Friday, November 5, 2010

Mama's Job Description

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All this buzz about kids getting bullied makes me think about our sweet Simon. A lot. He's got a lot of stuff going for him that the bullies are gonna LOVE.

And all this talk about bullying reminds me that my duty, my job, really my sole purpose of existence as a mother is to teach him two things.

The value of connection and resilience.

If I had to pick two things, I'd say that's it.

It would be great if he's super smart or makes tons of money or is an amazing artist or good at sports or saves the world. But really, what I think it most useful in life is learning how important people are and how to keep going when life (or a bully) kicks your ass.

And all this talk also reminds me that this bullying nonsense starts with the grown ups. Our little muffins aren't born being mean, thinking other people are things to be kicked or teased or pushed aside. They learn it from us.

I just read a blog post about a Mom who sent her little boy off to preschool in the Halloween costume that he begged for, dreamed of, lost his mind over when it arrived- Daphne, from Scooby Doo. He was worried that people would tease him and Mom couldn't imagine that the kids would give him crap. And she was right. They didn't.

The parents did.

A few of the people who posted comments on her blog post about her experience responded along the lines of "You were a bad parent for letting him go to school like that, knowing he was going to be teased". To which I want to scream, "HEY! Why is HER kid supposed to suck it up and not get to wear the costume he wants to wear? It was the stupid adults who encourage their kids to be a-holes that are the problem, not this Mom". She did what I think all parents should do - encouraged her kid to be the most authentic version of himself and helped him with the fall out. If we kept our kids from doing everything single thing that would hurt them, they'd grow up to be totally useless and only have boring stories about how they learned to fold their socks without getting hangnails.

My kid is going to take some lumps. He already has. But the thing he also has, at two and a half, is the power to connect and resilience.

We go into a local bakery just about every day, mostly so Simon can say hi to all his friends there. The faces of the workers in this cooperative bakery literally light up when they see him. "Hey Simon!" "Hi Simon" "Hola Simon"- it's like a chorus. And Simon lights up right back at them - "Hi Five" "James" Mahasen" "Fatwah" "Jose". Just about everyone that works on Lakeshore Avenue knows Simon by name and he knows them right back. "Maurice" "Robert" "Jafar" "Stephan". He soothes himself to sleep by reciting the names of everyone he is connected to. We can hear him babble "Auntie Poof" "Moses" "Grandpa Eddie" "Mary Beth". He could probably recite names for 3 solid minutes and still not name everyone he holds dear.

It's how we've gotten to the place we are today- with a child who, as my mother described this morning, "now has a future we can plan for". Laura and I are still happily married and Simon is alive and kicking and breathing and smiling and hugging and loving and screaming because of people. Yes, modern medicine helped, but living breathing creatures have shown us love and taken our love and shaped it into something tangible called the Fitch-Jenett family that has 3 humans and a dog and lots and lots and lots of connections to other living things.

Yesterday I watched Simon fall in slow motion, his beautiful little body hurtling towards concrete . I watched, my brain shouting "noooooooooo" as he rolled and rolled and I realized his sweet noggin was going to bonk the rough pavement. And it did and he cried like hell and he grabbed onto me and he barfed his little guts out and really felt it all. And then it was done and he was back and on to the next thing.

It was amazing.

I think resilience is figuring out how to take those hardest, most painful things and really feel them and then ease them, squeeze them, shape them into something beautiful or useful or just plain harmless. Simon already knows how to do this. He knows how to roll with the pain, figure out the best way to respond, how and when to ask for help and then how to get up and keep going when it's time. Seems like the most basic survival skills I can think of.

I can't box the ears of every bully that will tease him about being little, or having funny scars or not being able to do gym class or having two Moms. Nor can I wring the necks of every parent that whispers about us or won't let their kids come to our house or raises kids that only feel good when they conquer. But I can show Simon how to draw people close, how to lie down when it really hurts and how to reach out a hand when it's time to get up.

If I teach him nothing else, Dayenu.


2ndheartmom said...

I just shared this on my Facebook - you will probably see it, but just in case, here is what I wrote:
I have been in touch with this family since close to the start of Mackenzie's illness - their son, Simon, has been through many of the same things, sans transplant. This blog post made me cry (not the first on their blog), but also made me swell with pride. If Mackenzie has two things (whether I can take credit for them or not, I'm unsure), it is connections and resilience! She loves, loves, loves people and she is able to recover and forgive for all the hurts she goes through - blood draws, falling down, biopsies, etc. Maybe its a product of their large hearts...but, Simon and Mackenzie are truly special kids! Thanks Jaime for reminding me of just how great we have it...

queerblackfeminist said...

nice post.

pansyliz said...

Thank you for putting a seed in my mind that takes a crack at bullying from a different angle. When i was working with these 5th/6th grade girls as a coach. Several of them came to me thinking one of their peers might be gay and that is why she acts out, etc. We talked and talked to the parents of these for good friends. i stated, yeah it is likely she could be but the problem is until she knows it all you can do is be ready to tell her you care for her no matter if she is gay or not. i missed it then and not until your post. Bully education needs to be disguised to the young people but the education is for the adults. If we are going to change bullies we must approach a wholistic educational avenue that addresses the adults in the world who are bullies, too.

Maria, mother of three said...

I agree, resilience and connections will help us through a lot. Watching toddlers and young children and their interactions with their world is illuminating and sometimes heartbreaking, in a fairly straightforward way. As kids get older though it gets more complicated- more influences, more independence, more experimentation about how to behave. Ultimately, and sooner, kids make a lot of their own choices about how they're going to deal with situations. Most of the parents I know are doing the best they can to raise broad-minded empathetic kids. Which doesn't mean those kids are going to be like that all the time. I think it can be dangerous to blame all parents for kids' behavior or assume that the parents aren't concerned and working on it. Bullying is a serious concern but it's as dangerous a label as any other and I would hesitate to use it on a kid who's still growing and changing. I would say there is a certainly a 'culture of bullying' in schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces that needs to be challenged.

Anonymous said...

This is a fabulous post. Kids are so amazingly resilient. What really got to me about this story about the Halloween costume was that it was the ADULTS being jerks and giving kids a hard time. Kids are a beautiful blank slate. They don't know prejudices or bad attitudes until they learn them from others. It's really sad when they come from trusted and admired grown-ups.

My 2 1/2 year old daughter knows she has 2 moms, and so do her day care classmates. And nobody cares. I just wonder how long it will take for someone to notice. I can only hope by then that she loves herself enough and is resilient enough to not care what others' reactions may be.

I really enjoy your blog.