"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:
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 ...