mean girls, parts 1 & 2

We’ve had a couple of run-ins with bullying in the past week.

On Thursday evening, while I was out with the Potato, a neighbor stopped by to tell landisdad that the Bee had upset his kindergartener daughter during the after-school program that day. It seems that the Bee and a 2nd grade girl had been ‘grading’ the younger kids on their artwork, and had given this girl an F-minus (with a really absurdly large number of minuses). Landisdad talked to her about it, and she initially gave the ‘it was just a game’ answer, and then admitted that what they had done was hurtful. She wrote a note of apology to the girl, and gave it to her the next day.

Then on Saturday, the Bee had rehearsal. I went to pick her up at the end, and overheard the directors telling all the kids that they are heretofore banned from bringing Nintendo DSes to rehearsal, and that any found there would be confiscated and returned only to a parent. The DS, evidently, has some kind of IM-like chatting capability, where one can send a message–or forward a sent message–to others in the room who have the game.

It seems that some of the kids had been hijacking other kids’ screen names, and ‘anonymously’ writing snotty things about the people who were onstage at the time. As we left, the Bee told me that she and two other girls had been the ones who reported it, although as she said, “I’m sure the teachers already knew about it, since the whole room was buzzing about it.” (One of her friends had had her screen name hijacked and abused in this manner.)

It’s the first experience of this kind of high-tech bullying that either of us have experienced in person, and it made me really happy that we haven’t given in to the Bee’s pleading for a DS. I told the Bee that she did the right thing by reporting it to a teacher. Then, of course, she asked me for a DS again.

It’s an odd perspective, to have the two experiences of bullying so close together, one perpetrated by my kid and one reported by her. It makes me think that the practical existence of the bully is not one that is entirely one-sided–except in extreme circumstances, no one is a bully all the time.

But anyone can be a bully in a moment. The trick is to teach our kids that those moments aren’t acceptable, not that they themselves are unacceptable.

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February 11, 2008. growing up. 5 comments.

the performer’s work ethic

The Bee has been cast in the chorus of her first community theater production. Our town has a children’s theater program for kids from grades 3 to 6, so this is the first year she’s been eligible to do it. Her teacher is one of the directors, and she and her best friend the Peony auditioned together a few weeks ago.

I was a little worried about her being disappointed if she didn’t get a speaking part–especially after she was in the holiday play at school, and kept wishing one of the other kids would get sick, so she could do their part too. We had several conversations about how it was unusual for third graders to get lines, and she’s been totally fine with it.

I picked her up after rehearsal today, and she told me, “I’m glad I didn’t get a part this year and I’m just in the chorus.”

“How come sweetie?”

“Because this way, I get to just learn how to be in a play, without having to remember all those lines and stuff.  And next year, maybe I’ll get a little part, and then when I’m in fifth grade, I can get a bigger part, and then in sixth grade, I can get a really big part. But I’ll have earned it.”

This is her first major extra-curricular activity–she hasn’t yet played a sport or anything–so I was happy to know that she understood the value of just working and practicing, and not being a star right away.

January 19, 2008. growing up. 6 comments.

he hate me

The Potato, of late, has taken to telling me how much he hates me. I know it’s a part of growing up, although not as cute a part as some other things. It’s getting a little old, I’ve got to say.

This morning, he told me he hated me about 16 times, starting with right after he climbed into my bed and asked me what kind of snack I had produced for him that day. (I started bringing up a small snack for him to start the day with, right around the time he decided to start waking up at 5:15 a.m. and demanding breakfast.)

I, sadly, had forgotten to bring a snack upstairs the night before. Sentence was pronounced.

Later, he told me again, when I asked him to go upstairs and get dressed for school.

I’m trying to hear it as, “in twenty years, I’ll love you, Mom.”

But it’s hard to hear through the hatin’

January 15, 2008. growing up. 16 comments.

it’s finally happened

The day I knew would arrive is here.

My 4.5 year-old has bested my high score on a computer game.

I thought I had another year or two before this would occur.

January 12, 2008. growing up. 4 comments.

the power of ten

Recently, the Potato has been obsessive about counting things, and learning to count past twenty. A few weeks ago, as we drove home from daycare, he kept counting and counting and counting, stopping every ten to ask me, “what comes after (x)9, Mom?” I remember having a similar drive home with the Bee, when she started to learn about tens, too.

He got up to something like 200 before losing interest.

He asks me about numbers all the time now. “Mom, does four and two together make forty-two?” “Mom, does 2 threes make thirty-three?”

It’s really fascinating.

He’s also starting to be interested more in words. He can recognize simple words like “he” and “an.” When we’re reading together now, he understands that those clumps of letters actually make words, although the words themselves still elude him.

But it’s the numbers that he’s most interested in, and that I’m most interested in observing him be interested in. He’s even getting into simple math, although again, it’s always phrased in a question. “Mom, does two plus one make three?” “Mom, does two plus two make four?”

He would go on asking these kinds of questions forever, if we let him (he does, however, have to eat, and occasionally to sleep). In fact, right now, he’s sitting next to landisdad, who’s on te computer, saying, “Dad, does O P E N spell open?”

I told him tonight that his brain is like a sponge right now, soaking up learning and knowledge. He laughed, I think imagining that SpongeBob was lurking between his ears. But it’s everything–the tens, and the words, and the math problems–all coming at once, that makes me feel that way. His brain is a sponge now, slurping up new ideas and information every day.

January 4, 2008. growing up. 6 comments.

of lines and sandbox etiquette

I’ve come to the realization that my kids are never going to be the kind of kids who spontaneously play with strangers.

We’ve been to a bunch of public play areas in the past week, and while my kids will sometimes play with each other, they invariably respond to offers to play from strange children with bafflement and silence. A few days ago, we were at a place with a big (fake) grocery store inside. On several occasions, one little boy there tried to get the Potato to engage with him in a game of pretend bakery, and the Potato just stared at him until he walked away.

The Bee is less likely, at this point, to just walk away from a strange kid. She will, when asked to play, say no. But she very rarely is willing to engage in imaginary games with kids she’s never met before.

It makes me a little sad to see this, because it always makes me wonder why, if these kids are having fun, my kids aren’t willing to join in. I know that part of it, for the Potato, is that he’s always watching his sister to see what she’s going to do–and copying her every move (that is, when he’s not thwarting it). I know that, for the Bee, her own imagination is a compelling place, and she’s sometimes loathe to go to a less-successful game of pretend.

But I also think it has something to do with me and landisdad, and the way that we interact with other adults in public. My mom is one of those people who will engage in conversation with anyone—the supermarket cashier, the postal clerk, other people in a line that’s too long—and I have so many memories (both childhood and adult) of wincing and thinking, “now why on earth is she telling him that?”

If I’m in a line, and someone tries to talk to me, I’m always doing the “look through you as if you’re a window*” thing, especially if what they’re doing is complaining about the service at the particular establishment we’re frequenting. I thought of this comparison recently, when the kids and I were in line at the post office, and a guy tried to strike up a conversation with me about a) his surprise that there were lines at the post office after Christmas was over and b) his conviction that every other post office except the one we were in was not crowded at the moment.

I kind of muttered something at him, and looked at the kids (who were, handily for me, climbing on something they weren’t supposed to, thus giving me an excuse to stop talking to him and start talking to them). He moved on to another victim (the woman in front), and I breathed a sigh of relief.

But I did wonder–do my kids think anyone who talks to them in public is crazy, even if it’s another kid, the way that I thought my mom was crazy for talking to complete strangers in public?

*apologies to Marisha Pessi

December 29, 2007. growing up. 7 comments.

what dreams may come

The Potato has been expressing a lot of anxiety about going to bed lately. Nearly every night, before he goes to sleep, he tells me or landisdad that he’s worried about having bad dreams. He’s also been coming into bed with us in the middle of every night, which is getting a little crowded.

I’m not sure what it is going on with him that’s causing such anxiety. We’re not on the cusp of any big transition, although it feels like he’s worried about something beyond the normal hustle and bustle of life in preschool.

I wish I had a better strategy for dealing with it. We had a talk tonight about how he could try to chase away the bad dreams with good ones, but hell, I’m almost 40 and I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. Is it really likely that my four-and-a-half year old can?

There’s something about the human psyche that needs to come out in sleep. I just wish it didn’t happen to my kids. I’m looking for suggestions about how to deal with bad dreams. Any takers?

December 12, 2007. growing up. 10 comments.

overheard in the car

SP: “Are girlfriends gross?”

Mommy: “No.”  (beat) “Why do you ask?”

SP: “We were talking about it in school.”

BB: “That’s what little kids think.”

Mommy: “???”

Mommy: “What do kids your age think?”

BB: “Some girls in my class say having a boyfriend is gross. But then they love someone.”

Mommy: “?!?”

Mommy: “You mean they like a boy in your class?”

BB: “Yes, redacted list of girls in her class and the boys they like.

Mommy: “Do you like any boys?”

BB: “I’m not sure.”

Mommy: “!?!”

Mommy: “Do you feel like you’re supposed to like a boy?”

BB: “No!!!!!”

Mommy: “Good.”

October 23, 2007. growing up, the cutest kids ever!. 10 comments.

scrabble

The Bee has developed a taste for Scrabble lately. It’s kind of an obsession, really. She’s challenged me to three games in the past 24 hours. Last night, we played one-on-one, which she found unsatisfying. Tonight, I played against her and her dad.

I’m excited that the Bee likes this game, which was a favorite of mine in childhood.  I remember playing my own mother when I was a kid. I’m willing to let her have help from her father, but I’m not willing to dumb down my own play to lose against her, in part because my mother would never do that when playing me.

My mother and her sisters were rabid Scrabble junkies.  I told the Bee last night, when she got frustrated with it, that I didn’t beat my mom at Scrabble until I was about 12, and that she should strive to beat me when she’s 11, but not to worry if she can’t do it now.

The pace of a game involving an eight-year-old is slower than I remember from my own eight-year-old days of playing. The rules about when you can build off another word, while obvious to me now, clearly require some internalization.

Like so many things in parenting, one of the things I’ve realized while teaching the Bee the game, is how much patience one of my own parents showed me, long ago.

October 20, 2007. growing up. 4 comments.

Happy Birthday, Bee!

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Dear Bee,

8 years ago yesterday, landisdad and I were in the hospital, wondering what we had just gotten ourselves into.  Little did we suspect, way back in September of 1999, that we would one day be hosting a luau birthday party, complete with a limbo stick.

You are more amazing at eight than I ever believed possible. I can start to see the teenager, and young adult that you are becoming, and I like her.

Every morning, I wake up wondering what we’ll talk about on the way to school, and what funny stories of third grade you’ll come home with.

Have a wonderful year, darling girl.

Love, Mommy

October 1, 2007. growing up, the cutest kids ever!. 12 comments.

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