The name of the game lately has been conflict resolution – And truth be told, that’s tricky for me.
- I’m not great at forgiving people or working through conflicts. I don’t say that to brag. I recognize it as one of my (many) weaknesses.
- I didn’t have these issues when I was in 4th grade so I don’t have any parenting examples to pull from.
Jay has been coming home from school complaining about the kids in his before and after care program. To hear him tell it, they call him names and are mean to him; basically, he’s being bullied. I know my kid though. I know sometimes his communication is a little off (due to his autism) and I also know that sometimes he’s the instigator who then only tells one side of a story (due to his winning personality). I needed more information before I went barreling into the school to demand action.
Flash back to a couple evenings ago
Jay hops into the car and immediately complains to me about “the mean kids”. When we get home, he doesn’t stop. He sits on my bed and continues. He no longer wants to attend that program he tells me. He’s over it – and them.
I ask him a bunch of questions so that I can get a full, and accurate picture. Is he being singled out? Is the staff aware and what have they done about it? Has anyone hit him or otherwise physically assaulted him? Does he say mean things to them or is he unreasonably difficult/bossy first? Is the main perpetrator encouraging other students to be mean to him also? How old are the kids he’s having problems with? Do they understand what is expected of them?
The answers only leave me more unsure. He says what he’s supposed to say to make his point and to validate himself as the victim, but …
There are little smiles and smirks (that he tries to hide) when I ask about him being mean or difficult. He shifts his body and holds his head down, sneaking glances at me when I ask if he’s really being bullied, or if he just doesn’t like not getting his way all the time. To the question about the age of the “problem kids” he tells me that one of them is in 1st grade; that makes him 5 yrs old compared to Jays 10 years. (That doesn’t excuse him in Jays mind)
We spent most of the time talking about one child in particular. This is someone who was (is) his friend. Being my son, Jay is ready to end this friendship due to their misunderstandings at after care. Apparently this friend, accused Jay of something. Jay then proved he had not done that thing. The friend apologized but Jay was having a REALLY HARD TIME forgiving the friend for accusing him in the first place.
We had a lengthy talk, and (fighting my personal inclination) I told him that people deserve 2nd chances and we talked about accepting genuine apologies and about how being a good friend works 2 ways. Being forgiven and being forgiving. We talked about how mistakes do happen and there are misunderstandings that happen between people all the time; whether they are friends or brothers or wives or coworkers. I reminded him of times when he needed to be forgiven by his brother and reinforced that if we never acknowledged our own errors or our role in mix-ups then we would go through life being very lonely because we will push everyone away. We talked about being understanding but not so much that we are being taken advantage of or opening ourselves up to be abused. I told him that this is something he will have to deal with many more times in his life so he needed to learn how to handle it in a way that was healthy.
He was resolute. The friendship was over. He absolutely could not forgive the offense. He was too vexed/hurt.
I felt him in that. I know that stubbornness well.
I suggested that he not make a decision right then but take the rest of the evening/night to think about it and to see if he had it in him to talk to the friend the next day and fix their relationship.
I am happy to report that the next day he initiated a conversation and he and the friend “were able to work it out”. Jay even told the friend that he was sorry for not accepting the initial apology. I thought that was very big of him.
I also had a talk with the staff at the after-care program. They gave me some insight. He’s not being bullied. Apparently all this fuss is over a game called 4 square. It has become a real problem. It’s all the kids favourite game, but it also brings on some intense arguing/shit talking/accusations of cheating etc. (Jay confirmed this as well). The staff did agree to facilitate a talk with the kids and act as mediators. Since it has become such an issue, if this mediation doesn’t fix the problem, they will ban the game from being played altogether.
I honestly don’t remember anything like this in my elementary school days. It’s a little crazy to me but here we are. Wish us luck going forward. I don’t want Jay to have such a hard heart when it comes to forgiveness. I also don’t want him to get bullied for real, so there is a part of me that’s happy about him not taking anyones crap. I don’t want him crapping on anyone else either though and by all accounts, he’s dishing it as much as he’s taking it. All the kids are. Yikes! What a balancing act this whole raising children gig is.