Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Children Say the Dumbest Things

I was born and lived in southeast D.C. until I was 9. I went to a private school, where the teachers sometimes let you spend the night at their homes. (It was indeed a different time.) My best friend at school was one of the most popular kids in school even though we were on the younger end of things. We mostly got along with the older kids, though, simply because they adored my cute and friendly best friend so life was good.

I lived on a REALLY long street (at least that's how I recall it) where you could literally see the financial differences between the homes as you drove from one end to the other. I was in the middle. My best friend's house on my street was pretty much as far as I could go on one end. It was headed toward the rougher end. Maybe that was partly why. We had block parties and everyone played together. I was even Miss B Street one year because of my grades. Life was good there too.

Right before 5th grade, my family and I moved to Philly. That's when life became a challenge. The kids in Philly had a knack for knowing I wasn't from there because I spoke "proper" or "white." (My private school was all black, by the way, including most if not all of the teachers.) If you don't know what speaking proper means, it means I use nouns AND verbs and some of my words may be more than 2 syllables. I'm sure any African-American can tell you the deal with this particular issue. It's right up there with the light-skinned/dark-skinned and good hair/bad hair crap we still struggle with today. (Oh yeah. My hair was long too and so in the early days some kids believed it was fake even when it was pinned up.) Basically, this is all stupid. But it's still very much alive and ruining lives on a daily basis.

I eventually found my people in Philly and by high school, found some relative peace. But you never forget the dumb things kids say to each other. As much as you hate to let it get to you, you know you are shaped by it for life.

That's why it slightly pains but mostly angers me when my kids come home with the latest grievance.

Today from 4th-grade Son: "Today I was mostly ignored. I spoke to them but no one really spoke back."

Yesterday from Son: "Mommy, some people told me my eyebrows make me look angry. When I raise them up, I look friendlier. Can I make them thinner?"

Last week from 1st-grade Daughter: "Today I was drawing and (Nameless Child) told me I have no imagination."

Last month from Daughter: "Mommy, ever since I started wearing glasses, people don't speak to me anymore. The only ones who speak to me are the other kids with glasses."

My response to every one of these? "Are you alright? Did that hurt your feelings? Well, do you know why that happened?" Generally, they say they are OK and they didn't know why the kids said what they did. After I see they aren't literally crying over it and feel certain they aren't going to have a break down or start trying to be different, I tell them that "friends" don't talk to friends that way. I tell them they can feel free to say, "Why do you feel that way? Yeah? Well, that's just stupid and you can keep on walking."

I do not love children. I love MY children. Big difference. So "stupid" is not a word I want to teach my kids but mainly because I want them to respect each other. They are the only siblings they have. I tell them not to use that word on each other but I'm short on patience so when I hear this, I tell them that kids sometimes just say stupid things to each other, like that black people aren't "s**t," (uttered by a Jamaican child), but they can't let it ruin their day. As long as THEY don't agree and WE don't agree, then nothing else matters. In the words of Mariah Carey, we gotta shake it off.

"Daughter, your glasses are super cute and you are super cute in them, I tell you. I never wore them but they look GOOD on you, girl! (They really do.) You tell them if they don't want to be your friend because you wear glasses, then they are ridiculous and you don't have time for it. Not talking to someone because of glasses is just DUMB. You tell them that, Daughter."


"No, Son, I am not going to let you make your eyebrows thinner. Your eyebrows are perfect. In fact, they are MINE (before I started getting them waxed). And anyone who knows you knows you are not angry. You tell them that's just the silliest thing you've ever heard and you keep on going."


Son already has to deal with the foolish friends who tell him that he's "big" while they are skinny. Um, yeah, silly ones. His father is 6' 3", you little loonies. His cousins are drafted for pro basketball. Stop trying to make him feel badly for being a developing child. One day you'll strain your neck looking up at him.

I hate to see them getting their feelings hurt over things they have no control over or that simply aren't true but the little tykes are too limited in their world view to know it. I hate to keep telling them their so-called friends are silly and maybe they need to rethink their definition of a friend, or at the very least teach those kids how to treat them - give respect, get respect. Give nonsense, get the back of the head as you walk away. (Fingers together. Let us chant - We will not resort to smacking people. We will not resort to smacking people.) I suspect one day they will say exactly what I said and then we'll have all this politically correct crap to deal with, but I'll be all too happy to show my color then and share with the school admins/parents that my children are my primary concern, not their need to placate everyone.

I am SO glad not to be growing up at this time. The stupidity just flows from old to young to younger to youngest. My son's sensitive nature makes me concerned for him. He internalizes and keeps it there but he still tells me about it - for now. My daughter tends to wear her heart on her sleeve too but her hurt turns to anger and eventually she shakes you off, but all the world will hear her shaking you off. My concern for her is that someone ELSE will get hurt one day.

They tell me these things and I get thrown back to my own childhood every single time. I come back verbally swinging and hand them the bat, but yet trying not to make these things into baggage they will carry one day. I may not be winning that particular battle. But for now, we'll keep on cleaning Daughter's glasses, rubbing Son's eyebrows in the mornings so they lay straight and telling them they are the coolest kids we know - because they are.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

Children can be very cruel indeed. It takes good parenting to make sure that your kids know what not to say to hurt another child's feelings or not to be just plain mean.