Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Meanness of People...Starting With Kids

My son went to a friend's birthday party today at a laser tag place. And the packs the kids wear are really quite large and heavy...way too large and heavy for a 7 year old who is on the small side. Zachary is about 45 inches tall and weighs 41 lbs. He ended up leaving the first round of tag just before it was over. As he came out, I could tell he was fighting the tears and basically said that he just didn't feel well. I knew there was more to it than that but he wasn't opening up about it at that time. He chose not to go in for the second round of tag with all of his friends, even though I offered to wear the pack and go with him.

On the way home in the car, he asked me if he looks like he's in 1st grade. I said "well yes, you do." He said that he doesn't think he does, because he's so small. I asked him what on earth would make him think that, and he said that other kids tell him he's small all the time, tell him he's too little to do things that he CAN do. As he's telling me this, his voice is starting to crack and I know he's trying not to cry. Apparently, he's being teased at school in his class and in the after school program about being so small and little.

We had quite a talk about how people in general can be mean about the dumbest things, like a person's size or color or other attribute over which they have no control. We talked about how his uncle (my brother) was also really little at the same age and how he would likely understand exactly how Zachary feels. I shared with him how people have treated me differently based on whether I was thin or fat. And I shared with him the story of how when I was in 1st and 2nd grade, there was another little girl in my class who used to tease me and call me fat and tell me I was a pig until I was reduced to tears, and then she would go and tell the teacher I was crying and had no idea why. She tortured me for 2 years this way. The bottom line was that regardless of my size or weight, I was still the same person heart and mind were still the same, and I didn't treat people any better or worse or differently just because of the size of my body. So anything they could say or do to me doesn't speak to the heart of who I am. But to say it doesn't hurt? That would be ridiculous.

He is such a sensitive little soul. I want him to realize that other people who do this are really just not being kind and that the things they say have no real bearing on who he is as a person...his heart and mind are still just as good as anyone else's. How do other parents handle this stuff with their kids?

My mom and I used to have these talks about how much I build him up. She was always afraid that somehow it would make him arrogant or egotistical to be bestowing "too much" praise upon him. I told her "the way I see it, the rest of the world will do it's damnedest to tear him down at times, so it's my job to build him up enough that when that happens, he still stands tall and knows that who he is is wonderful." I believe that now more than ever.

Momma bears are fierce. Don't mess with their cubs.

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