Saturday, May 11, 2013

What a mother

There are moments in any parent's life when you wonder if you're doing anything right at all.

-- When you find -- again -- the room a mess.
-- When you've asked 25 times for something to be put away, yet there it sits.
-- When you are bone tired, hate everyone at work and you just want to watch the Housewives and you've actually gotten a TV to yourself only to have the little one come in, switch the channel to Good Luck Charlie to see an episode she's seen 247 times. And present you with her feet to be rubbed.

Hopefully if you are a parent, you're like me and those "Calgon, Take me Away!" moments come few and far between. I have them more than I'd like, but if I were to be honest, I rarely care that the channel got switched. I may not be the best or longest working masseuse, but I do like those moments when we're just hanging out, not necessarily focused on each other but in the same room and sharing the occasional snuggle.

Alison is one short year away now from her teen years. We're getting deeper into adolescent issues that aren't as easily solved as her problems in the past.

She's been having some issues for several months with a friend at school who's not been behaving much like a friend. She's fretted over whether to distance herself and how and what might happen if she did.

As she was sorting the thing out a while ago, she mused out loud that she'd been best friends with Jenna Tokash since they were born "and Jenna never treats me like this." You could just see the wheels turning as she said out loud something she'd been working toward for a while about this friend, but didn't want to admit, "I don't think she's really my friend."

We've talked for a while now about how what being friend requires -- stuff like being supportive, recognizing there are challenges that might make a person not fully understand he/she is being hurtful, and trying hard to help where you can whether that's with homework or basic human kindness.

The issue came to a big head at her school birthday gathering when the girl in question didn't appreciate Alison's "well at least now you can move on" comment when the girl's would-be love interest declined her bid.

This girl claims to be Alison's best friend (among the school friends that is: no one puts Jenna in a corner.) They've shared a lot. They've had a lot of great times, sleep overs and they're always together at lunch and Aftercare. 

In response to what Ali thought was good advice, this friend slapped Alison across the face. At her birthday gathering.

Alison didn't hit her back. She didn't run upstairs to tell us what had happened. She decided peace at her party was more important and just stayed away from the girl for the rest of the sleepover. She didn't tell me about it until Monday after school when the girl asked Ali if she (Ali) was mad at her (the girl.) Then proceded to deny that it had ever happened before reminding Ali that she'd apologized.

"Why did you apologize if you didn't do it?" retorted my little cross examiner in training.

I try hard to let Alison handle her social life. But this has been a long time coming so we talked to the parents. Alison has distanced herself from the girl at school and we're letting her decide if that distance will remain.

She's been slow to take this step, in part, because she didn't want Jeff and my relationship with the girl's parents to suffer. She knows we like them a lot, know they've had their hands full for a while and that they're doing a far better job of parenting their child than this saga might imply. There are challenges involved that they're not responsible for, and I admire the hell out of them for giving so much of themselves.

I hope the girl can learn from this and be more respectful of others. I truly do. But I'm not going to put Alison in a position to continue to be mistreated.

I'm grateful that Alison -- so far -- is healthy in mind, soul and body and I don't take that for granted for a second.

But I can't decide if I am all that happy about how she handled the slapping incident. No, it wasn't a gentle tap. Yes, they horseplay a lot. That's not what this was.

-- A Bravo Housewife would have screamed to high heaven, thrown the girl out of the house and filed a lawsuit.
-- A Southern belle would likely have found a discreet way to poison the kid and then express great sorrow when she had to go home early.
-- I might have hit her back. And then pushed her down. And then stepped on her.
-- Other pre-teen girls might have burst into tears and turned the night into high-pitched drama.

But Alison wanted to continue having a fun party. The other two guests hadn't slept over here before and her friendships with them seems to be growing nicely. She wanted to protect our parental friendship. And I'm certain she was stunned. She's never been slapped in the face before. If I have anything to say about it, she never will again.

So we're talking to her -- a lot -- about standing up for herself, but we're also talking about how she can do that in a way that's short of arrest-worthy but still effective. Her father's suggestions have carried a little more liability than mine have, which is funny when you think about his profession and my history.

I'm certain Alison will forgive her friend soon. I have purposely failed to teach her one of my best skills: how to form and hold a grudge. Whether she likes her Religion class or not, she's got a good grasp on the concept of forgiveness. We've got our fingers crossed that the friend will change her ways.

So we may have over-reacted a little. Maybe Alison handled it in exactly the right way and we need to just relax and let it be what it will be.

Clearly we are on Ali's side in this. We're biased, but we think Alison is pretty special.

And we're not alone. in fact, on Thursday we were among a dozen or so other parents who got to have lunch at school with their kids who were selected "Students of the Month."

I asked Ali what she'd done to earn this distinction when we got the letter. She shrugged and disavowed all knowledge. We didn't find out until the lunch when the school principal read the nomination letter from her home room teacher. One kid from each grade earns this award, which is given 9 times a year. The classes are small at CKS, but they're not that small: this isn't an "everyone-wins" kind of participation award.

Now, remember that Ali goes to a Catholic school. We're not Catholic, and she chose not to become Catholic even though 95 percent of her class are cradle-to-gravers. She has long decried Religion class as super boring "because it's all about a bunch of dead people." Her home room teacher is also her Religion teacher. He's about to marry a woman who teaches Religion in a Catholic high school. He's pretty serious about Religion.

While his letter didn't mention piety, He did credit our little Student of the Month for being curious, having a strong work ethic and great concern for her academic performance. She's a good communicator, is adjusting well through the rigors of middle school and is consistently well prepared for class. She's respectful, a good listener and participates.

It's a full, 8.5x11 sheet of high praise. Plus a catered fried chicken dinner and seconds on cookies.

Not a bad way to end a week that's had its low points.

Might be the best Mother's Day present I ever get.


Hilary Ricks said...

I think the Housewives could learn a lot from Ali. She reacted perfectly, although I'm right there with on the options that would have flashed through my head. There are a series of those American Girl books to help with these situations - after you and Amer enlightened me to All About Me we have been buying them all. And Ali and Jenna are 2 of the luckiest girls on earth to have the chance to have a best friend from birth. Again, love you man!

Cheryl said...

Right back at you!