Monday, February 25, 2013

The Least Popular Kid in the Class – Part One

As we got ready to head back to school this morning after “vacation,” Z was bouncing off the walls: “I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait,” she chanted.  G was more circumspect, and his little face was tight.

I hugged him and asked, “Whatsa matter, buddy?”

“I just don’t wanna go back to school.”

Oh, parents everywhere, hear my cry. Wide. Range. Of. Emotions. (W.R.O.E.)

We talked some about it – wonderful teachers…learning, importance thereof…how we can’t just play aaaaaaaaaallllll the time – but still…W.R.O.E.

Since dropping him off (did his sister even notice my leaving? I think not.) I’m stuck on an incident from a few weeks ago:

“I hope you are feeling better,” G’s beloved teacher from third and fourth grade had called out to him as we left school.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Nothing,” G responded, too emphatically.

“Then why did Mr. __ ask you that?”

“Nothing! No reason!”

I pushed. It felt right this time (sometimes it’s better to let go, I know).

At length, this story, as according to G, emerged:

G’s teacher likes to start off the day by asking thought-provoking questions during “morning meeting.” Often, these questions are like koans,* in that there is no “right” answer.

That particular day, the discussion was led by the teacher’s aide (who happens to work with G) and the question was, “What would you do if you we're the least popular kid in class? What would you do if you were the parent of that kid?"

G’s answer? “I think I am the least popular kid in class and I do nothing because I don't care about being cool; I would say to my child, 'Don't worry about it because when you grow up the weird will triumph!'"

His response, so brave and wise, took my breath away. (Mothers are so objective.) Also, the whole thing made me want to throw up, especially after what he said next:

“Then,” he continued, “for some reason, I started crying.”

You know how you’d do anything on earth for your baby (whoever your baby is, maybe it’s your partner, your cat…)? At that moment I promised the universe ANYTHING if it would only show me what to do to fix this situation. 

As we shift into the tween and dread middle school years, I fear social issues can only gather weight. As it stands, we drive hours to play with kids G has really connected with; plus we have carefully sought-out play dates in other local school districts.  And it’s not like G’s no fun to play with! He’s a really fun kid, if sometimes a bit fixated on Pokemon. He’s just stuck in a small school right now, where the particular mix of kids has left him…friendless.

Later, G asked me, “So how did you feel when I told you that?”

I thought about “that” for a minute. “First, I felt proud and happy, because you are so wise. But, also, I felt sad, because you felt that way and you must’ve been through quite a journey to get to feeling that way. I guess I also felt hopeful, that you will be around a more diverse bunch of kids soon.”

I paused and then asked, “How did YOU feel after all that drama?”

“I had mixed feelings.”

“Like what?”

“It’s hard to explain.”

I pressed him a little bit more.



Now that’s a “normal” tween answer!

(To be continued…)

Full Spectrum Mama

* Merriam-Webster defines koan as, “a paradox to be meditated upon.” The concept arose from the Zen Buddhist tradition.

Friday, February 15, 2013

For V-Day: Daughter of Power, Daughter of my Heart

Today we celebrate V-Day, a day to come together and give voice to the global movement to end violence against women and girls. Today, I, as a mother, celebrate my strong daughter, in the hope that she will never suffer violence to her body or spirit. 

Z, a.k.a. Shorty Tai Tai,* can be pushy. She’s always first in line, getting what she wants, being where she wants to be. She doesn’t value self-effacement, and she doesn’t mind shoving to get to her desired destination. We have a lot of interactions where we probably aren’t quite seeing eye-to-eye on some basic issues around taking turns, or giving instead of taking. It’s hard to tell how much of Z’s powerful behavior is attachment-disordered (controlling, hoarding) behavior and how much is personality-driven.

Anyway, she is a child of power.

Over time, though, I have come to love that my tiny daughter (she has stretched into the 15th percentile in recent years, up from off-the-chart itty-bitty) has such authority and strength. She’ll need it in this world, where racism and sexism still prowl.

Here are some recent incidents of Z-power:

Walking home from school:
“Mama, I did something kind today.”

“You did? Great! What was it?”

“When it was somebody’s turn in line ahead of me, I let them go!”

At the dinner table:
I asked Z if she would support us when she is very rich and powerful someday, just joshing around of course, and she said, “Ask me another time.”

Waking up in the morning:
“I woke up and I just thought, ‘I am going to choose to be good the whole day at school today!’”

“Wow…The WHOLE day?”


“Doesn’t your teacher have something to do with that?”

“So…it’s just up to you?”


            At lunch at school:
Two boys were teasing Z, saying that she was “weird” because she had hummus in her lunch.

She stood up and told them, hands on hips, “Don’t yuck on my yummy!” Having asserted herself and resolved the situation to her satisfaction, she marched over to the teacher to give a full report. But only to let her know what was up, not because she needed anything!

Safe to say those fellas are no longer “yucking” on anybody’s “yummy.”

Although I cannot applaud Z’s corny turn of phrase, I was reassured that in the rare instance that anyone dares to give her a hard time, she’ll be ready for it! Z came home pretty upset that day, but not because she had been put down. She’d already embodied the advice I had in my motherly tool kit: that she should never let anyone treat her with disrespect. She recognized unfair treatment and stood up for herself. In our home, in her school, and in every way I can, everywhere I can, I mean to make sure she continues to do so.

I used to wish that as Z healed, she wouldn’t need to exert her power so constantly. Now, especially on this V-Day (, I hope for her healing AND for her continued power.

Go Shorty.

Full Spectrum Mama

* Tai Tai: literally: “great great” – the Mandarin term for Madame or Mrs.