I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to give you an update on the incident at school because I just knew that the triumphant day would come when the parents of the boy involved would either call or show up on our doorstep to talk to us.
Because if my child did what this kid did—or anything even remotely like it—the first thing I would do would be to rain down a fiery wrath unlike any seen before in our house, and the second thing would be to march said child over to the house of the family that was affected by my child’s unspeakable behavior so that apologies could be issued. And yes, that’s apologIES, plural, because the first apology would be to the other kid, and the second one would be to the parents.
I was waiting to tell you about that. The vindication. The relief of knowing that yes, kids do stupid things, but it’s Been Handled and this kid has learned from what he did. But it’s never going to happen.
I think the principal was able to sum it up for me pretty succinctly during our last conversation (of many) about this issue: “It’s definitely disappointing when other people don’t parent the way we do.”
Yep. It’s disappointing to me that my kid was the victim of another child behaving badly, and it’s downright crazy-making that my reading-between-the-lines has left me concluding that his parents just don’t think it’s a big deal. Kids are impulsive and stupid; my own included, sometimes. This incident was what we like to call a “teachable moment,” yes? I wish the other parents in this equation felt the same way, that this was an opportunity, and had taken the time to teach their kid that this was unacceptable and why. (The school gave him two days of In-School Suspension, which he got out of and promptly told anyone who would listen that it was “all Chickadee’s fault” that he’d been there. Awesome.)
Instead I’m left teaching my own kid, as best I can. I had to teach her that just because people laugh doesn’t make it an acceptable joke. I had to teach her that she was right to trust that voice inside that says, “This is not okay.” I had to teach her that standing up for herself is often uncomfortable and sometimes just plain sucks. I had to teach her that some people’s moral compasses don’t match ours, and some people have no manners, and that some kids will grow out of being jerks and others will just grow into jerky adults and have more jerky kids. I had to teach her that the school is only allowed to do certain things, and the rest is up to parents, and sometimes that feels really wrong and unfair.
I had to sit her on my lap—my almost-an-adult gazelle, who half-heartedly tried to resist—and wrap my arms around her and tell her that being thirteen is hard, one of the hardest thing ever, and she has to believe me that things will get better. And then I whispered in her ear that EVERYONE feels the way she does at this age, I PROMISE THIS IS TRUE, and no matter how happy and shiny the “popular kids” look, they, too, believe it’s all a lie and they’re all wrong and unloveable.
“No they don’t,” she said, hair covering her face, making it easier to talk. “That’s not true.”
“It IS true,” I said, rubbing her back. “You go ask ANY grownup. I promise you that EVERY female you ask will say it’s true, and probably most of the men, too.” She looked unconvinced. “Some of the men will disagree because they don’t remember or because at 13 they just daydreamed about boobs all day, though,” I added, and she cracked the tiniest of smiles.
Auditions for our local production of The Vagina Monologues are tonight. The friend I thought I was going to go with has bailed on me. I asked another friend and she’s not available. I’m busy. I’m tired. I feel like maybe I’m too old to get back up on the stage. I feel like I have so little time as it is; do I really want to give it up for this? Also: I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m feeling the teensiest bit chickenshit about it. (I haven’t gone to an audition in twenty years.)
Chickadee asked me this morning if I was going, and I must’ve said something non-committal, because she said, “Mom! You HAVE to go!” I asked her why. “Because you DO. Because I want to go see you in it.”
I’m going, but not because of what she said. It’s not that she wants to see me in it, it’s that I want her to see me in it. She was brave and I owe it to her to get over myself and be half as brave.