My Little Voice by Margaret Hart

When you’re a mom of school-aged kids, you hear a lot of “I didn’t say it, he did.” Or “She said it, not me.” Or “I didn’t do it, mom. It wasn’t me.”  I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard one of those statements. By now, after four years of preschool and three years of elementary school, I’d have a nice little nest egg in the bank!

Along with teaching my child to read and write, I feel as though I spend at least a third (or more) of my time talking about, and teaching, good manners and appropriate behavior – whether it’s his behavior or another child’s. A big part of this learning process is my own education, sometimes painful and exhausting, about when it’s important to speak up, and when it’s not. I’m the first one to apologize on behalf of my child or to have him apologize, when appropriate to do so. But when I am defending him, protecting him, or trying to get to the bottom of a situation, I can be aggressive. Sometimes, I learn the hard way, that instead of speaking up, it’s best to just keep quiet.

Take the situation that occurred this week at chess club. When I picked him up, my son told me he wanted me to put his new jacket in the dryer when we got home because it was soaked. When I asked how that happened, he said a girl poured her water bottle over his head, while two other kids “held him down.” What?!

When he told me who the girl was, I didn’t want to believe him. This girl is well mannered. But as he provided more details, and added that he got in trouble with the teacher, who asked him to clean up the water that had spilled on the table, I got defensive, and decided to get to the bottom of it. I called the girl’s mother. At first, her daughter denied it. Then after a few minutes, she admitted to everything. The mother apologized to me and her daughter apologized to my son. We both wrote notes to the chess teacher the next day. Hers was an apology. Mine was in defense of my son, who I said did not cause the shenanigans. I did not receive a direct reply, but he forwarded to me his response to the other mom’s email. It seems the teacher wasn’t at all upset about the incident, which he referred to as a “silly prank.” He said he asked both kids to get paper towels and clean up the water. Then he added: “P.S. He held his head down to have the water poured on him.” What?!

Now I was annoyed. I questioned my son about this new detail. I told him I wouldn’t be mad at him if he told me the truth. He told me he was hot in class, and was in the process of taking off his jacket when the girl said she’d pour her water on him to cool him off. At first he said yes, as a joke, and then he told me he firmly said no, but it was too late. Apparently egged on by another child, she poured, and the rest is history. He had his head down, because water was pouring down his face, not because he was enjoying it.

At this point in my conversation with  him, he is crying, and I am feeling like I should have just kept my mouth shut. Yes, she shouldn’t have poured water on him. And the other kids had no business holding his hands so he couldn’t move while she did it. But he had a knee-jerk reaction to a joke that got out of hand.

My conclusion is this: I should have listened to my little voice when my son first told me the story. My little voice said, “Well, the teacher didn’t say anything to you when you picked him up, so it was probably nothing. And your son isn’t upset, so just put the jacket in the dryer.”

Lesson number 2, 422…and counting.

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