Friday, September 14, 2012

The riddles of kids.

My niece, Anna, and sons, Zachary and Zeke, at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

 I've said before that when you go from being a mom of under-school-age children to suddenly having one in school, the world takes on another color. You don't expect things to change so much. There's both fear and elation at play.

A particularly sound piece of advice I received last year from a fellow writer was, "If you don't believe everything that your child comes home to tell you, then the teachers won't believe everything they tell them."

It's hard to understand that if you don't have a child that blurts out the weirdest things at the weirdest times. A kid's mind fires so differently from our own that it's fascinating to see the connections they make. It doesn't mean they are intentionally lying, they just view things differently.

That first week of school last year, Zachary came home and said, "Momma, they left me." He preceded to tell me this horrifying story about how he'd missed getting in line for lunch and his class walked to the lunchroom without him, leaving him lost, wandering the halls alone because he hadn't gotten used to where everything was yet. That was alarming and terrifying for me. I tried hard not to come to any sudden conclusions but I was frantic and the only thing that ran through my head was that the kindergarten building was on the edge of the campus, close to the street. If he'd been left alone, he could've simply wandered off into the streets, to a stranger's house... anything. So I called his teacher and she calmly explained that nothing of the sort happened.

It occurred to me later that he had been so worried about getting lost in his new school, and that he'd played that scenario in his mind to the point it had become somewhat real for him. That was an interesting year with many interesting and confusing conversations with my son. Sometimes I think a person has to be an expert in riddles to understand the meanings behind what young children say.
Zachary helping with dishes; I believe it took him ten minutes to wash this one cup!

Now I have a first-grader and, while his thinking is a little more concrete, I still have to listen with a filter.

I'd called the school earlier this week because Zachary had come off the bus with a very red and sore arm. He told me that a kid three years older than him had called him names and "Indian burned" his arm. There's so much focus on bullies these days and the impact they have on kids that, as a mom, you want to go into defense mode with your kid. But I also didn't want to jump to any conclusions because my mom instinct was telling me there was something else.

The principal assured me that she would get to the bottom of it and later she called me back. As it turned out, Zachary had just as much role in the situation as the older kid. They were both bickering, name calling, and had resorted to physical contact. She'd lectured the other kid about being "bigger" (meaning maturity), to which he rose and started measuring the difference between them. Since he was only a forehead taller than Zachary, this confused him. In turn, she'd lectured Zachary about not doing things to purposely annoy others. "Why didn't you stop turning your head?" she asked and he replied that it (his head) just wouldn't stop turning. You know, as if his head were a separate entity from the rest of him. The boys learned their lesson and won't be sitting on the bus together anymore and the principal got a nice chuckle out of their answers and reactions.

It's a nice reminder of how hard teachers' jobs really are and how intelligent and patient one has to be in order to succeed in that position. It's a reminder, too, not to make assumptions about another kid. I wanted to; after all, my son was hurt. It would've been easy to slip into Momma Bear mode.

In the meantime, I'm glad that my son was able to give the principal a nice laugh and was happy that the situation wasn't anything worse. I'm both curious and nervous about what the rest of the school year holds for him.

Peace, love, and entertaining parenting,


My sons painting a watercolor "Welcome Home" sign for their older brother.

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