Last week, in search of something shiny, my son and I popped into the local resale shop. After a few laps around, some time in the toy section checking out a little fairy castle, he settled on a beautiful pair of clip earrings, circa 1984 old lady.
I wasn’t sure what his plan was, but as we walked out of the door he asked me to stop so he could put them on.
A huge smile lit up my face as he asked how they looked, and I said, “Amazing sweetie!”
And honestly, in that moment, I was so happy he was homeschooled.
My son is bow ties and fedoras, blazers and pocket watches, fountain pens and flowery descriptive language.
Can you feel me? I just don’t want anyone getting a hold of that perfect, un-biased brain of his.
I know what’s out there, I hear the snickers as we walk past groups of kids, thankfully he’s oblivious.
And you know what? I don’t want any of those people to break him by caring what he wears, what he looks like, what the color of his skin may or may not be.
I see a rainbow.
I see sunshine and happiness. Why don’t they?
Why is it the norm to make fun of a kid who refuses to conform? Why, when this boy expresses his completely unique personality, is it acceptable to make him a freak show? I hear all the talk about zero tolerance towards bullying in the schools, what I don’t see is that carrying over to the real world.
Remember Willy Wonka?
If you are wise you’ll listen to me / Who do you blame when your kid is a brat / Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat / Blaming the kids is a lie and a shame / You know exactly who’s to blame? / The mother and the father.
As a homeschooler I have a unique perspective, one that you may not discount because I am a homeschooler. I see everything. I am there for everything. I am at the playground, I sit through the after school classes, I am there at the library, the Cub Scout Meetings, the mall.
In a past life, I was told that my spirit animal was the Snowy Owl, the observer. My introverted nature made me the watcher.
I am and I do. And what I see is parents who are unintentionally absent, they drop their kids off at after school activities, never even meeting the instructor, not bothering with an introduction.
I watch gangs of kids roam the malls, devoid of common curtesies. Make way for others? Hold a door open? Completely foreign ideas.
At the playground, mom, dad or babysitter, on their smart phone. Oblivious to the 5 yo calling my son “Stupid Kid” or to the 8yo’s playing the “say sofa king fast” game.
At the meetings, libraries, the parents that are there are completely disconnected. Staring at a screen, Facebook, email, twitter, Candy Crush…..
Why should their kids care? Who is there to actually see them.
You have to see them to know what is happening.
You have to be present to teach them.
Your child will always have a bad influence. There will always be “that kid,” the one whose parents are never there. The one who gets away with murder because there is no one to stop him. But more and more that kid is “the kids.”
My child is by no means perfect.
To correct you must connect.
If I was not watching my child all of the time I would not know that he stared a kid down at Cub Scouts the other day because he wanted to sit in his chair. And that kid, under the intense gaze of my son, got up and moved.
The boy’s father, in the same room, did not see. But I saw. Unable to rectify the situation in that moment, I stared at my son, and I used that ESP stare parents use to convey their immense disappointment. And when the meeting was over, he heard it. We sat down and talked about why what he thought was “no big deal” was actually a huge deal. I did not yell, we talked, and we left that night with two extracted promises: To apologize and to be more aware of how we treat our friends.
We had a teachable moment.
And if I was not watching my child at archery, I would not have seen a big boy pushing him to the end of the line. There are 10 children in our class, I am one of two parents who sit through the class. I have never seen the parent of the boy who was tormenting my son.
If I had not been present, my son may have given up archery, a sport at which he is gifted, because one boy – one unsupervised boy – tormented him silently. If I had not been there, the teacher would never have known why my son left that class and never came back.
In this mobile age, parents are disconnected, many unintentionally so. Their over-scheduled kids see less of them than ever before because, even when they are present, they are not present.
My presence means the rules of social conduct that I believe in are enforced.
Right now, he’s outside screaming at the top of his lungs and spitting. Because he can.
He’s outside, and he’s using his outside voice of course.
He is making it an art. Screaming “Ya ha ha! My Dream is to rule the world! And I won’t do it with any of you people! Spit!”
“Don’t listen to your president! Listen to me! Your supreme ruler!”
Maybe my son will be the first Supreme Ruler.
It could happen.
But what if? What if your child says something, out of your earshot, out of your site and those words, those harmful words, change him?
What if by our inattention we break him?
What if he decides he can’t be the Supreme Ruler because of his leprechaun hat and 80s earrings?
My son is naive and fragile because he assumes everyone is good. When he sees another kid living his personality on the outside, he revels in it. “That kid is just like me!” They smile at each other in solidarity, not snicker.
My son is a rainbow, and he shines so brightly that one day he very well may be the Supreme Ruler, and then you’ll see.
And if, by my unapologetic letter to every parent who doesn’t see, I keep just one more kid from being the object of insensitivity and hurt. Then I hit one home for the team.
But if you think it’s not your responsibility to teach your child compassion and acceptance, then I’m gonna call you on it. Trust me. That boy who pushed my kid to the end of the line? He’s going to have to find a new activity on Wednesday’s, because this mom had her eyes wide open.