Spider-Graham

On Friday, Graham’s school took them on a field trip to the Okanagan Children’s Festival. When I arrived at the school to pick him up, a few of the moms who had gone along on the excursion were standing and waiting for the class to be dismissed. One of them is a good friend of mine and she told me that Graham COULD NOT WAIT to show me what his face was painted as. I was ninety-nine percent sure that I knew exactly what he had asked for, and it turns out I was right. When the bell rang, he came bursting out of the door all abuzz about the day and about his Spidey-face. He told me that he wanted to keep the face paint on until June 4th (Um, no.)

The entire drive home he regaled me with stories of the festival. Of the snacks that he had bought, of the crafts that he had made, of the group of kids that he had toured the festival with. We arrived home and he proceeded to fill Matthew in on all of the day’s activities while I sat across the table from them and checked my work email. Graham was being Graham in every way and vibrating with excitement as he is prone to do. I focused on work while he filled Daddy in on the events of his day.

I soon noticed that the tone of the conversation had come down a notch or five. Graham was talking about his friends at school and how there were some problems. Matthew asked him what he meant. He started explaining one of his new friends was torn between hanging out with Graham and one of his closest friends from Kindergarten. This other kid was possessive and didn’t want to share the common friend with Graham. He has behavioral issues and had tripped Graham and shoved him to the ground.

I know this kid and he deserves to have his face shoved in a pile of dung. Daily.

He then told us that the three boys who have been his friends since Kindergarten had not wanted him to play with them the past few days. They made him play on the other team when they played soccer at lunch. Not only that, a girl in his class had told him that he was “annoying.” He said that nobody liked him and that he had no friends.

In the span of those few minutes, all of my memories from elementary school came flooding back. I was tall (always in the back row of school photos), awkward, and enrolled in “special” classes. My clothes never seemed right, my body seemed even worse. I had hurtful insults hurled at me that I remember with clarity decades later.

I managed to keep all of those emotions at bay. I beckoned Graham, my firstborn son, my baby to come to me. I hauled him onto my lap and asked him to tell me what had happened. What else had occurred that was making him so sad? He told me that one of those three friends that he has had since starting school had called him names. I probed further and he told me what exactly he had been called. I will not repeat those names here because this is a public record, but I can assure you that they are names that no six-year-old child should be called.

I sat there with my arms wrapped around this boy of mine. He is literally 2/3 of my size but at that moment all he needed was to be held by his Mommy. He is so much like me that it is borderline ridiculous. Not only does he look like me, he is wired exactly the same as I am. He likes the same things, he is gifted in many of the same areas, he has the same love languages as I do. This is where the name calling hit a sore spot.

He is like me in that kind words make his heart fly. If you build him up with encouragement, he can soar on those words and accomplish so many things. Pouring verbal love on him makes his smile stretch across his face and make his heart grow ten times bigger.

A single negative word can wipe out hundreds of positive ones. That one negative instance can inflict wounds that last for minutes, hours or days.

Matthew asked him if he knew how much we loved him. He did. He asked him if he knew that we were there for him no matter what. He did. He asked him if he knew that Nathan and Emily would be his friends for his entire life. He did. I asked him what I could do to help. Did he want me to take to the other Moms? Or the kids? He said he would like it if I could talk to the other kids and tell them that calling mean names is not cool. I promised that I would do so on Monday.

On Monday mornings, Matthew drops the kids off on his way to work. I told Graham that I would talk to the boys after school if he still wanted me to. He told me that would be fine.

When picking up Nathan from preschool I talked to one of the Moms from the three dudes (Not the one calling names). She’s a friend of mine and I knew that she would not be happy about this situation. In the midst of explaining what had happened, I burst into tears. It was the first time that I had done so but I could not help myself. I have this smart, sweet, loving boy who is loved by so many in the community. How is it that he can be attacked so hurtfully?

On the way to pick him up from school I mulled over the situation. I felt tears prick my eyes as I wrestled with the emotions of this whole situation. I feel horribly ill-equipped. I have no idea what I am doing. We are heading into stormy territory and I cannot see a life boat anywhere in sight.

I found the Baby stage to be hard on me. Are they sleeping enough? Or maybe too much? Are they eating enough? Or maybe too much? Are they pooping enough? OR MAYBE TOO MUCH?

The toddler/preschooler stage is even more difficult. You have the tantrums, complete with the Limp Noodle/Bucking Bronco manoeuvre. There is the screaming (Them, too) and the attitude (Them, too). There is the whining to deal with and the whole CAN YOU JUST DO YOUR BUSINESS ON THE TOILET ALREADY party.

I am now into uncharted waters. Heart issues. I do everything that I can to keep my kids safe. Car seats and seat belts. Bike helmets. Teaching them to STOP RUNNING INTO TRAFFIC ALREADY (NATHAN). When scrapes and bruises happen you kiss it better, apply a Band-Aid and the wound is forgotten for the most part. It is the heart wounds that I do not know how to deal with. There is no Band-Aid available that can cover the infliction.

I arrived at the school with Nathan, Emily and Diesel in tow. My friend whom I had talked to in the morning was there; she told me that she had talked to her husband at lunch and they were pissed. I told her not to be; that I was sure that the boys were not meaning to be malicious. She knew this; she was just trying to make me feel better.

The bell rang and Graham was one of the first kids out of the door. He told me that I did not need to talk to his friends. We spent the next ten minutes in the school yard while my kids played with the other kids. When we finally got back into the van I asked Graham what had happened that made everything OK.

He told me that he had told the dudes that the names that they had called him were not cool. He also told them that they had hurt his feelings. When I asked him what the dudes had said, he told me that they had said sorry. And had played soccer with him at lunch.

I was thankful for my sunglasses as I could not fight back the tears any longer. In the midst of his hurt, my son had reached out to those that had hurt him in the hopes of reconciliation. He had expressed his feelings and had received healing in return. With no intervention from his Mommy.

I know that there will be many instances to come as the years go by where I will be at a loss as to how I can help my children. I will do the delicate dance where I try to balance between intervention and interference. I don’t think that I am in any way prepared for it, but all I can do is try.

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Comments:

  1. Julienne May 26, 2009 4:21 am edit

    I don’t have children, but I think you handles this incredibly well, simply by waiting to see how that day back at school went. It gave Graham (who is beautiful, by the way) the opportunity to deal with things himself. He should be very proud of himself!

    Julienne’s last blog post..Thankful.

  2. Amy - BiteTheRabbit May 26, 2009 5:29 am edit

    Oh Wow! What a life lesson to learn at such a young age. I am almost in tears as that could just as easily be my son in a few years. Kids can be so awful – it’s sad. Graham is an amazing kid – wow!

    And I must say, you totally had me chuckling at the “limp noodle/bucking bronco” thing!

    Amy – BiteTheRabbit’s last blog post..Urine It For The Fun — Right?

  3. Amy @ Muddy Boots May 26, 2009 6:43 am edit

    This post DID have me in tears! I felt so bad for Graham, then so proud… and I don’t even know him! This whole story must make your heart burst.

    Amy @ Muddy Boots’s last blog post..party in pictures

  4. heathercoo May 26, 2009 6:45 am edit

    I am sitting here at my desk this morning fighting back tears. This reminds me so much of when I was younger and in elementary school. Kids can be so mean. Graham is such a lucky boy to have a mommy like you, one who cares so deeply for her children and isn’t afraid to show it. And what a guy Graham is for fixing his own problem, I was much too afraid to tell the other kids that they were hurting my feelings. Way to go Graham!!!

    heathercoo’s last blog post..Grace in Small Things: 19 of 365

  5. Jen May 26, 2009 6:51 am edit

    Tears in my eyes. I know that feeling as well (of being tortured in elementary school) and it is HORRIBLE.

    What Graham did, wow. What character he’s got! That is completely amazing. I love how resilient he is, and how quick to forgive and then play with them that afternoon. Pretty spectacular kid you’ve got there.

    Jen’s last blog post..the one where Liliana chases the peacock chicken

  6. Jen May 26, 2009 7:17 am edit

    Wow. That made me cry. I was never teased in school but I with Abby starting kindergarten, the thought of these things happening to her just breaks my heart.

    What a kid Graham is! I don’t think that story could have ended any better. He learned a lesson about love and friendship, but he also learned how to handle some of his own conflicts. Great skills.

  7. Sizzle May 26, 2009 7:41 am edit

    This made me all teary. I’m tender like that too with words. What a brave, smart, resilient kid you are raising!

    Sizzle’s last blog post..Unsaid Said

  8. jana May 26, 2009 7:53 am edit

    what an awesome job of parenting you’re doing. the very fact that Graham could tell you what was going on speaks volumes.

  9. Shelly May 26, 2009 8:07 am edit

    Woah. What an amazing kid. Way to go Graham!

    Shelly’s last blog post..T-Dot’s Stagette

  10. Maggie May 26, 2009 8:09 am edit

    I am SO proud of Graham!

    He is much braver than I would have been in that situation.

  11. Amanda Brown May 26, 2009 8:39 am edit

    I have no words. My heart aches to think of Graham being hurt like that, but what courage and strength he’s shown at such a young age. I am so not ready for stuff like this. If a kid at the McDs playplace doesn’t want to play with Avelyn I have to fight the urge to kick him, so I can’t imagine deeper pains like this. You are such a great mom, Ange.

    Amanda Brown’s last blog post..A Grand Mother

  12. Kami's Khlopchyk May 26, 2009 8:50 am edit

    Wow, I have tears in my eyes, what a brave, courageous boy you have. I can’t imagine you would be any prouder of him than you were at that very moment.

    Kids are the cruelest and they don’t even know it.

    Kami’s Khlopchyk’s last blog post..3k, Our way

  13. melanie May 26, 2009 9:02 am edit

    Okay, I’m all weepy! What a great little guy your Graham is and how on earth, once I get through the toddler phase with my little screaming limp noodle am I going to survive the school-age years if I am weepy over YOUR son!

    melanie’s last blog post..Music Monday ~ Made For Each Other

  14. She Likes Purple May 26, 2009 9:08 am edit

    Oh my god, I’m ill-equipped, as well. My kid’s not even four months old and the thought of people calling him names and hurting his feelings KILLS me and ENRAGES me even now, when it’s purely hypothetical. How have so many moms survived this job already. It’s so damn hard.

    She Likes Purple’s last blog post..Shine

  15. Vicki May 26, 2009 9:15 am edit

    Oh, how I understand everything you write!
    It makes me so sad to hear what has happened. It is heartbreaking…but what an amazing son you have! And the words you write can’t even do him justice – he makes me smile every time he says hello to me – smiling ear to ear (which is every single time I see him). That speaks volumes for him…and his parents! Mean kids suck.

    Vicki’s last blog post..If Static Was my Hairdresser…

  16. crunchy May 26, 2009 9:15 am edit

    well if you saw my last post too about my BABY boy..turning 7 this week….and the heartache it causes me to see him dealing with smucky shitty kids.

    Sigh.

    My son is like me too…as a kid especially…I can’t stand seeing him hurt and confused.

    He came home early yesterday with a sore tummy..but I am wondering really…

    crunchy’s last blog post..Mama Bear is on Patrol

  17. Ashley May 26, 2009 9:29 am edit

    I hope as Graham grows up he never loses the courage and confidence he had the day he talked with his friends. So often as we become teenagers and adults we are so concerned with hurting someone else’s feelings or feeling “stupid” that we keep quiet in moments when we are being hurt. And although we may not have names hurled at us there are hurts that go just as deep – ones that so often we allow to happen in the name of protecting the “abuser’s” feelings. To have the ability to confront those hurts in a way that not only illicits an apology but also results in the saving of a friendship is a gift. It’s also an example of a little man who’s been raised right!

    Good job on giving Graham the life skills to defend himself the right way, without punches or name calling in return. You’ve got a great kid!

    Ashley’s last blog post..Audrey Bell

  18. Rebecca (Bearca) May 26, 2009 9:34 am edit

    Oh Angella. This literally made me tear up. What a great job you are doing with your kids! I am so terrified to get to the stage where kids say mean things and hurt my childrens’ feelings!

    But this was wonderful to read. Graham solved the problem on his own, thanks to good advice from you, and you didn’t end up having to go all MAMA BEAR RAWWWWR on the kids. Yay!!

    Rebecca (Bearca)’s last blog post..happy birthday, baby D!

  19. Joanna May 26, 2009 9:51 am edit

    What a wise-beyond-his-years move on Graham’s part! I remember feeling like one big beating heart growing up, ready to be wounded at the slightest brush with negativity, and hating that feeling; as an adult, though, I think there may be no greater blessing than being attuned to your needs and feelings, even if they are overwhelming at times. Go Graham!

  20. Kaza May 26, 2009 10:11 am edit

    Completely heartwrenching! What a big little boy you have there, so brave to confront his friends. I’m glad it went well for him. This makes me fear the school-age years! I’m going to enjoy these last preschool months even more after this peek into the future.

    Kaza’s last blog post..SO Glad I Don’t Have Eight Kids! (But Wish I Already Had Two.)

  21. ali May 26, 2009 10:29 am edit

    the very worst part of parenting. you just want everything to be easy and perfect for them. to be rainbows and unicorns. GAH.

  22. hillary May 26, 2009 10:44 am edit

    Good for Graham! It would be so much easier to let it fester or to react with fists or retaliate with mean words. It’s a testament to your awesome parenting that Graham felt confident enough to stick up for himself and handle the situation with words.
    I still remember the mean words hurled at me on the playground … 20 odd years later. Kids can be so cruel.

    hillary’s last blog post..The Boat Engine Makes Noise

  23. Tanya Duerksen May 26, 2009 11:54 am edit

    I love you Angella. I wish I knew your kids better. Can one of my girls marry Graham?

  24. Kristabella May 26, 2009 11:58 am edit

    This post made me all teary, while I’m sitting at my desk at work.

    I don’t have kids, but this, to me, has to be one of the hardest things! That’s a fine line and it looks to me like you’re doing a FABULOUS JOB parenting these guys (and girl). I think Graham and the way he acted with this is proof of that!

    Kristabella’s last blog post..And My Arms Didn’t Even Fall Off. Surprisingly.

  25. rachel joy May 26, 2009 12:15 pm edit

    Ugh. We are just on the verge of the start of having to deal with the heart issues at our house. I’m so not looking forward to it. I think the way Graham handled it on his own speaks volumes to the character traits you and Matthew are instilling and building in him.

    rachel joy’s last blog post..goings on

  26. jcristg May 26, 2009 12:21 pm edit

    I practically cheered from Graham. How proud you must be, that he handled it with such maturity and grace! I have a hard time confronting an issue, even at almost 30 (but I’m learning). Truly impressed.

    jcristg’s last blog post..May 8, 2009

  27. witchypoo May 26, 2009 12:32 pm edit

    Everything you have done as a parent equipped him to handle this on his own, and with grace. Kudos to all of you.

    witchypoo’s last blog post..Grace The Eleventh

  28. Laura May 26, 2009 12:47 pm edit

    What a great kid you have raised. I think that all kids go through this at some point in their youth; it seems from the comments that so many of us, as adults, can still remember cutting comments made to us on the playground when we were kids. I certainly can. And I think that just by virtue of being kids, your little ones will sometimes be the ones who are being mean to other kids. Peer pressure is a strong thing.

    I think learning to deal with both sides of this equation – being the mean kid (or just simply standing by and watching when another kid is being mean to someone else), and also being the one who’s picked on – these things build character and turn us into compassionate, confident adults. It’s so hard to remember that these experiences build character and make us better people because you don’t want your kids to hurt, of course. But I’m not sure I would have turned out the same and I don’t know if I would like myself as much today if I hadn’t been the token unpopular girl from grade 3 to 6.

    Laura’s last blog post..The Single Life

  29. Robyn May 26, 2009 1:54 pm edit

    Good job Angella and Matthew…and what a GREAT kid you have! I’m so, so sorry that he had this experience though. We’ve been dealing with similar stuff since last year and it just breaks my heart. Just so, SO wrong.

    Robyn’s last blog post..The correct way to enjoy a rainy day

  30. Laurie May 26, 2009 2:18 pm edit

    Lovely post.

    I am a Learning Resource Teacher (aka Special Education Teacher) and have worked for many years as a teacher helping the most sensitive children understand the crewl world of their peers.

    I just had a meeting THIS MORNING with a family and gave them suggestions on how important of a step it is for children to find their voice.

    I’m so proud of Graham and that he obviously found his voice today. What a wonderful step towards becoming a confident young man!

    And take some credit for yourself. Your love and willingness to dialogue with Graham on all of his strengths and to TAKE THE TIME to empower him to do the right thing. Well done you!

    Laurie’s last blog post..He Walks (and squeeks)…

  31. Hannah May 26, 2009 2:37 pm edit

    You guys are doing a WONDERFUL job! Graham did a very brave thing, but he did it because you have modelled to him the kind of selfless and caring behaviour that he demonstrated. So give yourselves a pat on the back! And an extra hug to Graham from me, because he is AWESOME!

    Hannah’s last blog post..Seven

  32. Karmyn May 26, 2009 2:48 pm edit

    *wipes tears from my eyes* :(
    So sad. What a wise boy he is. God has big things for him. (And will take care of him when people hurt him)

    Karmyn’s last blog post..Confessions

  33. jennifer k May 26, 2009 6:08 pm edit

    Count me in to the teary team… way to go Graham! I’m not a parent and wow, I have no idea how I’d deal with this situation calmly like you did… kudos to you as well. May the rough waters be few… kids can be just awful sometimes.

  34. Heather May 26, 2009 7:05 pm edit

    I’m so proud of him for talking to the boys himself. Working in a school I find it is quite rare for kids to take matters into their own hands and this would have been very difficult for him to do. I’m glad that this has worked out. See what a good job you have already done Angella?

  35. krista May 26, 2009 7:28 pm edit

    dear angella,
    i’ve been ‘creepin’ your blog for a little while now and i am so thankful you have shared your life experiences with me (and the rest of the world). your humor, honesty, and of course photos are refreshing. this post was excellent and truly showed how you and your husband have done a great job raising such a wonderful son!
    krista (terrace girl)

  36. Amanda May 26, 2009 8:30 pm edit

    As a teacher I enjoyed this post for two reason, first, your child has learned the power of his words, not actions (rather rare it seems nowadays) and did not resort of any form of violence/retaliation in response to what others said to him. I so wish I saw this more often, but sadly I am usually dealing with the hit/kick/punch aspect, as oppose to use words or tell a teacher. You have done wonders if Graham is already understanding this! :)
    The other reason I love this post…you care, are concerned, are a parent. Again, more times than not I have the opportunity of dealing with parents who just don’t get that, or have given up to easily. My heart is full when I hear these kinds of stories.
    Keep up the AWESOME work, you, Matthew and Graham (and Nathan and Emily too of course).

    Amanda’s last blog post..Finally Satisfied?For Now

  37. Rhi May 26, 2009 8:51 pm edit

    This is what scares me about having a kid the most. Other kids are mean (And, I know this because I was a MEAN little girl sometimes)

    Rhi’s last blog post..Please, have a laugh at my expense

  38. Kerri Anne May 26, 2009 9:13 pm edit

    I am totally crying right now. Blast.

    What an amazing little boy Graham is. And you? Are one rad mom.

    Kerri Anne’s last blog post..Weekend Update, Idyllic Edition (Part 2 of 2)

  39. Danica May 27, 2009 8:44 am edit

    Wow. Thanks for this post. I have also been struggling the last few days with some heart issues my kids are facing, and how I can or cannot protect them. You’re awesome for being willing to go to bat for your kids. Your worries show your love. And you (and Matthew) have obviously been setting pretty great examples for Graham that he (at this early age) is already beginning to handle sticky social situations with maturity, grace and strength. You guys are great parents. Thanks for sharing.

    Danica’s last blog post..On The Weekend I

  40. Elaine May 27, 2009 1:01 pm edit

    Wow, I am so proud of hiim for handling it on his own and like he did. That’s a testament to you and Matthew. Really.

    I am not looking forward to situations like this, I have to say!

    Elaine’s last blog post..WW – Cute Kids & Wonderful Teachers!

  41. Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com May 27, 2009 1:17 pm edit

    Sometimes the best way to be prepared is to be completely unprepared, right? No expectations, no desires or hopes or plans, just the knowledge that you’ll be there and do your best? I think that’s what every kid needs =)

    Also, I LOVE THE FACE PAINT!

  42. Kristin May 27, 2009 3:48 pm edit

    Thank you for sharing all of that. It is sad, but could not have ended in a better way.
    Way to go Graham! You and Matthew must be doing something right. :)

    Kristin’s last blog post..Giggely kids.

  43. Sherry May 27, 2009 7:16 pm edit

    This made me cry because it’s so scary to me, knowing I can’t always stop the hurt. I’m glad he was able to resolve everything and that the other kids were so receptive.

    Sherry’s last blog post..Family visit

  44. Elizabeth May 27, 2009 9:25 pm edit

    Atta boy, Graham!!! Well taught, Angella and Matthew. Sorry that he had to go through this. What a GREAT KID! Praise to God for a wonderful boy – and a wonderful family.

    Elizabeth’s last blog post..Sigh?

  45. Sue @ My Party of 6 May 29, 2009 6:25 am edit

    I think the best thing we can do in situations like this is to teach our kids to stand up for themselves. Just like Graham did… it’s something I STILL have trouble with. WTG, Graham!

    And I hate to say this, but just wait until Emily gets to school Ugh. Girls can be horrible.

    Sue @ My Party of 6′s last blog post..in the swim

  46. Loukia May 29, 2009 9:15 am edit

    I have no idea how I’ll be able to handle this sort of situation when my boys start school. My oldest is starting kindergarten in the fall, and I am so not ready. He’s never been apart from his family, never gone to preschool, etc. He’s beyond smart for his age, and at the same time, I’m scared he’ll be bored. But, how do you deal with a situation where he gets hurt emotionally by another child? If another child doesn’t want to play with him, says a mean thing to him? How will I react, mother lion that I am? I can’t imagine… I’m so stressed out just thinking about it.

    Loukia’s last blog post..Thank you!

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