So where was I leading with all of this? Why was I letting you, dear reader, know about my personal values and standards?
Perhaps because there are some in my life who don’t realize that I hold these things very dear. I can be insulted in so many ways but if I’m never given the chance to give an accounting for my actions and the past is dragged up, that cuts me. Really cuts me. And I’ve had a few days to think about all of this and why.
Recently I had two friends do just this very thing. Only it involved my child. The first overheard a conversation incorrectly. When I went to talk to her I even began with, “You may have heard us talking, etc., etc.” Then I was confronted with, “Yes, I did hear you talking and you should know that your child has criticized and bullied [the other woman's] child and that is why my child no longer invites her over.”
Some important details:
1. She incorrectly overheard us talking about a different child with the same name as the other woman’s child who was in fact bullied and a bully herself to my child.
2. The incident she is referring to took place 18 MONTHS AGO.
3. My child and the other woman’s child have a history of picking on each other but apparently my child is the only one who crosses the line.
4. She insists her child has spoken to mine, and perhaps even said she talked to my child (I was seeing so much red it wasn’t funny) and basically told me that she is choosing not to change.
5. Given her child’s history of not owning up to her mistakes and not talking to another child who was bullying my child because of a lie told her, around the same time frame, I highly doubt her child spoke up to mine. But this parent insists she was talked to, knows that her child talked to her, and that she is suffering the consequences of her actions.
Next enters the other woman. In my outrage that it took 18 months to tell me something about this incident I put this other woman on the defense and she blurts out “Did you know your child slapped mine at the mall the other night?”
“Uh, no–because YOU DIDN’T TELL ME! When were you going to tell me?”
“Never. They will work it out.”
Over the course of two hours the reasons for not telling me made me angrier and angrier. I am not mad about what they said my child did–I can fully accept the truth of the accusations. I am mad that they didn’t give me the chance to make her accountable, didn’t give me the chance to be her parent. I was told things like “She was talked to. She’s choosing not to change.” “They need to work it out. You interfere too much. Are you going to fight all her battles?” “Why does this have to be a teaching moment? You’ve been teaching her all along and she’ll make her own choices no matter what you say to her.” (This one really bothered me because they kept comparing her to their almost delinquent children, siblings of the girls involved.) “You’re reacting exactly the way we thought you’d react.” (Hey, try to tell me when it happens and you will be pleasantly surprised at my lack of anger towards the two of you.) “You don’t give your child enough credit for being good.” “Don’t go home and read her the riot act.”
Oh, and the kickers: “We don’t want this to change our friendship” and “We don’t want your child taking this out on our children because you give her hell for this.” But it is okay for your child to walk away, freeze my child out when she may not even realize? (Oh wait, according to them “she should already know.”) Is this the correct way of teaching them how to deal with problems? I guess those relationship and conflict management experts will have job security for generations to come.
I have gone through every emotion possible. Outrage and pissed off are the strongest two. I have sat down with my child and delivered the news to her that her friends have deliberately frozen her out over something 18 months ago. I have told her in no uncertain terms the laying of hands on another person is totally unacceptable. I held her while she cried.
And we have talked about what I’m really disappointed in–friends who chose not to tell me about my child, who made parenting decisions for me, did not give me the chance to stand-up for (and punish) my own child, called my parenting into question, dragged up the past and opened the door for the examination of their children’s behavior and actions.
I have looked at my own actions–have I ever withheld anything from them? Not directly and there was communication involved. My own shame in a certain incident kept me from speaking about it but the public apology was my way of saying, “If you want to address this with me, now is the time.” So no, I’ve never chosen not to let a parent know about their child’s behavior.
But how do I address this with them now? How can they possibly think our relationship hasn’t changed? Do I let it go and remind myself that I can never bring it up again? Or do I give them a chance to address my complaints–I don’t want to be a hypocrit? In our initial conversation neither of them regrets withholding, only the telling me. I say, “do not regret telling me, regret holding it back and look at the mess you created.” So will saying anything further to them make any difference?
Part 3: What I am teaching my child…