Parent to Parent: How to the assume the best in another parent
You can see it on Huffington Post right here.
It’s not something that you ever want to hear from your child: “Mom, he said he was going to kill me and my friends.”
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My stomach dropped and the blood rushed from my head. As a kid who lived through Columbine and had to endure bomb scare after bomb scare for the remainder of the year statements like the one my son made is not taken lightly. It shouldn’t be. Many of us remember the scenes from Columbine High School: the student trying to flee through a second story window, the mass of teenagers, just like us, exiting their high school and chaos ensued on the inside. Going to high school in the late ’90’s to early 2000’s was sometimes a scary place to be. My goodness, we had so many bomb threats and bomb scares at my high school that one day had to be added to our school year because of the missed class time.
It only makes sense then that when we hear words coming from our own child’s lips about another peer wanting to harm them we jump into Mama Bear mode. Like a mother Grizzly Bear, we’re ready to pounce on anyone who makes a claim to hurt our child. We’ve seen what can happen if action isn’t taken and dang it we won’t let it happen on our watch!But then again there are also the stories of first graders being suspended from school because they’ve made a hand gesture. Or perhaps a 7-year-old says to a friend out of jealousy, “I’m going take all of your fears and make them real and kill you.”
You see, that’s what happened to my son, only he wasn’t the child saying the words, rather, he was the friend that was being threatened. And it was scary.
I know the boy who had made the threat to my child and there was a longstanding tension building on the playground since the beginning of the year. The two were in the same Kindergarten class and had become friends. Enter first grade and they’re not in the same class anymore. They saw each other during recess, however, my child was not having problems making new friends. The same cannot be said unfortunately of the other child.
The days leading up to the incident were like a pot of slowly boiling pasta…When finally BAM!!! The final blow. The words came out of his mouth and they could not be taken back. He named names when he made the threat and he said it to other children.
I could’ve reacted as a Mama Bear. I could’ve called the school and demanded that the boy was disciplined for his actions. “No one should ever talk to my child that way. Don’t you remember Columbine? This is how it starts!” I could shout through the phone to the unfortunate school administrator who happened to answer. That’s not what I did.
But I thought about the boy’s mother. For some reason, I immediately put myself in her shoes and thought, “How is she going to feel when the school randomly calls her?” You see, I don’t believe that this boy really wanted to kill my son and his friends. I don’t think he even understood what he was saying or the consequences his words may have. He is only 7-years-old and while some may argue that yes, he should understand the ramifications of his words, I believed that they were said in a moment of hurt and jealousy.
So before I called the school, I contacted the boy’s mother. I would want for someone to tell me about something my child did before being blindsided by a phone call from the principal. When I spoke with her over Facebook Messenger I told her that I would be calling the school to report it because there were other children involved. I told her that it was not my intention to have her son be punished extremely and that I believed he didn’t really understand what he was saying. “I don’t want for him to get into unnecessary trouble but this has been going on since my son was able to go outside,” I explained (my son had spent six weeks inside during recess due to a broken elbow), “I don’t want anything to be extreme which is why I told the other parents I would handle it.”
She and talked about what we thought the school would do. She confided in me how upset she was and how sorry she felt that he had made such a claim. We shared in our hurt together, as the mothers of sons living in this sometime cruel world where everyone assumes the worst in each other. But what if we all took a moment to assume the best in each other?
There were no extreme actions taken and I didn’t decide to make it my mission to ensure this child understood without a reason of a doubt that he should not mess with my kid. I made a choice to handle with situation the way I would want for it to be handled if I were in the other parent’s shoes. We’re not fighting against each other as parents. We’re working together to raise kind and humane human beings. It’s a community effort and not one that should be done alone. Rather than assume that this child had seen plenty of gruesome videos and was probably killing animals in his backyard, I had to decide to assume the best in this kid and in his parents. Either way I was going to be calling the school. Out of respect, mother to mother, I felt I had to reach out to this woman to let her know what had happened in a kind way. No judgments. I would want the same done for me.
Can you imagine the kind of community we could create if we all assumed the best until proven otherwise? Or what if we truly treated each other the way we want to be treated? What if we taught our children kindness, not by preaching it, but by living it? That’s the kind of world I want for my children to grow up in. That’s the kind of community of parents I want to be part of: The kind who want to work together to raise our children, not work against each other.
As everything unfolded the situation was handled gently by the school and the boys are friends now. They’ve even seen each other for a play date outside of school. My son has learned the valuable lesson of trying to include everyone during recess and his friend has learned how to handle his feelings of jealousy should they arise again. And us moms? We assumed the best in each other and our children.