Monday, January 23, 2012

Parenting kind of sucks. And so do other parents.

I have never been one to sugar coat things for anyone, but most especially you. I also am the first person to admit I am basically flying through parenting blind. I felt so prepared and educated when my kids were babies and toddlers, but once they hit school age- bam! You are on your own. Nobody has concrete advice that works, nobody holds classes on what you can do to solve the problems and resolve the issues that get thrown at you. Nothing. Suddenly all of the "experts" are clueless and it makes me feel duped into believing I really do have a support safety net of smart people to fall back on.

Because surely I could use one right about now.

So for my new followers, my darling daughter Olivia is six. She is awesome, cheerful, funny, smart, creative, and wonderful in so many ways. She's also in Kindergarten. She really loves Kindergarten, absolutely adores her teachers (she has two because the class is so large) and for the most part this school year has really enjoyed going every day. She even loves her homework packet every week and believe me when I gave a fist pump to baby jeebus on that because a lot of kids in her class hate the homework packet.

My daughter is also fairly shy in new situations and she is not that kid to just run up to you and say hello. She is respectful, kind, and sensitive. She has a tender heart and honest to god my fear in life is that her spirit would break because she seems like the kind of person who would suffer a crushed spirit easily.

For the past few weeks I have noticed that Olivia is having more pee accidents (at school and at night) and that is my first flag something is up. She seems more anxious, easily upset, and easily defeated. Any time I give her direction or tell her she can't do something, she literally looks like I have crushed all of the joy in her life. And though I know I'm parenting and trying to encourage positive behavior, etc... I feel like shit.

Then last week my mom brought her to school because I had to work and a classmate flat out told Olivia she had "vampire teeth". In front of my mom. My first reaction is, what kind of parent raised their kids to speak like that in front of another adult? Not even just the fact that they blatantly tease another kid, but to do it in front of an adult. Is respect a growing fad? My mom defended Olivia and I really thought that after talking to her about sticking up for herself we'd be OK. We had a talk that night before bed as we always do, but I realized my kid does NOT talk about anything. She just started crying when I asked her if any other kids say or do mean things to her.

I will tell you nothing in your life will make you feel as shitty of a person as that moment right there.

She tells me that there are boys that scream in her face on the playground, there are kids who push her and her friend off of playground equipment, there is one boy who teases her when she doesn't get her "center work" done as fast as him, and sometimes kids don't want to play with her. I basically felt like crying myself, but instead we talked through some things and she seemed to perk up.

The next day as we're getting ready for school, Olivia asks me for a bigger shirt. When I saw the shirt she had on, it fit perfectly, so I asked why she needed a bigger shirt. She then tells me it's because she's fat and you can see her tummy. Folks? My daughter is rail thin. She's tall and lanky. She's so skinny I have a hard time buying clothes for her because everything literally droops off her body. If anything, she needs to fatten up. She's six and only 40 pounds. On a good day. The girl is not fat. So I have to have the "you are not fat, you are beautiful just the way you are" talk with her. It felt inadequate because I know when someone tells me I'm not fat, I usually just say, "thanks" but in my head I'm really saying "moo". (Now, before you ask- I don't talk about my weight, I don't obsess over what I eat, I don't weigh myself, etc in front of my kids. In fact, it's a non-topic in the house.)

So then I take her to school and as we get to the door she grabs my hand and kind of walks behind me. Which... weird because this is new. It turns out, it's the boy who screams in her face on the playground. Then another kid in her class is like, "HEY! You can't go in there!" (meaning the area they have coat hooks- the rule is kids have to stay out until the bell rings). I get permission because I have Jackson and if I don't get in/out of there not only he, but I also will be trampled. So I tell the girl that she can mind her own business and that she needs to respect adults.

Good lord.

Olivia then breaks down into tears begging me to take her home. Obviously, I'm not going to do that because she needs to be in school but really- what do you say? She was hysterical and I couldn't even get her to tell me what was going on. After almost five minutes of reassuring her she was going to have a good day (and hoping this wasn't a blatant lie), she calmed down enough to go to class. I emailed her teacher and I think we have a plan on how to handle this in the classroom.

Since then, though? She is withdrawn. Today her and Jackson were being loud and running around the living room and after not listening to me to stop running, I sent them upstairs to play. Nevermind the fact they think being told to play in their rooms is the end of the world, she looked so sad. If I had beat her senseless- she would have had the same expression, no exaggeration.

At bedtime, she mysteriously changed her pajamas and when Matt asked her why, she just said she wanted new. Well, when I tucked her in I realized she had peed her bed last night. I asked her, and she lied. It's not that she peed the bed- it happens, but it's that she lied to both of us. So I told her she just lost bed time stories for the week. I have nothing else to punish her with really, she just really loves story time. (Especially because we read chapter books and every night is a chapter.)

But god dammit. I don't know what to do. I have a lot of issues here:

1. My kid is being bullied at school. In kindergarten. Wrap your head around that, folks.
2. I feel like I have to do something big for her right now because I feel like we're on that cusp of losing her? Not losing her as in life/death, but I feel like her spirit that I love so much is going away? Does that make sense?
3. I have read books, articles, studies, etc on all of this and none of it makes a damn when it's your own kid.
4. In the back of my mind, I wonder if I am unintentionally harder on Olivia than I am with Jackson because I have such high hopes for her? I feel like my parents had higher expectations for me growing up and sometimes that was hard. I knew I was loved, but sometimes I felt like I wasn't quite meeting the bar? So now I'm worried that I am inadvertently doing the same thing to Olivia. I don't know how to even change that because I don't realize I'm doing it. And that is a tough pill to swallow.
5. I feel a lot of pressure to do the right thing because I am worried I'm going to screw up my kids and they'll end up like those brats on 16 and Pregnant or something.

So there you go. I'm sitting here tonight with all kinds of funny things I could post right now, but this weighs heavy on my heart and my mind. I know I'm a good mom. I know that I try my absolute best. I do everything I can for my kids and yet it doesn't feel enough. Is this really how it is? Forever? Because I know for damn sure that chapter was never in the What To Expect books.


Julie H said...

I don't really have any advice. We deal with the bullying a lot and today Trevor actually got hit and hit a kid back and ?? No nothing from the school about it. Weirdest thing ever.

Ruth said...

I know just how you feel.
My daughter was such a happy little girl and than school started. No one would play with her and just being shits to her.
It was so hard seeing the happy go out of her and you just feel helpless.
I think it is good that the teacher is willing to get involved. If there is a guidance counselor, that would be good too.
See if there is an anti-bullying policy in the school.
You may need to fill out a form.
Your daughter has the right to feel safe in the school and it is the school's responsibility to see that she does.
We had to fight the school to get them to do anything. It took years and finally a threat to sue before they would do anything.
Kids are mean. I don't know how many times I have felt like beating the crap out of them for hurting my baby.

Ms. Ro Chelle said...

I don't usually comment on your blog (even though I read it regularly)but this just makes me sad. Sad for you and sad for your daughter. I have a seven year old daughter and I worry about this all the time. It has been even more of a worry since we recently moved and she started a new school.

I don't have any amazing words of wisdom other than continuing to make sure she realizes that those kids are the ones with the problems...not her. And I would also be at that school discussing this with the teacher/principal/counselor. Would moving her to a new class make a difference?

Best of luck with this situation.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I have three daughters and two of them were picked on and bullied at school and it is not a nice feeling for us mums to deal with as nothing we say seems to help much and sometimes if we get involved we make it worse and if we do nothing it gets worse...........all I felt like I could do was to give as much reasurance at home as I could and made sure that they knew that me and their dad thought they were great kids..........I would tell them not to let on to the bully that they were upset as that only makes the bully feel like they have achieved something they often like to see the victim cry and get upset. Standing up for yourself can go either way sometime it helps other times not so much.....what upsets me is that Oliva is only in kindergarten and has a lot of school years ahead of her, and will be stuck with the same bullys around her unless they get struck by lightening or move.

Jen said...

Oh Sweetie, huge hugs from another mother of a six year old girl, I hear you. Sympathy, sympathy- it is so hard!!
Not that my sympathy that helps :)
I have a few thoughts for you: one, this is just the beginning, and honestly school will improve. There seems to be a stage of emotional maturity at about 7 for girls (older for boys, sadly) where the ability to empathise with each other kicks in, and they can think about not only their impacts on each other, but the reasons another kid might have to say thoughtless or hurtful things, and how they can choose to accept or reject another kid's opinion. This is tough- they seem to implicitly believe that everything their classmates say is the truth- don't worry, that passes. Talking about the fact that we choose how much we're affected by the things others say, and can choose not to be affected, might be helpful- also that other kids say things that upset us because those kids are feeling sad or uncertain themselves. Separate the kid from the behaviour- talk about how some children take longer than others to learn to behave in "good" ways in public.
The second thind I want to say, and I got this from my friend, a child psychologist (who's daughter is also 6 and is a really mature, kind girl) is that 6-7 is the age when children learn to lie- AND IT IS NECESSARY AND HEALTHY. Yep, goes against the grain doesn't it, but it is a skill they must have to survive and is part of human interaction. Right at the start, parents are the obvious choice to learn to lie to, *especially* as they give unconditional love! Honey, please read about reacting to lies. There is a lot of thought about not punishing- because they will learn not to come clean with you. The psychologist suggested going with the "I will ALWAYS find out, so don't bother trying" route, and talk about the practical outcomes of the lie- eg the wet bed should have been washed, so it smells and is yukky etc etc. Of course, it means you need to be really on top of everything as a parent, but you really are. You're brilliant, and your kids are very lucky!!
Third thing, and as usual it means more effort from us Mums. Strengthening friendships outside school- by means of playdates, meetups anywhere (bikerides/ park/ your house) allowing Olivia to make a few phone calls to her friends- my daughter and a few of her friends call each other once or twice a week- they think they are *so cool* (not sure if you pay per call, we have a flat bill for unlimited local calls here.)
Other ideas are making little cards/letters for her friends, having them over to cook together (or plant a few vegies/seeds, or make up a dance routine)- all cheap/free and short time periods.
The point, as I'm sure you see, is to give Olivia some social security at school- and it doesn't matter if she barely knows the kids yet. She'll get more discriminating later. Also, having security by belonging to clubs eg scouts will really help too. Here, the after school activities are usually sports-related, many go to little athletics, swimming lessons, tae kwon do, soccer. The advantage is that the kids get better at sports, which helps at school, and the coaches talk about being strong and healthy, eating lots of vegies, being persistent, all that stuff.
One last thing lady- you are amazing, your strength and persistence in so many areas of your life are really inspiring and amazing to a lot of us readers. You'll work this out, and Olivia will be fine- your willingness to work on things is the best possible start she could have.

Steff said...

I don't have kids so I definitely can't give you any advice!

I do know that when i was in kindergarten there was a lot of teasing happening. It happened to a girl in my class REALLY bad, and I ended up being friends with her, which transitioned the teasing to me. I was frequently teased growing up as well, but I feel like i'm a pretty badass woman because of it. There were moments where I should have ended up on the bad side of things, but having parents and grandparents that taught me the right things in life I didn't end up like that. I can surely say that if I didn't have my dad and grandparents as my guideline (because my mom was an alcoholic) I wouldn't have turned out so good! So, I think as long as you are a good example and continue talking to her, she'll stay great!

Life Love & High Heels said...

Oh man Sara.... I have no idea what to say here. All I know is that I wanna come up there, tell Olivia she's the cutest thing ever and that kids are assholes and you don't learn to let go all the hurt words etc until you're an adult (if you're lucky). All I can think of is to reinforce that kids will always say things to hurt people because they don't know how to deal with issues that don't make themselves feel good, so they project it onto other people. And vampire teeth!? Wtf.... first off- vampires are cool shit. Tell her that. HA suck it stupid playground kid. Cullens = cool.

But... have you talked with her teacher about this? Has this effected her learning? or functioning in school? Because at that point you can request an IEP meeting with the teacher. (I believe)Because you can include the teacher and the school should have some sort of counselor on hand too. If not at the campus, within the school district that serves that school.

You are the best mom ever. You know how I know? You are the BESTEST friend ever. Seriously- not to knock my other friends, but until I met you, I had no idea what a TRUE friend is like. So experiencing that- I know you are the best mom ever and your kids will never in a million years turn out like the brats on reality tv. There's just no chance in hell. If you're hard on Olivia- I don't think it's showed? Kids need guidelines and rules. I disliked how "strict" my parents were when I was young, but now? I'm SO thankful for it. I don't think you will crush her spirit. this all kinda stems from school. And.... school is rough. But I would recommend at least telling the teacher these concerns and maybe the teacher can intervene if Olivia gets pushed down etc.

But if you wanna do something "big" for her-- let her pick out a new shirt? earrings? book?

Unknown said...

Oh my I can totally relate! I thought I was prepared for my girl to go to kindergarten. Well academically she was ready itwas the bullying and teasing that caught me completely off guard. All I can do is keep talking to the teacher and take it day by day but I feel so completely helpless about all of it.

Ryan Adair said...

I am not a parent, but this broke my cold heart. Poor gal, all you can do is encourage her to be honest with you about the kids bullying her so you can address it with the teachers/school. Kids can be so cruel.

Sending you and your girl the good vibes.

Unknown said...

So sweet and cute post. I really loved it. Thanks for sharing.

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Amy said...

I have parented 3 girls, 1 of which was bullied. Unfortunately, I do not have any real good advise for solving the problems at school. We got no help at all because the boy had a "bad" home life so I guess that excused it. My daughter was a very strong girl and learned how to ignore him and turn the other cheek so he finally gave up. It doesn't sound like this is going to work for you. Take one day at a time, reassure her every day that she is smart and beautiful just the way she is. I wish you all the luck in the world.

Shannon @ Bungalow960 said...

This breaks my heart because I was in the same position as Olivia when I was her age, and even a little older. I remember crying everyday on the way to school. My parents told me everyday how smart, pretty, and fun I was, and that the other kids were jealous of that. I tried to believe them until one day I learned that I really was all those things that my parents said. I think those days of being bullied made me the strong, independent woman I am today. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and all that jazz. Give that girl a hug from me, I know she needs it.

Veronica M. D. said...

Ugh. Let me just say, this is one of the things I might be dreading the most. And I think it's even worse when sensitive kids get bullied. One of my older sisters has two kids, and her daughter had the same thing happen. I distinctly remember the kid screaming in her face on the playground thing (are they scaring the other kids away so they can have "their" playground equipment? So weird.). Anyway, my niece just gave the kid a weird look and ignored him, and later she told my sister, "I think that kid had something wrong with his brain, so I just ignored him." Love that response. She could care less about jerks around her. But my nephew -- the other day he came home crying because a kid gave him a funny look. Yikes. Anyway, long response, but I'm not saying Olivia is overreacting or anything, just that it is even more heartbreaking when stupid kids choose the sensitive ones to pick on. And I don't know what to tell her, because there's only so much you can tell her to not worry about people saying stupid stuff or to stick up for herself. What else do you do?? If you figure it out, PLEASE be sure to let us know. :)

Unknown said...

Tackle the bullying--it's the most important thing. If you can get the bullying taken care of, the other behavior stuff will fix itself. Do you know the parents of any of these kids? Is she in class with 'friends'?
As far as kids saying shit like that-I would tell them off. wtf is up w/ these damn kids with no fucking home training? The teacher needs to be involved, both of them. They both need to be aware of the situation to help deffuse it, and also they should do anti bullying stuff during the class.
Can you offer to volunteer, or do you work full time? It would be helpful to see her in her element and how she communicates.
In the end...we come back to the issue of why I am homeschooling my kids.

Unknown said...

On another note-I just had this discussion about attitude with my friend (who has a first grader) about how agressive he's gotten but also how he likes about stuff he says, is standoffish and his shitty attitude. These are awesome parents--but kids that age are full of hormones and trying to figure out their place in the packing order. This is also why it's so important to nip bullying in the bud.

Shirley said...

Those kids are assholes. I have a package coming for Olivia. Nothing huge but just a little something special.

Jandy xx said...

mate, i was so Olivia growing up, like it's not fuuny how much that kid is like me! i know it sounds simple, and probably not much help right now, but i think what i needed was to just have it reinforced into me that i'm good enough, i'm worthy, and the things about me that are different are actually what make me awesome.... youre an awesome mum, so i'm sure you already do it, but i just wanted to give you a little bit of Olivias perspective, if that makes sense at all?!