My mum was telling me yesterday of a mutual friend who has just become pregnant. She (mum) was talking to her husband and he was saying how he was going to be a stay at home dad; he thought it would be a great way to just relax.
Obviously mum and I had a little giggle; we know how relaxing parenting isn’t. And as my kids get older, I’m beginning to realise just how hard and complex it is.
I’ve spoken lately of the issues my girls have been having at school. It’s not just one of them, but both. Bridie has been very difficult to get going in the morning, and thinking of a million and one excuses why shouldn’t go. It’s been completely exhausting.
The issue with both the girls is one friend (each) in particular. For Taylah, it’s a girl who is obviously jealous of Taylah’s academic and sporting abilities, and the fact that she is very comfortable in her own skin. This girl is constantly putting Taylah down by telling her she is stupid, or spreading malicious gossip, and then getting angry when Tay asks her not to. Take this week for instance. That boy who was making eyes at Taylah months ago asked her out! (she is only eight) Tay was completely surprised and embarrassed and said no. As the week progressed though, his friends kept trying to throw them together, and her friends kept sending him notes and saying she liked him.
And it was this one particular girl at the centre of it.
Bridie’s problem also stems from one girl in particular, but this little girl is just down right mean. She is bossy and also quick to put Bridie down; many times she has come home in tears from this child saying that Bridie is not as pretty as her.
As a mother, this kind of behaviour just makes my blood boil. I want to protect my girls, and yet here are these negative influences in their life, making things miserable for them.
I’ve struggled with what to do here. How do I find the balance between stepping in to protect them, and just plain ruling their lives?
To further complicate the matter, it’s not a one size fits all solution. Whilst both the girl have a similar problem, their ages mean I need to approach the situations differently.
The first year of school is confronting on so many levels. Not only are kids learning to read write and count to 100, but they are attempting to navigate a completely different social environment. My kids have never been to day care, which means that although they have had social opportunities, the majority of their time has been spent with their siblings. And whilst brothers and sisters can be polar opposite in temperament and personality, they have been raised with same set of values and morals.
Being a ‘Newman’ comes with it’s own set of rights and responsibilities, as well as perks and freedoms. Kindness is emphasised. Others first is repeated daily. And love and grace is practiced consistently.
These values are not as important to other families or children. They have grown up not understanding the importance of kindness, and thinking it is perfectly ok to be selfish. This creates a problem when my kids (and others) enter the equation.
Because of Bridie’s age, and the constant problem I just put my foot down, and told her that I did not want her playing with this girl. I expected tears and tantrums and a thousand excuses, but what I got instead was relief. She needed me to make that decision for her. She needed that boundary because she couldn’t create it herself and it was hurting her.
With Taylah I can’t make that decision. Telling an eight year old who she can and can not be friends with is just a future recipe for disaster. But I can guide her, and I can help her to make her own wise decisions.
Yesterday the girl causing the trouble wasn’t there, and Tay came home happy because no one had been fighting. She had recognised for herself that this person is the primary cause of all the drama.
It opened up a great opportunity for discussion. I talked about people being ‘high maintenance,’ and that sometimes when people are like that, they are not great people to hang around. I explained that it was her decision to choose her friends, but if it was me, I wouldn’t want a friend who was constantly causing me trouble, or turning my friends against me.
How she chooses to use that information is up to her; it’s not my choice, and I won’t tell her what to do. But because another of our family values is respect, I know that she will consider what I’ve said.
I’m amazed with how tough this parenting gig is. When you first have that newborn it feels like life is going to be peaches and cream and a bed full of roses. You can’t imagine that baby ever being anything less than perfect, or anyone else ever thinking so. And you certainly have no idea of the hard choices that need to be made, the uncertainty that you’re ‘doing it right,’ or the fear that you may just stuff this kid up forever.
But the other thing I have learnt is that love makes up for just about everything. Love and the ability to say sorry, ask for forgiveness, and move on. Yes it’s hard, and we do make mistakes, and maybe I have gone about this all the wrong way, but at the end of the day my girls know I love them, and that I only want what’s best.
And really, that’s the best gift I can give.
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