My son is in 3rd grade. THIRD GRADE. He is 9. Most of his classmates are 8, turning 9. He is young.
So I am not ready for the things that are happening in his "social circle." He struggles a little bit, socially; he has a couple of great buddies, but he's the kind of kid who really cares what other people think, so he worries about whether or not the kids in his class like him or not.
There is one kid in particular whom he has a hard time with. Today, he told me that this kid is his friend now. I asked him how things changed. He said that most of the kids in his class don't like him and that this kid (I'll call him Bobby) is helping him get the other kids to like him. OK, unpleasant enough. But what was next?
"Bobby says I need a girlfriend."
"Because if I got a popular girl to like me, the way that girls like 'Bobby,' then I would be popular too."
The difficult thing about these conversations with him is that I feel like anything I can think of to say just falls short somehow. I asked him if Bobby generally behaves in ways that he (Samuel) thinks are good, knowing that the answer is no. So after he admitted that no, Bobby is generally a jerk, I suggested that a jerk is not necessarily a reliable source for getting advice on how to behave. I also tried to suggest that a person who gives you advice like that is not really being a good friend, that his other buddies wouldn't ever tell him something like that. Both Rick and I reminded Samuel that he has really good friends in his class, both boys and girls, and that it doesn't matter what other people think or say, especially if those other people aren't very kind.
Most of our words just sort of went splat. Didn't seem to register with Samuel or make any difference to him.
The thing is, I think Samuel is well-liked in his class. Not by everyone, of course, and there are some kids he has trouble with, but he is generally well-liked. The school is small, and focuses on community; they try to emphasize good ways of treating each other. It disturbs me that this particular class doesn't seem to be learning this very well; this little episode is just one of many I have heard, from Samuel as well as from other kids and other moms.
Samuel has a story of questionable social interaction at least a few times a week. Today, it's the girlfriend advice. Yesterday, it was the kid using the F-word with the teacher. Yes, with the teacher. Last week, it was some of the boys imitating those wonderful role models of the NBA: "You're in MY HOUSE!" *Sigh.*
I think this is one of those moments when parenting is mostly about faith, that the seeds we plant are taking root and will grow with proper care and nourishment. We cannot see the fruits yet...we have to trust that they will be there someday. This is why parents get heavy-handed: because they think that if they do not HAMMER HOME THE MESSAGE, then the message is not going to be received. We are guilty of that as well. But I'm trying to lighten my touch. I'm trying to talk and listen and listen and talk, and trust that what I say in love and with quiet confidence will take root and grow.
That and raise a little cain at the school and find out why there is so much cattiness, so much "flirting" going on, so many instances that make me say, "What is going ON over there?"