Tales of a SAHM Nothing

Did you ever read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”, by Judy Blume? I loved her books when I was a kid! While I’m not Peter being pestered by little Fudge, I am having trouble processing the actions of a younger boy… and it’s kind of making me feel like, well.. nothing. Shrunk down. Deflated. Vacant.

I don’t even like this picture depicting a fight.

There was a fight at “The Park” by our house last week. A group of 2nd-6th grade boys from our neighborhood regularly play together there and though they are usually climbing trees they are not supposed to be in, fighting with sticks, almost poking each other’s eyes out & leaving gashes and scratches on every last one of them- the stuff you can count on boys for. But last week, there was a fight. Not just boys wrestling and getting out of hand. Not just yelling and pushing. If it were adults or in the news as a case of the police department vs. a black man, it would likely be described as a savage, senseless, brutal beating. Sadly, they wouldn’t even be incorrect.

The basic description is that one of the largest kids in the group was repeatedly kicking one of the youngest members while he was laying on the ground. A group of nearly 10 different kids have the same story, so as far as accuracy, it’s fairly clear: Kid A was playing in an overturned shopping cart. Kid B tried to yank him out. Kid A kicks at Kid B for pulling on him. Kid B pulls Kid A out of the cart far enough to start kicking him repeatedly in the face, chest, stomach & even elbows as they come up for self defense. One of the older sisters of the another boy heard the commotion & came over to try and put a stop to it. Kid B relented his kicking… long enough to flip her off, turn back towards the cart and continue kicking… kicking again and again until he was satiated- then leave the scene with a glare and calmly resume playing on the grass. 

My heart is breaking. I am angry. It floors me that a child could act like such a monster (while not playing a monster game, that is) and be so full of blind rage at such a young age; so insensitive to the cries of someone clearly helpless and deaf to the pleas of his peers. The fact that someone so young (and proximate) could by so physically violent makes my stomach hurt. It makes me want to tuck my children away forever, safely in my home, in my arms, encircled in a little bubble of love. (Okay, maybe not too close: any mother of boys can tell you- they stink!) I want to protect them, keep them safe from all the awful, horrible, mean-spirited, physically and mentally perforating events that can happen in the world. I want to talk to his mother… Clearly, something is going on at home for this kid. Why do I care so much? Because Kid B is my son. So WHY aren’t I jumping down this other mother’s throat?! …Because Kid A is my son, too.
I know brothers fight. It’s a phenomenon. I just wish it looked more like this:

…or maybe even this:

There is a $10,000 set of prosthetic balls in this scene. And now you know.

Okay, I’m procrastinating. Probably because I HATE THIS. It’s taken me days to process it enough to get this far & I’m too forest-for-the-trees to use my Child Development classes from ten years ago. I remember developmentally, this is a tough age for both 8 & 10 year olds, who are practicing ways to become men. I know I can’t be alone My boys have bickered their entire lives, just like my girls do. I don’t have little brothers and I obviously have never been one. Apparently, they’re more physical. But actual fighting is too, too much. I know both of my sons. This is not how they behave! Right? RIGHT?! I want to believe my sweet cherub who has the brains to read 10 different encyclopedia sets has the brains to know pummeling the crap out of someone half your size (or of any size) is never acceptable. My poor, sweet boy has a black eye in a line on his face from getting his head kicked against the cart, a fat, split lip and bruised ribs… and this is somehow the product of 10 years of my practiced, gentle parenting and another 10 year prior of practice on other people’s kids!

so what happened? And more importantly, what the hell do I do?
My heart is breaking for both of my sons. If I had witnessed someone else’s child to do this to mine, I might have even called the police or CPS, certain he had come from a “troubled household”. Sure, our family has its ups and downs, but nothing that warrants (or has EVER condoned) that behavior. My younger son idolizes the brother that just hurt him in front of all of his friends. I suppose my little sister may have thought I was the bees knees when I tried painting nail polish on her lips to see if it worked like lipstick (It doesn’t. But better to try it on someone else first, right?) but I wasn’t trying to hurt her. Not really, anyhow.

My sentiments, exactly.

This behavior came from a boy who could speak concise, complete sentences at 11 months old, name 20 species of flowers at 2 and taught himself to read by 4. He was breastfed until 9 months (until he could pretty much say, “I’d like to drink from a cup now, mother. It’s a bit more efficient.” I’m only slightly exaggerating.) He coslept for years, has always been gently disciplined, supported, encouraged, loved and cherished. When he was born, I became a nanny so that I could keep him with me and not send him to daycare. When I finally had to work and send him to preschool, it was Waldorf based. This is my Indigo Child, my little Buddha… and now this? I need to sit down. Like… permanently.

I should take a minute to point out that he doesn’t live with us. He lives with his dad about 2 hours away (and has since last summer, when he got into an awesome charter school there) and visits every other weekend. (something I will write about at a different time) His dad is totally AP- even moreso than I find myself at times. He doesn’t drink, fight, yell or anything else that might invite finger pointing in that direction. He’s not my partner any more, but he is, and always will be, my co-parent for this blossoming young man… who apparently has a violent streak? *sigh* Are ALL boys just inherently brutal?? We talked together and decided that probably he was having a hard time adapting to changes at home and has pent up anger for his brother, blah blah blah… but how do we keep this from happening again? I’m still at a loss.

I called his school to see if they offer counseling. They do, but it’s the end of the school year, it’s only once a week, there are only 3 weeks left and only 2 where the counselor even comes to wrap up with kids she’s been working with. He obviously needs some sort of outlet and guided therapy, but he hates sports and would rather sit and play video games all day. (Though at our house, there is a strict “Clean time before screen time” rule, followed by a 1 hour weekday/night limit. The weekend is the weekend. I play it by ear.) I can’t afford to consistently send him to therapy or to buy a whole new slew of parenting books, which are my first (very first world) two solutions. I don’t feel like punishing him will be effective… but I don’t know what else would be, either.

Is THIS the face of a  violent oppressor?

This is all aside from the raging sea in my Mother Bear heart at the thought of my younger son being hurt. Directly after it happened, I shut myself in the bedroom and sobbed into my pillow for an hour, an entirely new form of heartbreak, gouged deep into my insides. I didn’t, I still don’t feel like a progressive parent at all- I feel like a complete failure. I feel the judgement of all the other mothers whose sons came home and told the horror of my eldest- and I can’t even blame them, because I feel it for myself! It made me think of the first recorded murder Abel by Cain- brothers feuding that ended horribly, just outside their home. Poor Eve. It made me think of Columbine and ALL of the mothers, especially the only of the boy who fired those bullets. It made me think of every time I could have possibly failed my kids as a mother. It made me think of that sweet little toddler boy with the Charlie Brown-round head walking around discussing foliage & flowers, mispronouncing his “r”s with great gusto & sincerity. It made me cry.

I still don’t know what to do. I feel like shit. I don’t know how to “fix” what happened and it has been weighing heavy on my heart for days now. I know that time heals all wounds and I want so badly to believe that because I am paying attention and because I care deeply, it won’t happen again. But I don’t know that, and unfortunately, can’t control it, either..It makes me feel compassion for all the other mothers who have children whose actions have been heartbreaking. It makes me realize that good people do bad things, and that just because a child is making poor decisions doesn’t necessarily mean s/he comes from a home where there is neglect or abuse. Sometimes, kids just suck… and we love them anyway. While I don’t know the solution for my small world problem,  am reminded of one quote that I wish I could wear on my forehead right now:

Do you have boys that fight? What are your solutions for teaching peace? 
I need to cash in on this here proverbial village it takes to raise a child right about now…
and please, please, don’t hate on me. I’ll give you plenty of other reasons later, I promise.

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