no matter how much you want them to be, are not your friends. I really think you should find other kids to play with at recess.”
He nodded, and hopped down from the couch, eager to go out to play in the backyard. There wasn’t much else I could say, that myself or my husband hadn’t already said. We’ve had ourselves on repeat almost every single day since his teacher warned us that there was a bullying issue within the classroom. Every day as one of us pick him up, we ask about his day, we ask if there were any issues, and gratefully, he still tells us when there is. Mostly, the situations are harmless, and we just encourage him in the variety of ways that we’d discussed with his teacher (tell him to stop bothering you, move to a different spot, if it continues, tell an adult, if he really hurts you physically, tell an adult, etc etc etc). Sometimes there are stories that make me wonder if his teacher has it as under control as she says, and if we need to be taking more action than just the “stay away from this person” approach. Are we giving the lesson to the right kid?
I like to think that the teacher is proactive in talking to the parents of this child who has apparently been picking on a couple of other kids, although, my kid is the main target. I like to think that she sat down with them the same way we sat down with her, and expressed concern over his behavior, the same way she expressed the need for Potato to learn to voice his discomfort. I like to think, like us, these parents went home and discussed privately the ways they could help their son succeed at school with his peers. Then, I imagine that they took their child aside, and told him that he had to stop being the token Mean Kid.
I tell myself they did these things, because, as the situation seems to escalate, the only other options are that they don’t know, or, even worse, they know and simply do not care. Maybe they think, “Oh boys will be boys, and those kids are just overly sensitive.”
It’s the not caring that worries me the most.
There is a mild bit of frustration at having to repeat that this kid is not a friend, but it lasts only a second, because I realize that my son just doesn’t understand the concept of being mean. He doesn’t understand that there are others who would do it on purpose, or for other reasons than, “OMG MY SISTER IS BUGGING ME!” This isn’t new to us; He has always been that kid. Empathetic, inclusive, thoughtful, and incredibly kind. Ask him who his best friend is, and unlike most six year old’s his response is, “Everyone in my class!” along with a list of all the friends he’s made outside of school. The concept that someone he views as a friend would actually be trying to hurt his feelings on purpose? Lost, completely lost. Every part of me cringes knowing that there is a day when he might actually understand that concept, and he could lose this beautiful heart of gold.
All because of some stupid Mean Kid.
An email was sent, worded as carefully as I could possibly manage, and I sent out a prayer to the universe, hoping that this situation wouldn’t get worse. I didn’t tell my son I was writing his teacher, because I knew that would inflict more worry. Ideally, the situation would be dealt with quietly, without it having to involve too much grilling or confrontation.
For now, it seems my prayer has been answered. I was reassured that we’re doing everything right, and that anytime something comes up, that contacting the teacher is the best thing to do. Potato mentioned that said Mean Kid wasn’t outside at recess because he had to sit in the office, and I assume that’s the discipline the school decided to employ. My fear was that they weren’t following up with this child, and putting all the pressure on my son to voice his discomfort. Which is a great skill to have, and we’ll keep on supporting him to use his voice. However, there comes a point where some intervention may be needed to drive home the point to the offending parties, even if they are only in kindergarten.
Only a month and a bit left of school, and I hope, hope, hope, that we’ve seen the end of this for the remainder of the year. I know that we’re embarking on new territory come Grade 1 as the kids get older (and if my memory serves me right, meaner). But we’ll deal with that when it comes, if it comes.