Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Give Peace a Chance

Soph reported to me that she had a "problem" today and that she sat on the "peace" rug.

Here's how the story goes.

Soph: Mom. I had a problem today and went to the peace rug.
Me (hesitantly): Oh yeah? Tell me about it.
Soph: Well, Isabel wouldn't tell me it was ok.
Me: Hmm. Wouldn't tell you WHAT was ok.
Soph: She wouldn't say, "I accept your apology."
Me (worried): What did you apologize for?
Soph: I called her fat.
Long pause so I could collect my thoughts and address the issue as a calm, skillful parent.
Soph (in tears): But mom, you told me that you're fat. Grandpa Ray says his belly is fat.
Me (contemplating my eternal suckitute at parenting): Ok. You're right. But it really hurts people's feelings when OTHER people say they're fat.
Soph: But she is fat.
Me: Sometimes we don't say things even when they're true. We need to protect other people's feelings. Why did you tell Isabel that she's fat.
Soph: She got stuck in a chair.
Me (biting a hole in my cheek, trying to prevent myself from laughing): Well. Bodies are all different sizes. Some are big and some are little. Everyone is different. That's ok. I want you to be really really nice to Isabel, ok?
Soph: Mom. There are too many rules. I don't want to go to school anymore.

So, after Soph went to bed, I called her teacher. Mrs. E explained to me that actually, the "fat calling" incident happened a week ago. She didn't even know about it. Then today, Soph started kind of crying quietly. After digging a bit, Mrs. E found that Soph was feeling really really hurt that she kept apologizing to Isabel, and that Isabel wouldn't accept her apology. So the three of them sat down on the peace rug and talked it out. Big sigh.

I'm feeling equal parts responsible, sad, angry, and really, slightly amused. The thing is, "fat" is a description. Its connotation, obviously, is negative, but none-the-less, it is just a little ol' adjective. Of course, in our place/time, fat, when used to describe a person, = bad. Very, very bad. Kids read, "The fat cat sat," and it's fine, but call someone fat (particularly ME) and the shit will hit the fan. No more to say really. I'm going to sleep on this one.

Today's best thing about being a mom:
Well, I never become overly cocky.

Today's worst thing about being a mom:
Having a walking, talking conscience.


the beige one said...

Okay, yeah, a parenting problem I can't theoretically solve for myself, at the moment.

Funny, sad, frustrating, and ultimately...something.

Thoughts are with ya, kid. How's the film course going?

Write. More. Damn. It.

lonna said...

Man, this is a tough one and I feel your pain. It's amazing that our comments about ourselves make such an impression on little ones. I hate to say this, but at least she thinks someone else is fat and not herself. I think that's even more worrying. This is easier to talk about and will probably have less long term consequences. I'm sure that with time, you'll process this and come with a way to deal with this.

thelyamhound said...

Man, that's all so . . . difficult. Lonna's right in that it's probably good that she's not calling herself fat, since there's such a pathological obsession with body-image these days. On the other hand, we are more willing, socially, to accept an insult applied to the self than one applied to another. So the distinction is muddy even to adults. I put myself down with abandon (see my last two blog entries). It never even occurred to me that a child couldn't distinguish between insulting self and insulting others. Just . . . wow.

NME said...

This one really hits home. Mark is constantly telling me not to say negative things about myself in front of Noah - and I always shake it off.

What I find really amazing about this story is that Sophie and her friend had an ongoing fallout about the name calling because Sophie wanted to apologize and her apoology was not accepted. To me this shows that your daughter was really worried that she had upset her friend and that kind of empathy is something you should really cherish. You are definitely doing something right.

OldMotherHubbardSharesAll said...

I've gotta agree with NME - What compassion Miss Sophie Jean exhibited - She tried to apologized meaning she already knew that it had hurt her friend.

I'm really glad you paused to gain control first - HEHEHEHE - I freaked a few bazillion times and none of mine turned out to be serial killers!

JJisafool said...

I laughed out loud at the stuck in the chair point, which I am not wont to do. But, I feel your pain, sister. I'm struggling with the "whose friend ar you?" issues with Liv new in preschool.

I hope, but doubt, that Sophie Gene and Livvie Ann will someday meet. Though the resulting chaos and unbearable cuteness is a bit daunting.

Today I had to bring the snack to co-op preschool, which includes cleaning the room while the kids play in the playground. Liv came back from outdoor play mad that I wasn't to be found. She sat down for circle time and said "I'm sad. I keep missing somebody during preschool." Just about broke my heart.

patrice said...

I've had this kind of talk tons of times with trent. at first, it was explaining social rules, like you did, and then it was explaining why others don't follow the social rules I've taught him. that one is hard, too. when you hear "mom, you told me never to call someone fat and today billy called sally fat and no one did anything about it" it's very difficult. which is odd because I had thought that parenting ceased being difficult shortly after you bring the baby home from the hospital.

you handled it fantastically. and there is a good lesson in saying that sometimes we are okay with saying something about ourselves but not hearing that same thing from someone else. that's the kind of lesson that doesn't come up too often and that hurts more to learn on your own than to have someone teach you.

~A~ said...

I too have to give kudos to Soph for the fact that she tried to apologize. I think Miss too big for the chair's mom needs to get her a little lesson in forgiveness. *ahem* Yes, Soph does no wrong in my eyes. ;)

Side note to Ly - Kid's Soph's age are just learning that words to hurt feelings, mostly the poopie head name calling because they know that poop isn't a good thing. Sophie probably didn't realize at first that when she called her friend fat that it would hurt her friend's feeling. She was stating a fact, especially since her explanation included "But mom, you told me that you're fat. Grandpa Ray says his belly is fat". Mom and Grandpa say it with out hurt feelings so she probably just assumed that friend thought the same.

And then it's around the 2nd grade mark that you see kids starting to develop self-loathing. Usually it comes from an embarrassing moment. Messes up a math problem, and a child thinks that they're stupid. Hair became out of control and all of the sudden they're ugly.

What's really important is that we as parents and influential adults are aware of what we say and act around children, and girls especially because they're more fragile. The best example I can give at the moment is my singing ability, or lack of. I know I don't sing well, but we sing often in scouts. The girls know my opinions of my singing but they also know that I don't let that stop me from singing, loud and off key. :)

And I'm done with my rambling for the evening. xoxo

Heather said...

A walking, talking concience huh? Goodie... look what I get to look forward to!! :-)

KATIEmagic said...

Hello? Are you OK? I miss you!