Friday, February 27, 2009

Luke's Bully

Luke has got a little girl in his class that is pinching him. My first thought was that she likes him. When I was 5 (and 6 and 7) I used to do mean things to get the attention of the boy I liked. I would kick him, hit him, make faces at him, tattle on him to the teacher – you know, show him my affection and win his love.

I told Luke these things the first time he told me she pinched him a few months ago. He accepted my explanation and let it go. I let it go. These are kindergarteners and the girl in question is not that big. How hard could she be pinching him?

The other night after reading books, I could tell he had something on his mind. Funny how, even at the age of 5, lying in a warm, comfortable bed in a dark, quiet room offers the perfect stage to lubricate the worries of the day freeing them from the mind and pouring them from the mouth. This is especially true with Jack. But that night, Luke talked. After he was spent, he said, “Night makes you think about a lot of stuff. It’s hard to quiet your mind.” Poor little guy.

He began by saying (using a made up name here for privacy – Hi Jill!), “Jill doesn’t like me at all. She told me she doesn’t like me. She hates me. She sticks her tongue out at me and pinches me. She pinched me as hard as she could.”

“Did you tell the teacher she pinched you?”

“I didn’t want to because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but she saw me crying.”

So a little kindergarten girl can pinch hard after all. And I hated to ask, but I was talking to Luke so I had to:

“Do you know why she’s pinching you?”

“She said I pulled her hair. I didn’t. She said I pulled her hair and then she pinched me. So I flicked her hair a little and then she pinched me harder so I flicked her hair again. But she pinches me all the time, even when I don’t flick her hair.”

We had a long discussion about how it’s wrong to hurt other people, and how if someone is hurting him, he needs to tell a teacher or his mom and dad and not worry if the other person will get in trouble. If they are hurting someone, they should get in trouble. And if they are hurting him, they might be hurting one of his friends. I explained to him that it is never o.k. to hurt back. I told him that he should stay away from this girl and not play with her, and tell the teacher right away if she bothers him.

“The teacher said that all of our classmates are our friends.”

“You don’t have to be friends with someone that is mean and that is hurting you.”

Our school has a very strict policy on bullying. It also assigns a character word each month and teaches the students about this word. I like our school, I like its approaches to bullying and its methods for teaching about respect and friendship. But I think they may be missing the boat on the fact that 5 year olds can be bullies. And that girls can be bullies. And they may be missing an opportunity to teach our kids that you don’t have to and will not like everyone you meet and there is nothing wrong with not liking everyone you meet. The important thing is how you treat those people that you don’t like. We all know how to treat a friend. But how do you treat those people that you don't like and that aren’t friends? That is what defines character.

And this kid has character.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monster Mysteries

At my house we love a good mystery. We are also suckers for a good monster story. At least until bedtime when it is dark and quiet except for the "Thump, Thump, Thump," that is impossible to pinpoint and there is a scared child convinced there is a monster in the closet and a tarantula in the bed.

Because we love mysteries and are a sucker for a good monster story, we were excited to see the new pictures of the Borneo Monster. Just once, I would like to see one of these pictures accompanied by an article about why it is real, rather than why it is fake. But, the science side of me won out so I did read the article and it made some good points, which I shared with my older son Jack.

He had his own conclusions about why the pictures were real. "His head's poking up. How could they fake that?"

And even though John and I have a heavy background of math and science, we also were lucky enough to get a large dose of creativity and imagination. And I think that helps us encourage creativity and imagination in our kids. Which is what kept me from saying, "Don't be ridiculous. They do it all the time."

Luke asked for me to print out the photos of the Borneo Monster and he showed them around all day. When he took them to my sister's house later, she countered by showing him part of the movie Anaconda.

He came home later talking about the Borneo Monster and I had the same conversation with him that I did with Jack about why some people thought the pictures might be phony. He said they couldn't be fake because there was another snake like that in the movie "Andaconda." If there was one, there had to be two.

"The snake in that movie is definitely not real." I said.

"Yes he is. He's an actor."

Mystery solved.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

His Wife is in Trouble

Leaving the house to drive the boys to school the other day, I mentioned how I wished it wasn't cold and rainy and windy that day since I had a meeting.

"Why do you care? Isn't it inside?"

"Well, some of it is. It's at a college and I'll be walking outside between many buildings and looking at stuff outside."

"Why are you going to a college?"

"Because that's where my meeting is."

"Why do people go to college, anyway," asked Jack.

"That's where they learn to be away from their moms and dads," said Luke.

"That's where they learn the things they need to know to be what they want to be when they grow up," I said.

"Do I have to go to college?" asked Jack.

"No, you don't have to. But it's going to be really hard for you to do the things you want to do without going to college."

"Not everyone goes to college," said Jack. "Some people get a husband and he goes to work and you don't have to go to college to stay home." Here we go.

"I see. Well, I'm sure your wife will be fine if you want to stay home and take care of the kids while she goes to work," I said.

"I think I'll go to college and go to work and my wife can stay home and deal with all the diapers and stuff."

So tell me: was the conversation a success because he decided to go to college, or a failure because he thinks the woman is the one who should stay home?

But I know the truth. It has nothing to do with traditional male/female roles. He is really, really afraid of changing diapers. He doesn't want to get poop on his hands.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Calming Bedtime Routine?

Jack and Luke must, MUST, do something active and crazy right before bedtime. It's as if their brains scream to their bodies,"Run, Jump, Dive, Chase, Wrestle. Do something! You're going to be immobile for the next 8 to 10 hours."

So I find it humorous when I read some advice or reminder that a bedtime routine should be a soothing event that relaxes the body and calms the mind and transitions the child into sleep.

Our bedtime routine is a frantic event that damages the body and excites the mind and transitions the child into exhaustion. But that works, too.

The newest routine is a pillow fight before bed. The boys talked me into doing this one night when John was out of town. I agreed. I should not have. I got hit with this homemade pillow that felt like a brick. Aren't homemade pillows supposed to be lumpy and half-stuffed? Later, John said, "They are not supposed to use those pillows. They are hard as bricks." No kidding. Just ask my flat face.

So the boys got in trouble for breaking the pillow fight rules. And mom no longer plays pillow fight. But guess what? The boys changed the pillow fight rules and the brick pillows are now part of regular play. The new rule is no hitting in the face. Although it happens often in the pillow fight because they can't really aim. So they can do it on purpose and claim it was an accident. And the fight continues with no one having broken any rules.

So as the pillow fight roars, I sit in the other room hearing periodic bursts of laughter; bursts of crying (some real, some fake to bring someone close for a hit); shouts of, "Bring the Pain," and constant repeats of the one rule that is golden, "Don't hit in the penis." It sounds a little like this, only I am always braced for the tears:

I know the pillow fight will last until someone gets hurt (which is every time) or until John surrenders (also every time). Then he has to spend another ten minutes trying to settle the boys down in their beds. Then they get their calming books, but by then they are completely exhausted. So I guess our routine is working.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Their Newest Way to Torture Me

After almost 8 years of motherhood to one boy and almost 6 years of motherhood to two, I thought I had adjusted.

I thought I had adjusted to their non-stop 60 mph speedometer.

I thought I had adjusted to their inventive minds that convinced them a pile of pillows would cushion a fall from any height.

I thought I had adjusted to their belief that turning a sheet into a cape would enable them to fly.

I thought I had adjusted to their inherent need to seek out danger, with calls of "Look, Mommy," ensuring I was a witness to every daredevil stunt.

I thought I had adjusted to the fact that boys will be boys even as I stood over them shouting warnings of, "Be careful," and "You're going to break your neck."

I thought I had adjusted to the indisputable fact that I could not stop them from experiencing life (especially when their main "life" encouragement came in the form of a 5'11" boy that just happened to be their father), and that I would survive their antics until they reached adulthood simply by closing my eyes and leaving the room.

I thought I had mastered this quandary of raising boys when I am a worrier by nature.

I thought wrong.

Enter the new phase of my life - boys playing on thin ice.

And if that wasn't bad enough for a day's fun, add to it boys playing on thin ice walking through these terrifying babies:

But I figured out how to solve that problem fairly quickly. I just yelled out the names of spooky things found in sewer pipes and that did the trick.

And as I watched them test the ice with a stick to see if it would hold them, and they rolled their eyes and told me that even if it didn't hold them the water would only come up to their ankles, I heard my own mom's voice in my head and the worries came pouring out of my mouth. "You know never to do this alone, right? You know that just because it looks frozen doesn't mean it is? You know that the edges may hold you but the middle may not? You know if you are on ice for some reason and it starts to crack, you should spread out on your belly so your weight is distributed. You know to never, ever walk out on a frozen pond right? RIGHT???"

And I heard their giggles as they dismissed me and I closed my eyes and turned away, knowing that they needed this fun, this life experience. I knew their dad was with them. I knew they were safe. And I prayed that when they are older and I am not with them when the danger presents itself, that they hear my voice in their heads as clearly as I hear my mom's and it guides them in the right direction. And for any boys reading this, that would be away from danger, not toward it.