I recently received an email from a fellow parent where the subject line blared, “Your Child’s Concerning Behavior.” YAY! Just what every parent wants to hear. I was elated. The email began kindly enough stating that she is “aware that parents do not always know about incidences that might occur when their children are out of their supervision, so she believed it was important to make me aware.” Yes. Thank you. Again……….ELATED. Completely elated. Unfortunately, I already knew what “incidences” this Mom was referring to and we had already intervened by discussing the poor decision-making that was involved and better reactions that would be more appropriate in the future. We had also spoke of how my child was going to make amends with any friends who had been hurt, by writing apology notes that would be personally delivered to each affected person. Social media had come into play with this incident, so that had been banned for a few weeks as well.
I was beyond upset. I have not been raising a mean kid. What exactly had happened? I could perhaps blame the lack of supervision at my child’s extracurricular activity…..BUT, my child had absolutely chosen to do something wrong; consciously made a bad decision. Hear me out though. It was not the first time at this location….or others, where instances of bullying had somehow gone unnoticed. If I am paying someone for a service that involves watching and educating my children, I believe it is not an oddity to expect that they are being cared for and kept safe. I am entrusting my child to you and any activity that I drive them to, should ideally be an extension of their home life. The onus should not suddenly be ONLY on my child when the long-term pressure of being in an improperly supervised environment has become too much, and they finally explode. My kid does need to learn how to manage their emotions and behave responsibly, so blaming others does nothing to benefit my child’s future behavior. I am fully aware of this.
I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. I want my child to have personal responsibility and display good behavior, but children need to always be learning from adults. This constant learning needs to be extended to activities where they are no longer under parental care. When you have a child for whom social etiquette is a bit perplexing, adult awareness and intervention are an especially important matter. One past instance of my child being excluded by an entire group was posted on social media……..by a teacher. A group had created a performance but just before recording, one child deemed my child as being “not good enough,” and demanded that they sit out. While my kid cried and rocked in a corner (visible through the entirety of the posted video) nobody intervened. Then……it was posted for all to see, with a comment about how great this group of kiddos was. When I messaged the teacher, I received a shocked response of “I am so sorry ……I had no idea.” Ummmm, okayyy…..HOW.. EXACTLY, DID. YOU. NOT. SEE. WITH. YOUR. OWN. EYES? I would never exonerate my child for misbehavior, but negative behaviors are never learned in a vacuum.
When writing my response to the Mama who emailed me, I chose to ignore the multiple reports of HER child having ALLEGEDLY participated in past instances of bullying and “accidentally” hurting other children. I had never personally witnessed her child doing anything wrong and since any mention of bullying had all been secondhand reports, I really could not even bring it up, unless I wanted to be petty and deflect blame, with no proof. Remember how I mentioned social media was at play when my child acted out? My child’s actions were now forever to be seen in writing and absolutely, undeniable. I wanted the situation diffused and quickly resolved. In this type of instance, ruffling someone else’s feathers when they are already upset will not solve anything. They have already decided that YOU are in the wrong and THEY have been offended. The onus was on me to apologize and fix this situation. Nothing could change that. Resolution would not have occurred with further inflammatory comments.
There had been a subtle insinuation of legal action as being plausible, due to the part that social media had played in my child’s transgressions. Email Mama had also made certain to sign her email with her full name, followed by – ATTORNEY AT LAW. I was not sure if this was a scare tactic, or just her stating a fact that she should indeed be proud of. I decided to focus solely on addressing that my child’s actions were already being reigned in. My child WAS wrong. I was not going to deny it or blow smoke up her ass with…. “Oh yeah, well your kid has possibly done X, Y, and Z.” I once did the “tit-for-tat” route during a disagreement with another Mom. Petty and blame deflecting tactics generally do not go over very well and honestly I am not proud that I stooped to that woman’s level. I will never repeat it. I do not need to tarnish anyone, or their kid to make myself feel better. If someone is unaware, or just being a hypocrite during a confrontation they will most likely not have their viewpoint suddenly changed at my uninvited suggestions. Attorney Mama was quite appreciative of my having been honest in addressing my child’s behavior and even offered apologies that my child is going through a difficult time. Litigious Lady did not have to show empathy towards my child, but she did… and I certainly appreciated it.
I had always liked Attorney Mama, despite us only having known each other on the periphery and I was grateful that she was open with me. I was impressed because her choice to contact me was somewhat “badass,” because transparency is something people do not often display. Honesty is something that is often lacking in female interactions. As Mamas we need to hook each other up. Raising our children should not be a time for stifled communication and burying our heads in the sand. I have never appreciated people who choose to hide what is bothering them but then stay angry behind my back. Tell me I am an ass and be done with our conversation. I promise to respect you for it! Unfortunately, dishonesty and lack of transparency has been much of my past experience in dealing with many female friends throughout my life. This issue becomes more difficult when attempting to do the whole Mama gig and dealing with guiding my children’s daily interactions. As my children grow older, I will not always be there to witness daily exchanges between them and other children. Some children do not always “read” certain social events correctly. Some children do not relay details of their daily events….NOT AT ALL. We need each other’s help.
If other Mamas are not able to have open communication with me, your grievances are NOT my problem. Sorry. Your inability to be open and honest is NOT my problem. I am not a mind reader. I am also an open book. I cannot help if I do not know there is an issue and you are not exactly helping yourself….or your child, either. C’Mon……let’s hook each other up. Women need to support other women. Talk to each other.
Jenn Miele Leslie lives in Woodbridge, CT with her husband, three kids ages 8, 10 and 15 and two bulldogs who likes to fart and snore. Originally from Long Island, N.Y. (yes, that IS how you say it – if you’re from there you just understand) she misses being able to find a decent bagel or breakfast sandwich. Once an Art Therapist specializing in working with adults with various developmental disabilities, Jenn now spends her time shuttling her minions to: school; playdates; dance classes and competitions; occupational therapy; coding classes; and what feels like a million additional places, on a daily basis. In her occasional down time, Jenn enjoys photography, painting and an iTunes playlist that boasts way too many 90’s alternative songs.