One of the most interesting facets of the writing life (and there are many) is realizing that some people really get you. I mean deep down, to the core, understand you.
Then there are the people who write and say wonderful things that make me feel like a fraud. They believe me to be kinder and somehow better than I could possibly ever be.
The one that got me recently said “You seem to have so much patience and you must really love kids!” To them I apologize.
(Clearly a newer reader, still flush with the innocence of having missed my early column wherein I confessed (with little shame) to having threatened a kindergartner who was picking on my kid. Yeah, I’m a regular Maria Montessori aren’t I though?)
For the record, I definitely DO love kids in the general sense of loving all humanity. On a singular level. I love my kids, I love my friends’ kids, and I would probably love YOUR kids.
This does not mean I love ALL kids. I am full up to HERE with mean girls and bullies.
Never let it be said that I suffer from permanent Mama Goggles. I know my own offspring are far from perfect. If they were perfect, I would be forever nervous that they weren’t really mine.
One of my children is a shy, introvert most noted for his judicial level of fairness. There is right and there is wrong and very little in between for him.
He is driven to distraction by unfairness to anyone and moved to act on the part of the wrongfully accused. Well-liked but quiet, he is a natural athlete who could easily defend himself if provoked, yet worries himself sick over the consequences should he have to do so.
This is a kid who takes the phrase “Permanent Record” very seriously.
Our other child is a self-confident, sunny sprite, once described as a “living twinkle” by a preschool teacher. An athletic “class clown,” she refuses to take herself — or life — too seriously.
She is also 74 pounds of pigtailed fury who easily tackled a boy during a recess football game and quite memorably told off an upperclassman who attempted to intimidate her in the hallway. At her age, I would have peed my pants.
Thus, when a gaggle of fifth grade wannabe-queen-bees declared themselves “the popular table” and began to systematically deny access to anyone who didn’t do their bidding, she noted that if one has to declare themselves popular, it’s a sure sign they aren’t.
Then she laughed and moved on.
Me, I can see right through the insecurity, teen angst, and jockeying for social position and STILL not find it in me to be understanding.
These girls are mean, plain and simple. They could probably grow up to be Nobel Peace Prize winners and I’d still see the insufferable little snots who were cruel to their classmates in sixth grade. I tend to struggle with forgiveness that way.
Though I hope for their sake they grow out of it, they definitely aren’t on my love list these days.
Meanwhile, when a notorious middle-school ne’er-do-well began to target my son, among others, I was absolutely livid.
The buffoonery and bravado of a bully is so transparent to adults. We see the bad behavior as evidence of insecurity. Bullies fear being made fun of and thus pick on other people so their friends will think they are cool.
This knowledge is old as the hills, and yet, when he targeted my child, I didn’t worry about his insecurities or issues. I began to actively dislike that kid. I am clearly a work in progress, humanity-wise.
Then I hated myself for feeling that way about a child. Albeit a mean one.
As it turns out, just as with all other humans, I really only like nice kids. The mean ones? Not so much. Then I wondered why brash, brutish, and rudely precocious children are so often given a pass on it?
All kidding aside, is there anyone who really loves a mean adult? I know “kids will be kids,” but why do some kids have to be such big jerks sometimes?
Moreover, when their “issues” become my issues, my patience runs thin. When their issues begin to affect my kids, my patience runs out. Clearly there is a reason my career path did not include “Guidance Counselor.”
I have long embraced the theory that having a child means walking around with your heart outside your body. As they’ve grown, I have also realized that in order to keep the love alive — for humanity, if not individuals — you really need to inherit a thicker skin, too.