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Happens Every Day

I have been reading Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies and even though the book is about her divorce, it has brought me to a place of catharsis and understanding about something unrelated to marriage, maybe because it is set at a university which makes me think about my own experience in graduate school.

During my third year, I was in a terrible situation that I sat through for an entire semester and never told anyone about until the end of the semester.  The situation was bad enough for a department head to come in on a Sunday and meet with me in his office after I told a department secretary about it on Friday night and she called him to tell him that he needed to get involved immediately.  He listened, but at first, he didn’t want to do anything and I started crying because I couldn’t believe that I had finally stepped forward and was being told that nothing was going to be done to help me.

I was about to leave his office and I said something which made no sense to me at the time but makes perfect sense now.  It was as if I was on autopilot, being flown by my mother.  He had pictures of his kids in the office and I pointed at one and said, “imagine I’m your daughter.  Would you let someone do this to your daughter?  I am someone’s daughter–treat me like that.”

And suddenly, stuff got done.  I had unknowingly pushed a button, not even knowing yet how a parent feels about protecting their child.  I didn’t really sense how far a parent would go until I became a teacher and felt that way about my students.  A policeman once came to my external classroom door during my first year of teaching and when he knocked, I opened the door a crack and told him he couldn’t enter my classroom and had to follow campus protocol and sign in at the office.  Then I locked my door and went back to teaching.

The kids were stunned that I’d say that to a policeman and I was sort of stunned too, but again, on autopilot, my instinct was that I would do anything to protect them, with protection being loosely used in this case since there was no danger.  The point was that I wasn’t going to be intimidated or allow a stranger into my room knowing that it was my job not only to teach but to protect.

Which brings me to my current worries–the twins are just beginning to navigate the wonderful and terrible world of personal relationships.  They are making their own friends–ones they choose rather than ones we’ve served up to them as the children of our friends and therefore, they will love them, damnit.

I thought we were pretty much immune to drama until maybe 8-ish.  I thought around third grade, there would be a few tears along the lines of “so-and-so didn’t want to be in my group for the class project” and I thought that I’d continue to cook dinner while they told me about this transgression, and the whole thing would blow over by the next morning.

That’s how I thought it would go.

But we’re already navigating this in pre-kindergarten and my reaction is sort of the one invoked by those fateful words in the department head’s office.  They are my children and I am up worrying about them, knowing full well how much childhood relationships can suck.  I want to protect them.  I don’t listen with half-an-ear, writing off the drama like I thought I would.  It’s like I become a five-year-old myself and  I put down the spoon I am using to stir whatever I am cooking and their world becomes my entire world while they’re dealing with the hurt.  With every transgression, I stroke their head at the end of the discussion and say, “you know, it’s so hard to be little.  It’s hard when you’re bigger, but it’s even harder when you’re little.”  And they get it somehow, that they’ll develop coping mechanisms to deal with other people’s shittiness.

Yes, I am aware that I am carrying my own baggage into their experience as does Josh.  Their experience is uniquely theirs and not a reincarnation of my own.  But still, you can’t help but relive every slight you remember from childhood when you watch your child living through their own (and know full well that they’ll relive these moments too with your grandchildren if they want to parent).

There is a boy at school who tormented the Wolvog all year telling him that he wouldn’t invite him to his birthday party and when the Wolvog would tell me this, I explained that it’s just the sort of shitty thing someone yells at you to be cruel, but isn’t true because no parent would allow a child to act that shitty.  But lo and behold, the child didn’t invite the Wolvog to his birthday party after inviting most (all?) of the class.  I don’t know if the mother is just as shitty as her son or if she didn’t know that her son was yelling these things to other kids and it’s just a convergence of a series of unfortunate events where an exclusive birthday party coincides with the child’s nasty promise.  But at the end of the day, my son’s feelings were deeply bruised.

The title of the book I’m reading–Happens Every Day–refers to divorce, but it has become the mantra of a series of discussions I have had with Josh and my mother and my friends about behaviour.  Things like this, not being invited to the birthday party, dealing with the classroom bullies, having a day when you feel alone on the playground–these are all things that happen every day.  That are part of the childhood experience.  What is so heartbreaking is that you can’t cushion your child from that hurt any more than you can cushion yourself dealing with it in the adult world.  And it is so commonplace that we are expected to just suck it up and deal.

While there is a “blessing of the skinned knee,” that silver lining does little good when you see all that hurt welling up in your child (or frankly, your partner, your sibling, your friend) and you know exactly who caused it.  Because who is a very different thing from what.  Who implies that it was under the control of another person.  And that really sucks.

I’m going to say something that will sound wholly unKumbayalike: people can be shitty.  People can be terrible and thoughtless and cruel, even when they are also wonderful and sensitive and kind.  Sometimes, people say “no” because they’re lazy and self-centered.  Daily, they see someone who needs help and they walk by without offering it because they’re apathetic.  They can eat popcorn through Schindler’s List.  They can find out their colleague is going through chemotherapy and not make a meal.

And once you observe it and see that others often operate this way, even the most kindhearted and clean-living person jumps in the figurative mud puddle where everyone else is splashing around, selfishly having fun but creating a huge mess.  We all figure that if everyone else is being a dick, we might as well be a dick too.  We all–to some degree and for some duration of time–start behaving this way because you learn quickly that being kind doesn’t make you immune to other people being cruel.  You can make three dozen meals for other families at your church and then find yourself in need and have no one step forward.

It’s difficult to get out of the orbit of “why bother” and it’s a terrible cycle that doesn’t serve anyone.  But being selfish is easy and being thoughtful is really difficult.  Still, every once in a while, you come to your senses and wonder why you’re wallowing in figurative mud like a pig, so you pull yourself out of the dirt and vow to make things change–to explain through example that people don’t need to act this way.  And for a while, you truck along, pleased with humanity and then slowly, you start noticing that everyone else is still in that mud puddle and you’re seething because they’re going to track mud and it’s such a selfish thing to create a huge mess that you’re going to have to clean up because you actually care about messes.

So you jump back into the mud puddle with a “who cares” attitude and the cycle continues.  It is hard to put out the effort to be kind when others around you are not extending you any kindness.  It seems to come in spurts, a rash of disgust with humanity followed by a rebuilding of hope which can continue along for a while until you notice that others are in the mud puddle again.

I do try to spend as much time as possible not only remaining clean, but attempting to ignore the fact that the figurative mud puddle exists because I am the product of my experiences (see, that silver lining).  I wouldn’t be quite myself if I hadn’t gone through mourning the birthday party invitations that didn’t come or the playground taunts or even the incident in graduate school.

These things have–hopefully–made me a more inclusive person, one who tries to make sure that people feel a part of something and heard.  I make a meal for a friend who needs someone to take care of her so she can take care of other things.  I’m not perfect and there are plenty of people who don’t get a meal or don’t feel heard and I feel terrible about that, but it was never intentional or if it was done knowingly, it was done because there were other circumstances such as a lack of money or time.  If I am having a party, everyone is invited to the party.  If I am baking cookies for one person, I tend to bake them for everyone else who might notice that I baked cookies for the first person.  I don’t like myself when I’m in the mud because it feels wrong.  I know better than to splash around in there and I blame only myself when I get to that place where my body is figuratively that filthy.  But yes, I too get disgusted with humanity and sometimes end up asking the existential question of why do I bother and act accordingly.

The trick, of course, is that I am in charge of my own body and mind and mouth and I can decide not to wade into that figurative mud and be self-centered.  I can choose to be kind (we always tell the twins, “we want you to be kind because you can be and not cruel because you can be.”  The choice is always theirs how they wish to behave).  What I can’t do is control those other people in the puddle.  They can keep splashing around despite the snarls from those of us on the outer edge.  It is their choice whether they want to be in or out of the mud.  Or in or out of the mud when it comes to me–because they can choose to be kind to everyone else and a dick to me and there is nothing I can do about that except control my own reaction.

This is on my mind (daily, even when it isn’t 4 a.m.) because soon, the twins will be in school full time and the more time they are out of the house and away from family who loves them unconditionally and would go to the ends of the earth for them, the more chances they’ll have of being splashed by mud by those in the puddle when they’re standing on the edge debating whether they too want to get in.

I hope they choose not to join in (not just because I would dread cleaning up the house if they came home after taking an actual mud bath).  But I also know that this decision will need to happen every day because those observations of rudeness will happen every day.

I am terrified of how my children will be treated, that the sweetness will be beaten out of them by what they observe.  I know my mother also stayed up at 4 a.m. worrying about me–and apparently with good cause.  When it is your child, you are willing to stick your hand into someone’s chest and yank out their still beating heart like a ninja (ninjas do this, right?) if they harm your child–physically or emotionally.

I am trying to learn how to let go, knowing full well that I both came through the other side and still observe to this day that adults can be just as cruel as kids.  That we all say thoughtless things, do thoughtless things, that we can even have a mirror held up and our behaviour reflected and still not learn from it because sometimes (perhaps due to what we observe around us) we. just. don’t. care.  And with that fact in place, and the knowledge that how others act is out of my control, there is no point in worrying at 4 a.m. because what will be will be and hopefully, the twins will become better people because of those incidents.

But please, my heart has never listened to my head.

But back to my kumbayaness, I have also have observed how good people can be, and that is the towel I use to clean myself up those times I do wade into the mud.  And I’m always grateful for experiences that remind me to get the hell out of those mucky waters and back on clean land.  It’s not an excuse to act beastly just because others have made that choice.


1 Anjali { 05.05.10 at 7:49 am }

This is such a hard, hard thing, Mel. But thanks for writing about it. I’ve found the hardest thing about a child who mistreats is realizing that the parents are just as bad, or worse, than the kids. And that that child is going to grow up to be just like him/her.

2 mash { 05.05.10 at 8:03 am }

The thing I’ve learned is, that for every “bad” person, there are probably 100 “good” people. Kindness does actually shine through in the end. It just doesn’t get as much attention as uncaring behaviour.

I’ll never forget how a really popular colleague of mine, who had gone to the ends of the earth every time someone left the company to collect money for a gift and organise a farewell do, resigned to work for the competition. The company decided to sue her. My other colleagues became like mini Nazi’s, gossiping about her and avoiding her. Hardly anybody contributed to her leaving gift, and there was no farewell do (she was escorted off the premises for no apparent reason at all).

I’m comparing it to Nazism, because I’ve always found it so difficult to understand that 90% of Germans supported Hitler. It’s not because an entire nation of people was suddenly born evil. It’s because we ALL have a dark side. Most of the time, most of us don’t choose to operate from it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. A group is an extremely powerful thing in terms of changing someone’s behaviour.

Learning to quietly stand outside of it is something that probably takes years and years, and lots of life experience to learn.

I believe that we are on this planet to learn and experience, as scary as it is most of the time, it’s what makes us who we are. And then, we get to watch our children go through the same suffering we did. I mean, what’s that all about!

They will be OK. Just like you are.

3 Kristin { 05.05.10 at 8:23 am }

Great post hon. One point I have made with my kids is that even if they don’t like someone, they must be kind in the way they distance themselves from the person.

4 Kir { 05.05.10 at 8:29 am }

I think it comes down to who they are raised with…I know that sounds naive and silly, but dammit, I want it to be true.

I believe that your children will not be Muddle Puddle people, because YOU are not. They see it in their homes and they know that it can be different, they are told you can be kind…and they are given that choice. I THINK that makes all the difference, like the road less traveled.

I want my children to see that I empathize, that I give back, that I might not do all I want to to make the world better, but when I can, I do. I do what I am good at, or able to. I hug, I look people in the eye and listen as much as I can, I buy cards and send them, I love people…as much as I can. I am just hoping this too, will be enough to make my sons GOOD MEN, HUMAN MEN, EMPATHETHIC MEN.

now that I am a mom, you’re right, I worry all the time, I want to do right by then, I don’t want to wallow in mud and let them see me.

this was a beautiful post, your children are soooo lucky to have you and so are we….lucky to have you in the world.

5 Shelli { 05.05.10 at 8:34 am }

This is a pet peeve of mine, and yes, after D started school it became very evident that not every parent has the same morals and values as I do. And behind most kids that have less than impressive personalities are parents that are equally as unimpressive.

It’s a fine line to raise a child in an environment where he needs to stick up for himself and not let other kids walk on him. My immediate reaction is to hold him closer, but I do understand that I need to let him discover how to cope on his own sometimes. It kills me, yes, but I know that I cannot shelter him from it.

My words to my son each morning… “do good, and BE good.. always”. And then I set him free for the day knowing that if I am a reasonable and loving parent, he will probably emulate me. Hopefully, more days than not. lol.

6 Heather { 05.05.10 at 9:04 am }

Big J used to go to private school. Then, we moved, and we put her in public school. Then we adopted, and she’s homeschooled. I worry about her relationships. Always have.
We went through the same bit of “I don’t like you–you’re not wanted” at Valentine’s one year. And J’s weirdo teacher didn’t do anything. My kid got ZERO Valentine’s because the teacher never gave them a student list. J made hers by memory–in kindergarten–and we took them. But she received none. It’s a hard lesson.
Perhaps more painful to me than her. She was upset, but I was worse…I think I wanted her to feel loved and friended so badly that I projected (OK I’m going down this psych hill now, so I’m stopping)…

With that said….you are incredible. Your children shall not worry…they will be individuals of great empathy and love and drive and passion. All because of how they’re raised.

7 Mina { 05.05.10 at 9:14 am }

I think this is the main heartbreak of being a parent – knowing and watching this kind of stuff can or is done to your kid. Stuff that is mean and petty and cruel and idiotic and senseless, and not to be able to do anything about it.
I know that the younger they learn how to deal with mud (great analogy), the better they will be in life. And it also helps them to realise they do have a choice between good and bad and hopefully they can understand what it means to be one way or the other and chose to be (mostly) good (as all parents want their children to be).
But, oh, the heartache of watching tears welling up in young eyes who cannot understand purposeless harm being done to them…
I can remember easily the times when I was a child and I said ‘But it’s just not fair’ and my mum had to tell me ‘Yes, it is not, but you cannot change people, and you just have to deal with it’. I am really not looking forward to this as a parent.

Great post, Mel. Just great.

8 Heather { 05.05.10 at 9:47 am }

So true. My Dad is a pastor so we were always visiting people in the hospital and taking food. When my family was out of town when I was in college (I was left behind because I had classes), I got a call in the middle of the night that a parishioner has passed away. I had to go and sit with his widow and pray with her even though I’m not the Pastor.

When my grandmother died – no one came to see us. No one brought food. I’m sure everyone thought everyone else was doing it because surely someone would do for the Pastor when his mother died. But no one came to see us. It was so hurtful.

I use that as my motivation every time someone is in need. Maybe everyone else is doing it – but what is one more dish? Especially if it is freeze-able. I would rather them have too much food to share with neighbors or freeze than have nothing. Regardless, they need to know I care.

I’m so not ready for Katherine to get hurt by another child.

9 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.05.10 at 10:23 am }

First of all, big hugs to you. You have such a big, giving heart. You give and want to be surrounded by kumbaya. It really hurts to come up against crummy people of any age. I’m so sorry you are hurting, Mel, and that either/both of your children are.

I love this: ““we want you to be kind because you can be and not cruel because you can be.” It matches what my Dad taught us: “Don’t let what anyone else does influence what you know is right and good.” Which is also like the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

NOT “Do unto others what they do to you.” It’s really hard to be in that clean space when someone is flinging mud.

For the record, I think you have made a very clean space for the ALI community, and you have provided many towels for the rare times when mud flies. You have soothed so many hearts, including mine.

And even though that (your goodness) was never in dispute, I hope you see that your kind heart remains intact and clean, despite the boors on the periphery of your life.


10 a { 05.05.10 at 10:53 am }

When I was about 24, I figured out that no matter how I felt about people, it was my duty to remain polite. I could go on and on about this topic, but the golden rule is the one by which I try to live.

I worry for my daughter, because she currently has NO empathy. That’s a hard thing to teach. Fortunately, our daycare/preschool has an all or none invitation rule for birthday parties, so I don’t have to worry about that just yet. But the non-inclusion a common thing, apparently – because every day my girl tells me that she’s not inviting this person or that person to her house/birthday party because they irritated her that day. (Seeing as she’s not yet been given the option to invite anyone over for playdates or parties, she hasn’t gotten this idea from me.) I’ve been worried about social acceptance from her first day at daycare, at age 15 months. I don’t imagine my worries will be eased any time soon.

It’s nice to know that there are some genuinely good/kind/nice people out in the world. It makes dealing with the muddy people a bit easier.

11 N { 05.05.10 at 10:57 am }

Knowing all the pain I went through growing up, this is definitely one of my worries. But we can only do what we can do, and help our children as they navigate this path. Easier said than done. I’m not really making much sense here. But this was a good post for me today. Not that I was about to go jump in a mud puddle. But to remind myself of things about other people.

12 PaleMother { 05.05.10 at 11:20 am }

I’ve been going through this on and off with my guys for about 5 or 6 years now. In most ways, it hasn’t been as bad as I expected. But I fully expect it will get worse as they get older and I’m not looking forward to it. I’ve had a lot of the same thoughts as you. My temper makes my Momma Bear white hot at times.

Seven just came home yesterday (your topic is so timely here) … and while I thought he was doing well by all accounts socially this year and I hadn’t heard much that troubled me in the way of bully behavior … nothing sounded chronic, more passing and typical … last night he unloaded a lot of details that actually did start to sound kind of problematic. And I fell into the blackest moods … feeling helpless and a little hopeless to change much, even though “it shouldn’t be this way.”

I just don’t know how you resuscitate the compassion (which we know in our HEADS is necessary) in you when your child is a target; we are not wired for compassion in that circumstance.

There was a recent fluff here over possibly closing one of six elementary schools to help offset the loss of state funds in the hard hit economy. We happen to be districted into the newest and “best” elementary, although all the schools are within 5 or 10 points of each other score-wise and ‘best’ is probably more perception than reality. Public comments and attitudes of parents and subdivisions from our school at committee meetings were really troubling when the prospect arose of everyone’s precious snowflakes having to move to another elementary where, gasp, there was a higher percentage of “older housing.” (These people should know from ‘bad’ neighborhoods) Basically any prejudice that could be slung was slung (including a high special needs population at one school being raised as an objection/’concern’ in the redistricting).

These are from people with above average income and supposedly above average education. I said to my husband, I think I am actually MORE concerned about my kids going to school with these “priviledged” kids than I would be with them in the populations these uppity yuppies are so “alarmed” about. Because you know what? If the parents are that bleeping shallow, you know the kids are going to learn that attitude and take it out on anyone who doesn’t look or act the way they’ve been programmed to think a person should.

I agree with other commenters. The place where kids are most vulnerable to having the good beaten out of them is at home. Home is the key environment that either makes them a blessing or a curse to themselves and others. When we read the online transcripts of the resident comments, don’t you know that the parents with the ugly attitudes had children known for bully behavior. And the classy comments … to a (wo)man … came from families with kids we’ve known to be kind.

For my part — not that I don’t wish I had bigger tricks up my sleeve — I just try to make sure my kids know in their bones that NO ONE has a right to treat them badly and teach them how to say LOUD and PROUD, (some version of) “You MAY NOT treat me this way. And if you get that and you don’t bugger off, I will find an adult to explain it to you.” It’s not fail proof. And it takes trial and error to find the tone and the words that work. But reflecting on my own childhood and my extreme intolerance for bullies as an adult … I could have used some training in how to speak up for myself (respectfully of course). And could not have enough reinforcement that it’s more than okay to set limits that demand you are treated with respect. So often … the message that gets hammered home MORE with kids is … be polite, be obedient. But you have to make sure they understand when those “rules” DO NOT apply.

In tae kwon do, my son is learning about things like R.A.D. Recognize (and really, that’s half the battle) Avoid (not possible really) Defend. And hopefully he’s learning how to carry himself in a way that makes him less a target.

My daughter’s teacher gushed to us at conferences this year about both our elementary kids. About how kind they are. Something we’ve seen in their report cards before. Her emphasis was so strange … like the was something she just doesn’t see often enough. It really unnerved me as much as it pleased me.

13 loribeth { 05.05.10 at 11:45 am }

I found PaleMother’s comments above very interesting. I was bullied as a child & boy, do I wish there had been some anti-bullying programs around back then. I still think I could use some assertiveness training as an adult.

There was an article in one of the papers a few days ago about all the “screen time” kids are getting these days — on the one hand, they are in constant contact with their friends, so much more these days (with texting, etc.) than we were as kids — but on the other, researchers are wondering whether the lack of “face time” with peers will have an impact on their ability to “read” visual cues from other people & develop empathy for others. I’m thinking the same principles probably apply to adults. I am noticing so much “me me me” in society these days, & to heck with the rest of the world — just plain rudeness & lack of manners & consideration for others in all sorts of situations (including politics)(both Canadian & American). It’s sad.

14 serenity { 05.05.10 at 11:46 am }

I love this post, and I especially love that you feel SO strongly about not being Mud Puddle People, but you also acknowledge that the twins HAVE their own choice.

Personally, I think when kids are respected as PEOPLE, they make good choices. They may try the mud puddle to see what happens, but I expect that with some thought and discussion (of which I KNOW will ensue), they will realize that Mud Puddle People aren’t the sort of people they want to be. But that’s just my opinion.

Harder is the reigning in of the momma bear. I’ve already dealt with this in some form – watching bigger kids barrel past O on a playground when he’s tentatively trying something new. He’s a physically cautious kid by nature, and in the moment I’m FURIOUS that someone would make him feel scared, or bad about himself, etc. And seriously, my kid’s only TWO. So I hear you about trying to balance the letting your child LIVE, when really you want to protect them from all the hurt.

You’re not alone. Thank you for posting this.


15 FET Accompli { 05.05.10 at 11:59 am }

When I was sick, I was always surprised at who reached out, and who didn’t. Until I got sick, I never really understood the importance – the significance – of bringing someone a meal, of giving them a call to check-in.

My kids are babies – only six months – but I hope that they will be kind and compassionate human beings. I also hope that they will fit in socially. We are going through one matter right now of choosing a nanny for when I head back to work. We want a French speaking nanny, ideally, but I have actually been told that the nannies in the neighborhood are from a particular community and stick together – and the kids they care for are correspondingly in the same social network. The kids who have nannies that don’t fit in are often found playing alone. So many dynamics to consider. So many things out of our control – and so many things in our control. I guess we need to focus on what’s in our control, and try to be compassionate, and teach the same to the little ones.

16 Trish { 05.05.10 at 1:05 pm }

A great post.
There was an article out just in the last few days about bullying (it was focused on how vulnerable the overweight kids are to bullying) which left me thinking a lot about this subject as well.

And the notion of doing good vs ignoring is one I’ve given a lot of thought about. Like FET accompli, I was surprised by the people who reached out to us when Robbie was born and by those who didn’t. It was almost universally the opposite of what I’d have expected. My oldest, closest friends were gone. My oldest friend, in fact, still hasn’t even SEEN him, despite the fact that he’ll be 2 this month. I don’t count her amongst my friends anymore, though I’m sure if we ran into each other in town (we only live about 3 miles apart) she’d be pleased to see me and gush.

It was a person from my local parenting board I’d only met twice who brought me food repeatedly. It was Mrs. Spit, someone I still have never seen in person, who called me at 2am when she noticed I’d posted an update from the hospital then.

I can’t say that I am, and maybe never will be, grateful for the way things went. But in any bad situation, there are bright spots. Yes, I also learned that some people weren’t who I thought they were, but I also learned how caring people can be. Whether it was a 2am phone call, a cooler of food, or a box of preemie clothes on my doorstep, I did learn that by and large, people are good.
We just need to rise up and shame those who aren’t into AT LEAST shutting the hell up.

17 mybumpyjourney { 05.05.10 at 1:18 pm }

{{HUGS}} I am sorry you guys are going through this. You are right- kids are mean..and they can grow up to be mean adults!! I hope that your kiddos experience so much love and acceptance at home to bridge the gap they run into out in the ‘real world’.
I think it is worse when we are kids b/c we expect people to be nice to us- and the meanness is so pointless.
When I moved to AL from WA in the 6th grade I was tormented. I talked funny, I wore different clothes, I came from a grade school into a Junior High. I had no clue how to work a locker or what ‘periods’ meant in relation to school. I was used to recess and desks with flip tops.
It didn’t matter that scholastically I far ahead of them. I had been playing the flute for two years- and they just started that semester. It didn’t matter that the things they were studying I mastered a year or two before.
I was a ‘baby’. I was ‘weird’.
It hurt me in ways I still struggle with today. I refuse to think just b/c someone talks funny that they are ‘stupid’ or uneducated. I abhor racism- I was treated so bad b/c I was a “white honkey yankee”. I was raised in a different atmosphere.

I have learned to love the South-but as a child is was a horrible place to move to.
Luckily my mother gave me no choice but to be nice. Acting like them was not an option. I would get so mad, and want to say hurtful things back, but my mother made me realize it would hurt them just as much as it hurt me. They might not show it, but it would hurt them. I didn’t want to cause anyone pain like was having.
I just was nice and gave them kindness. Eventually it turned around- but it took a while.
I do think there are so many ‘nice’ people out there- but they just get lulled into not ‘doing’ anything. I do think we are all guilty of that at some point. I strive to not be one of those people!!!!

I hope you are asleep tomorrow at 4am. <3

18 jodifur { 05.05.10 at 1:57 pm }

I love this post.

I am surprised by the 5 year old boy drama. We got a lot of the, “you are not my friend anymore.” and “you are not on the list.” and I just had no idea this went on. I think some of Michael’s issue at his old school was cliqueness. I think, because I guess we will never really know.

19 stephanie { 05.05.10 at 2:55 pm }

Oh, I hear you. I was a little fat girl and was horribly bullied from kindergarten through most of my elementary school years. When I think of the profound pain that caused me (I am almost 35 and I STILL can’t walk past a group of young boys on the sidewalk without my heart racing and me crossing the street), I start to cringe. I think about how my son might experience this, too. I start to think that maybe I’ll lose it a bit. I can’t have him live through that, but then, what can I do to really prevent it? I carry a chip on my shoulder from way back when. How will I parent my son through this when I still have unresolved anger and fear from my own childhood?

20 Susy { 05.05.10 at 3:23 pm }

[[Huge Hugs]] to you and to your kiddies!!

I totally love this post, and as ‘lost’ as I have been at posting (back at it right after this read, b/c my heart is a little cracked at the moment) – something called me to read this. And it’s probably b/c you osmosed it right out of my being. I’m one of those that stay on dry land and occassionally dip my feet in but not for very long. I’m always saying, “I’m too nice and people don’t appreciate it”. But, I can’t help it! Especially in this ALI community where I just want to bloghop and pop out of the screen of the writer and give them a hug or throw confetti for good news or hand over that tissue.
Like you, I didn’t know what it was like to feel so protective for your own child. It’s incredible really. So reading what is happening to the Wolvog gets me sad and makes me want to get in there and see how I can help him through it w/ you. I don’t know, it’s like the kids of ALI are all of our kids somehow, so I’m protective of all of them too. Did I lose you?
Either way, I could’ve written this post, especially the kumbayaness at the end b/c at the end of it all, it’s what I come back to.

21 Misfits { 05.05.10 at 4:21 pm }

I love this post. Mostly, I kept reading thinking, “I don’t give to get.” Which is a motto for me. But I also have another motto, “Steer clear of emotional vampires.” A fine balance between wanting to give and then being taken for granted.

Yes, people are shitty, but kids can be especially cruel. I attended 4 elementary schools in 6 years and can say that there’s one of those rotten ones in each of them. I know my mother worried and as much as she tried, those were lessons I had to learn. But, to be fair, I’m a much more interesting person because of it. 🙂

22 Dora { 05.05.10 at 5:03 pm }

Oh, Mel! OUCH! I feel your pain. I feel Wolvog’s pain. Why, oh, why can’t we literally and figuratively wrap our children in bubble wrap? How dare someone hurt them! Of course you want to rip out hearts. You’re a fierce mama bear. I know the twins will be kind children and consequently, kind adults. They will learn to navigate around the mud puddles. But, damn, it hurts the mama so much too. Hugs to you both.

23 LJ { 05.05.10 at 9:23 pm }

You are a good person. Josh is a good person. (Okay, let’s be fair, you’re both exceptional…) You are raising two beautiful, kind, thoughtful, amazing, smart, and also…good people. You are creating the beauty you wish to see in the world, the beauty that my son sees because of the beauty you create before he gets there. Screw the shitty people. We need good people, and you, my friend, are the best.

24 coffeegrl { 05.06.10 at 4:05 am }

Ugh. I don’t even want to think about what happens when our children get older and have to deal with all of this…unpleasantness.

25 IF Crossroads { 05.06.10 at 6:17 am }

This post struck a chord with me.
First off, let me say that you are a good and kind person. I say this because you have done countless good deeds and unimaginable acts of kindness for this large community that has grown to honor and respect your work – and count on you to help them find their way through the shittiness.
With that being said, I’m certain your inherent good-ness has been pass along to the twins and they’ve been given the necessary coping skills to navigate the landmine of childhood friendships.
But may I just say, this post describes one of my very greatest fears about becoming a parent. You are right. People are shitty. They are dicks just because it’s easier and more fun to be a snarky POS and unfortunately these very people pass along their negativity and bad attitude to their unsuspecting children. Then those children pass it along to their friends at school. It’s a vicious cycle of disgust and the children are the ones that suffer.

I hated my school growing up. Save for one or two special people who made the experience bearable, it was a very miserable time in my life. The thought of my daughter having to endure the same pain and hurt makes me shudder and cringe. I don’t want her to hurt like I did. But I fear that her pain will be inevitable. And as a parent, how do I stop that? I’m totally powerless. All I can do is be a good person and hope that my children pick up the necessary coping skills to navigate the perils of childhood.

26 niobe { 05.06.10 at 9:20 am }

Okay — this is me being all stupid and stuff, but I’ve never really understood the mama bear thing.

I mean, certainly I would intervene in cases of serious risks or threats, but otherwise I kind of want my kids to experience the minor ups and downs of childhood.

I guess that this is probably because I was one of those anti-social children who just didn’t care that much about what other kids thought of me.

And my 18-year-old has always been an even more extreme version of myself — if the other kids were teasing him, it was because they were stupid and who would want to play with them anyway? When he was in his early teens, he once asked me, in all seriousness, “Mom, why would anyone care about what other people think?”

I suppose I should try to stay open to the possibility that the younger kids won’t be quite the same way.

27 Chickenpig { 05.06.10 at 10:49 am }

At least twins have each other. It is a bond that non twins can’t really understand. I remember when N was having blood drawn to make sure one of his innoculations had taken hold when they were 18 months. The doc couldn’t find a good vein, and N was howling and I felt helpless to do anything. Then D stomped into the room and slammed the door…at 18 mos old. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at him, and I was moved to action. “It’s ok D, they are going to try one more time, and if they can’t do it, that’s it!”. N calmed down, they got their blood. My boys are a ‘couple’ , and they show me that just about every day.

I’m surprised that your baby didn’t get an invite. Most schools have an “invite one student, invite all” policy. Bleh.

28 B { 05.06.10 at 10:44 pm }

I’m not sure if I’m sitting comfy with your description of everyone being in the mud and then sometimes you crawl out and sometimes you land back in. I can’t figure out if I agree with that or not.

Mostly, because I think most of us find it difficult to understand why we do what we do……. even when we think we do. (If you know what I mean?)

There’s so much you can do as a parent (and I am positive that you do it already) to build resilience in your kids. I’ve done a bit of research on it for the Aspie kids I teach who are often targets of others shitiness. It doesn’t mean that unfair things won’t happen, that they won’t get frozen out of friendships or bullied, but it means they’ll have what they need to go find themselves some cooler people to hang out with, and to not let the experience define their idea of themselves. Lots of kids are pretty good at it anyway because they are so in the moment.

Keep the faith. Most sucky people are that way for a reason. And in time, your kids will learn to have some understanding of that.

29 Battynurse { 05.11.10 at 3:10 pm }

This is a great post. I know that I’ve thought a lot about how children treat other children or even how humans treat one another and it’s sad and scary.

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