Other People’s Kids

Life would be easier if my kids lived in a bubble. In fact, sometimes I dream about living in a remote cabin in the woods, growing my own food, and having us all live off the land.

Then I remember that I don’t know how to farm and I’m somewhat reliant on an internet connection for every piece of my own entertainment. So, nah. That’s silly.

Instead, I live in society and my children are surrounded by other children, raised by other parents in that same society. They all inhabit their own farm-free homes and each one has a life behind closed doors that we’re not privy to. It makes for some great kids around them…and some not so great kids too.

opkWhen Olivia was young, a mother we know said that throughout the school year, she would ask her daughter periodically which children had “the most strikes” in class. These demerits of sorts were an indication of who’s good and who’s bad. Like the machine in Willy Wonka that registers the rotten, it allows parents and teachers alike to single out the students who should be ostracized for their poor behavior.

That’s just what this mom did. Upon hearing the names as they rolled in, she’d instruct her kid to “not be friends with them.” Seriously. She told us this. She laughed too.

It made me sad because I was once a child myself and, although I excelled at different points, I also faltered. There were many days when out of school issues lead to in-class mischief and I’d find myself sitting in the hallway counting red and white tiles on the floor. Teachers would point and call me things like “troublemaker” and “chatterbox.” I wanted to grab them and say, “Lady! How are you a teacher?! Don’t you know a cry for help when you see one?!”

No. The answer is no. None of them did. Third grade. Sixth grade. All the way through high school, few if any teachers recognized that some kids were probably dealing with more below the surface than they were in front of their eyes.

That’s not to say that bad kids should get free passes. They should be handled accordingly and taught how to behave in a classroom environment. Don’t get me wrong. If another student were to hurt my daughter, I would go buck. That’s not okay. Not all bad kids hurt others though. Some act out in different ways. Olivia has come to me with stories of children being dismissive, braggy, and, well, weird.

Mary made everyone stop playing at recess and come sit with her on the ground. Everyone went and left me and Tara all alone. We were already playing though and when Tara didn’t go, she started to cry and said we weren’t her friends anymore.

Told you. Weird. In some cases, I have no idea who these little buggers are. In others, I might be aware of some off situations that the family has going on. Either way, I offer my two cents.

You have every reason to be mad. That stinks. But maybe she’s dealing with stuff at home. Sometimes kids can get a little weird when they are upset about other things. Is she?

My daughter will offer me her trademark shrug and “ah-nen-no”. It’s a jumbled way of saying “I don’t know.” Sometimes, though, I hit the nail on the head.

Yeah. I think maybe.

You don’t have to go sit where she tells you. That’s kind of weird, but maybe cut her some slack. Don’t hold a grudge. Sometimes it’s hard being a kid. Not everyone has a great dad like you.

Then I laugh, throw a fake punch, and we all have cake. Although, that may have been an episode of The Brady Bunch that I’m remembering. Either way, she listens and I’m proud. I’m glad I can give my daughter a life where she’s not doing weird things like hijacking recess for other kids, but I know that my job doesn’t end there.

Raising good kids isn’t just about giving your child the life you wish you had. Sometimes it’s about turning them into the people you wish were around you when you were their age. I had many times when I wanted a friend to understand me at my weirdest and to cut me the slack that I so desperately needed now and again. Hopefully, I can create a person who can do that.

I also make sure to balance it out. I don’t want to make an adult who lets her co-worker walk all over her because there’s a chance they might have a bad home-life. But I want to make an adult who’s compassionate when it’s warranted and doesn’t subscribe to the notion that one false move loses her sympathy for life. There’s a delicate middle to it all. I want her to be a good person, not just to me, but to everyone.

Hopefully she’s learning. The world can use more people like that. It’s my job to create the change I want to see in the world. My children are my chance to do just that. I’ll do it in my house. You do it in yours.