When you are the parent that everyone blames.
It has been a few weeks since Parent Teacher Conferences and I feel like I can almost write about it now. Almost.
I knew going into it that it wouldn’t be good. It is hard not to know when your child has been involved in four physical altercations by the second month of school. It is hard not to know when every year you hear the same things over and over again at these conferences. It is hard not to know when you live with her every day and see the struggles on a perpetual basis.
But knowing didn’t make it any easier.
In fairness to my child’s teacher, she did a great job of prefacing with all the amazing things about my kid- and there is a lot. She is smart. She is funny. She is so, so sweet at times. Her teacher recognized all these things and it gave me a sense or relief and appreciation. But of course she was also laying the groundwork to tell me the things I already knew we were there to talk about.
As she talked, my tears welled. Frustration, exasperation, and full on exhaustion rising to the surface. I am in no type of denial about my kid’s struggles, but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear. Then there was a pause when the teacher searched for the right word to describe how my child can act when she is at her worst. “A mean girl,” I provided at the exact moment that she said “A bully.”
My tears reached their tipping point. They didn’t stop for several weeks.
It isn’t the first time a teacher has called her a bully. I‘ve written about it before, how we’ve overused the word so much that it is now useless. My friend got a call from her daycare about her 3 year old being a bully. Have these people not met 3 year olds before? But what I’m noticing more and more now is not just how inflated the word has become, but how we react when we hear about any type of bullying.
It is a word that we have built up so high, the very sound of it evokes a visceral response in most people that goes something like this.
“Ugggh. Why can’t people teach their children how to act right?”
Because apparently parenting is just that easy.
Apparently all we need to instill in kids is a sense of right and wrong, and the rest will work itself out. Apparently bullies are kids with bad parents and therefore become bad people too. Apparently if I paid better attention to my kid’s homework, communicated with her father better, talked to her about her behavior more, and didn’t let her sign up for soccer she wouldn’t be such a jerk at school.
Except that is not how life works. I despise the word bully because it restricts people to a single word, an incredibly defining word, that could never relate the complexity of the situation they are going through.
Some kids have learning disabilities. Some kids have cognitive disabilities. Mental illness. Anxiety at school. A death in the family. Nowhere to live. They are hungry. The list of reasons why kids could act up in school is SO expansive and the word bully is so narrow that it is not doing the problem any justice. Should kids be held accountable for how they treat others at school? Absolutely. Can we call them bullies if for any of the above reasons, or others, they struggle with it? I hope we can stop.
Just like I hope we can stop immediately blaming parents when something isn’t working right. Parents must be involved in their child’s life but they can’t just shake their morality wand toward them and fix behavioral issues. If they could, I would have nothing to blog about.
Nobody wants to be this parent. Nobody wants to hear that their child caused another person harm. Nobody is out there intentionally raising bullies, so can we stop with the blame game for a moment?
So to the parent out there of the kid who is teasing others in school, even if it is my own kids, I promise not to say “teach your children right from wrong.” To the parent of the kid who got in another fight today, even if it was with my own, you will never hear me say “I wonder what is wrong with the parents.” To the parent out there of the child who is disrupting class every day, even if it is my own child’s classroom, you will not hear me say “maybe their parent should try some discipline.”
You won’t hear me say anything at all. Unless you need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, and a large glass of wine.
When you are the parent that everyone blames, I promise not to do the same.