Monday, May 14, 2012

The Price of Being Amazing

Its been a rough two weeks as a parent for both of us. Clearly, its been nothing compared to what my daughter has been dealing with daily for over 2 months. So many times the desire to write out these latest developments have been quelled by the emotional roller-coaster currently my family is engaged in. Simply put, my daughter is 3 years old and she is brilliant! Always petite in her stature, she is the true personification of her name, which in Japanese means "Happy Person". We have taught her many things and so much more to come. She has enjoyed innumerable educational, cultural and social experiences for such a short time on this Earth. Started school very early and always excelling academically, without a doubt I am extremely proud of her development.

Apparently, the act of bullying can begin as early as 4 years old. When a smart, friendly, expressive (yet somewhat timid) 3 year old is immersed in a group of 4 years olds, if she is not careful her self esteem and future confidence could be swallowed up in the constant taunting, childish meanness and social ostracizing of her peers.  My daughter currently is that "different" child in her class. I have to admit I hate it on so many levels. Initially, it dampens my glow of the innocence of children. And for that I am extremely saddened.  Several posts back I talked about watching my child be "treated" a certain way and reconciling that she had some hard and fast lessons to be learned. Social lessons. That would help her grow and learn, There would be no way for me to know that I was just witnessing a window into future events. 

At this point, a once very anxious and excited child to attend school is daily reluctant and apprehensive. She comes up with different attempts to stall going to school daily. In the past she would be jubilant about spending the day with "friends". Secondly, my trepidation about having to confront  the teachers, administration and possibly the parents became a source of internal conflict. I am clear that I am a distinct protagonist. My admiration for the loud brash purveyor of all that is right and just is evident. However, it is not my style. Very much the strategist and insidious attacker, I have been compiling mental "data" since we started at this school. Many days lurking around to witness various interactions and unseen behaviors. I saw my share, my mistake was thinking the teachers saw as much as I.

Bottom-line my child has been identified as the smallest, most immature (compared to the 4s), "baby" of the class. In order to survive she has adapted to some very unlikely behavior that gets her in trouble at home. Now I have realized that she is figuring out her adapting mechanisms. A great deal of this seems almost innate to both the children who antagonize her and my daughter who navigates this daily maze. That's the Sociologist in me, studying the group dynamic!

Here is the irony, last week I had enough and decided to communicate with the school director. It was an awesome meeting where we dialogued about creative solutions to teach the children in the class to better coexist and that the current behaviors will not serve them well in the future. Our daughter expressed her concern not only for her own safety but that of other classmates and that genuinely made me proud of her as a human being. We all left feeling hopeful that this situation would be a lesson for all involved and we would grow while working together, That was last Thursday...on Friday one of her classmates bit my daughter and left an incredible set of  teeth (yes I said TEETH) impressions in her back. The best way to express how I felt when I found out was Seething Fury! I was so quiet with my fury I scared myself a little. Her teacher looked for a reaction while apologizing profusely. She got nothing except "its time we go" in a very stern calm voice.  My main thought was "why would a person think its okay to bite my amazing child". And where is this child/parent for me to totally incinerate with my $25 words I learned in all them schools I have gone to!

When you have idle conversation we say things quite flippantly without much regard. Occasionally words may resonate but for the most part folks are not listening to one another. My daughter's teacher was livid, embarrassed, ashamed, and so very empathetic. I heard none of it! She knew that somehow she had dropped the ball and now this deed was magnified by the dialogue we just had the very day before. What was even more horrifying was that the offending child's parent never stayed around to apologize or discuss the incident when I came to pick up my daughter.

Here is where I go dark....for many years I really had no desire to have children. I find this world to be a very cruel and harsh experience at times. It was much safer for me not to partake in life's endeavors and just observe from the sidelines, that hurt that fellow human beings incessantly were causing one another. Always understanding that children keep the species going and that hope always remains in the heart of a child. For my 20s and the majority of my 30s I had reconciled it wasn't for me. There would be no need for me to deal with the pain and worry of children because I didn't have the emotional bandwidth. This merciless act committed by a child onto my child just brought all those feelings back. The fact that the parent would disregard the pain of a child, not just mine but any child made me livid. 

Then Mother's Day came, and I spent the weekend truly enjoying my daughter. Her laughter, her incredible sense of humor, and her wisdom. You see these children call her "baby" which in turn she has turned into a song and it makes her laugh hysterically. They tell her they don't want to play with her and so she has no problem playing by herself and making something interesting enough that they want to join. On the day of our meeting with the school's director, I picked my daughter up and she ran over to the main bullies and said "Okay my Mommy is here, I am going and you be careful in the park, Okay?" They all held hands and said good bye. Is that resilience or is it brilliance? Really I don't know, but I am grateful that her heart and soul are so magnanimous. In the meantime, I am looking for a Karate or Tae Kwon Do class!!It is more clear to me than ever before that she chose me because she knew I would see that in her, and give my last breath to nurture and protect the fine spirit that she always will be!!!



  1. girl, we need to talk. this should NOT be happening in any nursery / preschool / daycare setting. where is the control? where are the teachers admonishing the children who tease? i have heard another parent talk about similar behavior at this school. at the time, i thought maybe the parent was being overprotective - now i know she was genuinely expressing concern over what is going down at this school! i will send her this link... and i WILL take my earrings off for your daughter. truth.

    i say get her the heck outta there and in a saner environment. this is madness you're describing. if a school is not prepared to handle the mean girl stuff that goes on, they are not prepared to teach.

  2. It is definitely not acceptable for there to be biting. I whole-heartedly agree with Eisa. I am in the position of the director of a preschool, and I've seen and heard some wild things. Definitely see if you can get to the bottom of it with someone who is there with the children. Who bit her and what will the conversation be like with that family? Also, is she the only much younger one? Mixed age groups can be fine but not where there is only one in that position or the only much younger girl. If the teachers and administration do not seem responsive, I would be prepared to get another preschool.

    As a parent what you said has resonated deeply. I have seen my son in social situations where he does quite well and others where it is like vultures on, well, better not go there. It is your heart is out there in the world who needs to be loved, cared for and respected. I believe that children and adults need social problem solving skills and strategies. It sounds like she is picking up some on her own without the center giving much support and scaffolding to her. And the researcher in me relates to the sociologist in you. There is so much that is fascinating that I find myself participating in that sometimes I cannot believe it. It can look so different behind the scenes when you observe and see what others do and do not let into their frames. I would also say be prepared to advocate. If you do not, nobody will.