31 January 2011

Don't Become a Victim

"Don't become a victim," I told Buzz as he came home from school complaining that yet again, "the kids" had been "blaming him" for doing "nothing wrong at all."  I can't seem to fight my way through the fog of who said what to whom in response to whatever, so my immediate response to the problem is to teach him some strategies for not allowing the kids to get the upper hand in this ridiculous battle for social supremacy.

"Don't talk to them - find someone else instead," I advised him.  "Understand that the teachers know if you're doing the right thing, and be happy that they know you're a good kid," I continued.  "Whatever you do, don't let this silliness make you sad or upset - that's a waste of your precious time!" I exclaimed cheerily.

That was my advice which was designed to break the power of bullying - insecure kids trying to put themselves up by tearing my son down.

Then I walked into it myself.

"I've strapped him into his stroller so that he can't run away and make me chase after him," I explained to the circle of school Mums as I stood with Woody in his stroller at school pickup time.  Then, feeling safe enough to be honest: "We were at the shops with my sister today and he had many tantrums.  Now that he is walking he is having trouble learning that I won't let him run off anywhere."

What happened next took me by surprise because quite honestly, the Mums in my circle are consistently mature and empathetic, and they are parenting children with spunk, personality and intelligence like mine.

"I didn't have those problems with my two," a school mum said, bless her heart.  "But I have always been very strict from the start - the older child had to hold the handle of the stroller while I was walking through the shops.  I never relaxed that.  I was always firm and consistent, and never allowed them to let go and walk away.  I have taken on many of the parenting strategies of my Mother, who raised more than ten children.  When you're raising that many children, you have to be firm and consistent!"

It went on a bit longer with variations on the same theme.  I knew that in her mind, she was giving me wonderful advice that would transfigure my life - telling a child to hold the handle of the stroller was all I needed to do.  I think she had no idea that she was basically saying:

"I managed it better than you obviously do, and that's why I didn't have problems like you."

The implication was "You obviously allow them to run riot, and that's why Woody had some tantrums.  You obviously have not been consistent like me.  You obviously have not been firm like me.  Because if you had, your 18 month old would behave like my firstborn girl did when she was four."

I wanted to get a word in to assert that I am consistent, I am firm, and I am a good mother!  I wanted to point out that her children are very different to mine!

I managed to ask her what she did when the child lay on his/her back on the floor of the shops and had a tantrum, like Woody did about 10 times today.  She said that it never happened to her.  I felt slightly smug at this, because not only do I believe this to be untrue, I also believe I handled Woody's 10 tantrums superbly, whereas she apparently has no experience in dealing with this.

Despite this minor intellectual victory, I came home feeling well and truly bullied.  An insecure Mum had tried to put her parenting up by tearing my parenting down.  I think that was quite unfair of her to lay out her memory of brilliant parenting successes for her own edification when it was so obviously providing a direct contrast to my current situation.

Now what was it I was telling Buzz earlier?  And how does it apply to my situation?

"Don't become a victim."  Okay, yeah, sounds good.  Only I get the distinct feeling that I have been publicly shamed by the well-meaning advances of someone who hardly let me get a word in to defend myself.

"Don't talk to them - find someone else instead."  Yes, good advice, I will try to talk to other mums for a few days and come back to talk to her later in the week.

"Understand that others know you're doing the right thing, and be happy that they know you're a good Mum." I get it, I get it!  I think.

"Whatever you do, don't let this silliness make you sad or upset - that's a waste of your precious time!" Okay, sure, I understand!  I will spend no more time being upset about this ... after I have blogged it, that is.

I picked Buzz up from his classroom and walked to the car.  As we walked towards the car, I noticed that Buzz had taken hold of the stroller, and was holding it as he walked ...


Emily Sue said...

I think it's okay to be sad or upset when people are mean to you. Those feelings are valid and a natural response to bullying. Having those feelings doesn't make you a victim.

The Accidental Housewife said...

Oh grrrr, I'm so cranky for you right now! Don't you dare take her silliness to heart. Being a good little housewife, I like my Dr Phil, and he said something wise the other day: people who are truly happy don't need to try and 'level' others, attempting to bring the the person down to their level with insults or build themselves up to the other person with bragging. So, take it as a compliment. She was clearly threatened by your awesomeness!

Anonymous said...

There is always somebody who thinks they know your children better than you do!
My youngest brother (1 of 5) was a tantrum holder at Woody's age +....terrible 2's plus some.
Going back a 'few' years now, he decided to throw himself on the floor of a little local shop and scream and rant and rave because my mum wouldn't buy him whatever it was he wanted (sweets i expect). This being the little local Post Office, she had a quick word with the owner, who knew us all well, and went outside to wait, only to be confronted by some woman who berated my Mum for abandoning her child!!! When asked, this women admitted she did not in fact have any children of her own!
My brother? well when he stopped his tantrum long enough to find out why no one was actually doing anything about it, got up and walked outside with a grin on his face!!! He was the stroller rider, and next brother up held the handle.
Don't worry, you are doing fine, and you know your kids far better then some Mum at the school gate.....hard though Eh?
Anne J uk.

le@thirdontheright said...

dearie me - this is so us women - we build ourselves up on the (mis) adventures of others :)

how is buzz going with his situation ... my boy has similar issues - kids can be tough !! hugs le xox

veiledturnip said...

As a Mum of one - I love to offer up advice, hee hee - as if I'd know - I've got nothing to compare it to! Ah well, I always finish with all kids are different and this is how I did it and it worked. I don't like all the competition there is out there between mums.

B said...

Right. What is this lady's name and number? I have made a new year's resolution not to punch someone's lights out, but this calls for drastic resolution breaking action!

Grrr, you are the most patient, kind, lovely mum I know! And you have really nice hair. All very important qualities in a great parent...

I *sigh* for you,

Jodie said...

I am the mother of "That child" and I am proud to admit it, not becuase he screams and yells, or embarasses me and his father. But becuase at the end of the day he is who he is. I know that not all children are created equal and some unfortunate mothers are not blessed with those children who get into any mischiefe or ever get embaressed by the antics of a spirited child. Pitty them and know that your life as a mum is never dull or boring.

Caitlin said...

Totally get you! I once cried for a good two hours on a flight home from China after being told off by the captain of a plane when he made an announcement over the loudspeaker to tell the parents of the child that he needed to sit in his restraint. (Even though he was 2, had been sitting in the restraint for the 45 minute delay before take off, and they had separated me from my husband, which made my son decide to try and get to his father during take off.) I cried because I know that half the plane was thinking mean things about me, because that is what I would have been thinking before I was parent, or if I were a parent of a wholly compliant child. Oh, and the fact that I was 10 weeks pregnant helped the tears flow.

Sometimes though, you do have to put your chin up and know that you are not only doing the best you can do, and your child is making progress.

Of course you are doing a great job. I wouldn't read your blog if you were the 'perfect' mother broadcasting yourself. Because there's no such thing, and frankly, I can't learn from her anyway.

PS. Isn't B. nice? Always good value for a humourous compliment! One of the reasons she was in my bridal party! Ah, you leave in a small town!

Mamma has spoken said...

I think you 'hit the nail on the head' with your reflection of the conversation.
Remember, you have to take her word for it that her children have never had a temper tantrum. I find it way to hard to believe.
You have happy, secure, well adjusted kids. This is all that matters.

tinsenpup said...

It's all easier said than done sometimes though, isn't it? I was getting angry just reading that, so I'm no help at all.

Tracy P. said...

Wow, you have really struck a chord here! Fabulous post.

I think this is one of the most important and forgotten lessons we can teach our kids, not to become victims. We have a choice, and we can, we MUST exercise it. How good that you saw this situation, as stressful as it was, as an opportunity to empathize.

God, in his mysterious wisdom, did not select our children for us with any thought whatsoever of making us look amazing. He has much, much bigger plans for them (and for US) than that! We are NOT victims. We are children of God, created for a purpose, to ultimately reflect glory back to HIM.

I'm so glad He entrusted Woody, Buzz and Jessie to YOU and Mr. de E. It is a joy to watch them grow on your blog.

Andi said...

I once had an older lady in our church say to me that her parenting was vastly different than mine. She had never raised her voice to her children and never repeated something she told them to do...

I laughingly said I thought she had selective memory kind of like my mom...

She did not seem to appreciate that! And she gave me a piece of her mind about it too!

Also, I find that belittling technique interesting as nearly every story I tell others about my parenting involves how rough it is and how I messed up, or my kids are total drama queens...Yeah. My stories nearly always mock myself. Not that I'm bragging about that. I recently realized that there are those who think I'm a total flake based on all my foolish stories! Go figure! Maybe I better work in some "I'm so awesome" stories once in a while!!

MUM said...

Good on ya for flushing unwanted advice.
Good on Buzz for holding the handle.
Good on Woody for being a normal kid.

Joy said...

Oh Buh-ru-ther!!! Mrs. Impeccable must think she's all that and a bag of chips. Well good for her and hers.
You just got to shake your head. Something tells me theres a few logs in her own eye she obviously overlooked. But who are we to point them out... we're just mere mortals :0
Hugs to you, Woody and Buzz.
♥ Joy

Crazy Sister said...

On the one hand, that woman should be allowed to tell her story about who her kids are and how they managed at the shops.

But she likewise should have accepted your story and opened her mind to the concept of children different to hers...

And I didn't see anything out of the ordinary about Woody's behaviour that day! He expressed his wishes a few times, but it wasn't over the top and he got over it quickly each time.

I guess it seemed worse to you because you had to carry him as he writhed and expressed himself.

You could do a post calling for details of The Worst Tantrums Ever! We'd all have delicious stories to contribute. Mine involves traffic literally screeching to a halt.

Givinya De Elba said...

And this is why I love you. All of you. You light up my life and you humble me by coming to Killing A Fly and spreading love when you do!

Louisa said...

I am amazed at how beautifully articulate you have been in seeing what was going on in this conversation and I am sad for this woman that she totally missed it and for you because you then got to bear the brunt. Thanks for encouraging me that I'm not the only one who has these experiences!

Jodie said...

Holding the handle of the stroller? Tried it. Results in a small boy tripping over the wheels and bellowing loudly that his toes are "Hurt! Hurt!" and that he needs "Ice! Ice!" You are a GREAT mum and doing a fabulous job. And you were lovely about looking after my Child That Won't Sleep. Small boy is dead keen to visit again. Oh, and a final word about young Woody; a delight to babysit and we look forward to having him again next week.

Long dark hair, blue eyes said...

It is so annoying when people go into problem solving mode when all you want them to do is listen and empathise!