Sunday, April 26, 2009

New mantra: Challenges build character ... say it with me

Oh, the snub.

That terrible rite of passage that begins when your very bestest, bestest, bestest friend-ever pretends you don’t exist … in public.

You know what I mean, right? It’s when you see someone you know, you run over to say “HI!” and they pretend they didn’t hear.

Even when you say “HI!” again, this time on your tip-toes, two inches from their upturned proboscis, they act as if you were invisible, turn on a heel and walk away.

“Why wouldn’t she talk to me, mama?” Ittybit asks, as I look over and see a little girl looking in every other direction but ours. I could also see she had some big-girl friends with her.

“Oh, honey. She’s just busy. Don’t worry. We’ll see her another day.” I try not to make a big deal of it. Sooner or later, probably when she gets to school herself in a few more months, the shoe will be on the other foot and we’ll be here again, reminding her just how sharp this jab felt.

Growing pains.

It never ends. It just leads to more furtive interactions, and the beginning of the dance in which we pretend we aren’t hurt; a dance that has us eventually preemptively crossing a street so that we allow the potential for that person to have a running start.

There are so many times, as a parent, that you want to just plunge your hand into a kid’s back (often your own kid, though sometimes others) and wriggle it around until you get a nice, tight grip on the inside of their jaws so that when they speak it will be your words that come out of their mouths.

If it could only be that simple.

Ah, but no matter how much we’d like it to be, and despite having seemed that way for the first couple years of our experience, parenthood is nothing like puppeteering.

The ability to whisper to your parents, friends, not-to-mention perfect strangers at the grocery store: “Oh, it’s not you, he’s just t-e-e-t-h-i-n-g,” comes to an abrupt end right about the time his older sibling overhears you and drowns you out with … “No, Mom. It is him. He only seems to cry when he’s around. I don’t think he likes him very much.”


It’s also about this time when most pleasantries disappear.

Gone are the days – and there WERE days -- when you didn’t have to remind your tiny humans to say “Please,” or “Thank You” or “Excuse Me.”

And coming soon – if they haven’t already arrived -- are the days in which you get nothing but sullen looks and blank stares when you ask simple questions such as “How was your day?” “Will you please pick up your jacket?” “Please put your shoes on, it’s time for school.”

Not even a “Fine,” an “OK” or a “Sure.”

You get nothing … or worse ... you get the dreaded eye-roll.

There are times when I think schools cause this; schools with their cattle herding from class to class, leaving enough time in between the ABCs and 123s to allow alliances to be made and cliques to form over the lunch room tables and the playground games of tag.

The mama bear in me wants to insulate my cubs from any slight that hurts.

But the part of me that wins is the part that admits that without differences of opinion -- without fighting and brainstorming and storming off; without meeting anyone who was different, or trying or infuriating -- we’d miss a lot of potential.

We might also miss the potential of our own ability to rise above it.

1 comment:

Lucy and Ethel said...

My daughter went through the middle-school-best-friends snub on the first day of high school. I could have throttled a few girls, but thankfully I pretended to be an unbiased adult and told my daughter it was a perfect opportunity to head down a path with new friends. She did and is now thriving as a soon-to-be 19-year old college senior. She knows what makes a friend and is a terrific one herself.

I can't believe life is moving by as quickly as it is, but I wouldn't want to retrace any steps.

Good luck!