Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The looming cloud

LittleBear has, in general, been a well-behaved and kind little boy. Not the sort of little boy to get into trouble. The sort of little boy, in fact, who becomes immensely distressed and remorseful if he even approaches being told off. Which is why it was such a surprise today to be taken aside after school by his teacher to be told that he'd been "put on the cloud".*

I was informed that he had been seen holding child "A" still, while child "B" hit "A". Which sounded pretty horrific. I was assured that LittleBear had immediately apologised to "A" and that it was completely out of character, and not something they'd expect from him at all. Which I suppose is a good thing, but nonetheless alarming.

And lo, a very woebegone little figure straggled his way out of the classroom, burrowed his way into my arms and promptly burst into tears. He was incoherent and begged only to go home. We sat on a bench for a little bit while I cuddled my forlorn LittleBear and assured him that I loved him and wasn't cross, and that I just wanted to know what had happened. Which proved too big a demand on his powers of explanation. So we went home. Except we didn't, because by the time we'd got to the end of the road he'd found two little friends who (with their mothers) had their eyes set on the nearby cafe. So we went there instead, since I decided chocolate was required to restore equanimity more than an interrogation was needed.

Once more or less restored to his sunny little self (a self that was going out of its way to be enormously helpful and accommodating I couldn't help but notice!) I began to get to the bottom of the police-brutality-style incident.
Naturally, LittleBear's version of events involved the obligatory "he hit me first" and "I wasn't even doing anything" statements. However, once such pronouncements are tactfully put to one side and greater detail obtained, it becomes possible to plot the middle ground between the playground supervisor's view, and LittleBear's view. I then come up with something that sounds more realistic...

It seems that LittleBear and two of his friends were playing on the pirate ship in the playground. Another group of friends (including "A" and "B") wanted to play a different game on the same pirate ship. LittleBear's group deemed this an unacceptable intrusion and refused to countenance it, citing the irrefutable logic "they'll spoil our game". It is unclear what form this refusal took - verbal or physical. The secondary group attempted to seize control of the ship by force, at which LittleBear's group responded in like fashion and prepared to repel boarders. A mêlée ensued. LittleBear attempted to grapple "A" off the ship, only to have "B", inexplicably in LittleBear's eyes, land a blow on "A".

It was at that fateful moment that the playground supervisor took note of the events, and reported back to LittleBear's teacher. You can see how it would look bad.

LittleBear feels that he has been unjustly victimised in being the only recipient of a "cloud". Though this in itself may not be true, as my drama monkey is fond of the absolute declarations still, and "I'm the only one on the cloud" is a statement to be taken with a pinch of salt.

So, here I am, using all of these events as a "teachable moment"...
  • we can learn empathy ("which human babies start to learn when they're 2 Mummy. It said so on the Blue Planet"). The other children also wanted to play on the pirate ship, and they would have felt sad if you didn't let them wouldn't they?
  • we can learn to share. If you'd taken it in turns, or found a space for two games, that might have worked better mightn't it? 
  • we can learn that violence is never the correct solution to a problem.
  • we can learn that life's not always fair. That sometimes you'll be told off for things that you didn't do, and that sometimes you won't be told off when you did do something wrong.
  • we can learn that it's important to always tell the truth. If you admit when you've done something wrong, then people will trust you and believe you, because it takes courage to admit to wrongdoing. And then if you ever need to say, "but it wasn't me!" you'll be believed. But if you always say, "it wasn't me" nobody will believe you, even when it's true. Just like admitting to hand-ball when playing football with Mummy and Daddy means we believe you when you say it wasn't hand-ball. (LittleBear is remarkably honest about declaring when he commits this particular infringement).
And when I write all that, it sounds to me like I've really cracked this parenting lark. Look at me, finding ways to help my son become a better person! See my smugness as I guide my son's development and understanding! I should be on the sunshine for that.

But I still want to tell LittleBear's teacher that it wasn't what it looked like, that he's a good child and that he didn't do what she says he did. I want to defend him. To insist he's not a thug and a bully. I want to clear his name, un-blot his copy-book, restore his reputation. I become one of those awful parents who never believe ill of their child, who insist that their angel wouldn't hurt a fly, who deny all wrongdoing even when they have no evidence to back their position. I want to rush in and change the narrative, restore my boy to his position as the child who's never been on the cloud.

I won't though. Because I wasn't there and I didn't see it. Because, no matter what I believe, I don't know what really transpired. Because helping LittleBear manage these events is a more important part of being his mother than defending him from all accusations of wrongdoing, justified or not. Because I need to let it go.

But if any of you see me heading towards LittleBear's teacher in the playground tomorrow, you have my permission to restrain me...

* LittleBear's school has a weather-based system for good and poor behaviour. General helpfulness, kindness or goodness and your name label is placed on a sunshine. Acts of helpfulness of kindness above and beyond the call of duty and you are elevated to the dizzy heights of the rainbow, complete with receipt of a rainbow sticker. Poor behaviour will provoke a visit to the cloud. Persistent or extreme acts of poor behaviour warrant the rain cloud and the parents must be involved.

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