Since Wyatt’s first day of school, my most favorite time of the day is getting him off of the bus. Each day he comes off the bus happy, excited, energized. Most days he is immediately whipping off his backpack in the driveway, opening it up and is excited and proud to show me what he did that day. This means sitting in the driveway and looking over his artwork or writing skills they did that day, because “Mom, you have to look now!” For the last month and a half I have loved this moment, that is, until yesterday.
Yesterday was not the same. I didn’t see my excited 4-year-old getting off the bus, unable to wait even a minute to enter the house to show me his work for the day. Yesterday I saw a sad almost defeated 4-year-old, and I immediately knew something happened. The bus hadn’t even finished pulling away, and I asked him what was wrong.
In hindsight I should have given him a minute but didn’t, I wanted so badly to know what was wrong. This was a complete shift for him, and it made me sad to see him the way he was. He immediately barked back at me “Nothing.” Sometimes, I don’t take cues well and my fix it mode goes into overdrive so of course after getting into the house and getting settled, I asked again. This time he yelled “NOTHING” and this time I took his cue. I gave him space he clearly needed.
A little later in the day, we were working on a project together, both partially distracted I took the opportunity to ask again. It was that moment I learned my little man was made fun of, for the first time. It was the moment I feared that first day of school when the bus pulled away for the first time, sending him out into the real world, exposing him to the highs and lows of riding the bus, it was this moment I feared.
He told me about two girls on the bus that day, calling him names.
It made me sad, at the tender age of four, our kids have to navigate these adult-like experiences. It seemed the names they were calling him weren’t all that terrible, but that didn’t matter, not even a little bit. What mattered most is how those names made him feel, how the little girls on the bus made him feel. Now, in the girl’s defense, they are also four, and it’s likely they had no idea what they were saying and how they were making him feel.
I was sad and to be honest, a little mad, but I also saw this as a great opportunity. We have to take every opportunity we have to talk to our kids, to give them the tools they need to navigate this crazy world. I took that opportunity. Wyatt is not an angel four year old, and since school started has been calling me names at home. We have been talking a lot about how those names make my heart hurt and have tried different strategies to stop the madness. Parenting is hard and navigating the waters of a toddler and pre-schooler are sometimes exhausting, adding name calling on top of that is wearing. Ok, not about me, about Wyatt but they relate, and I did make that correlation to him when we talked.
So, what did we talk about?
1. How did it make you feel?
2. How did you respond? (I was crossing my fingers he didn’t call them names back, and was a proud momma to hear he didn’t)
3. What can we do or say when if it happens again?
4. How do you think we make other people feel when we call them names?
Parenting is all about navigating unchartered waters, trial by error. I ask myself on a daily basis if I am making the right decisions and being the best I can for my kids..I am not perfect, some days I feel guilty and some worn down. Yesterday I felt proud of my little man. As we walked to the bus stop this morning I armed my innocent four-year-old with the tools he needed to help him to navigate the bus ride home, I hope with my whole heart he doesn’t need them, but at least he has them if he does.