There are moments I congratulate myself (ever so slightly) on my parenting. This is one of them.
About a week before Christmas break, Lee came home from preschool and told me that one of the students in his class, who we will call "M," had been mean to him--hit him and pushed him over. Lee mentioned it over and over again, which let me know it really had happened and wasn't just the musings of a four year old. I was really quite concerned for Lee, and realized this was probably our first experience with any sort of bullying, and the way we handled this would set a precedence for our parenting...well, forever. So Lee and I had a serious discussion on how we handle kids who aren't so nice: how we never are mean back, but ask them nicely to stop (Lee practiced over and over again "Please don't do that! That hurts me!"), and if they don't stop, you go find an adult like mommy or your teacher and tell them what happened. Lee was totally prepped the next day when he went to school.
Sure enough, he came home and said M was mean again, but that he hadn't been mean back. He repeated his rehearsed line, "Please don't do that! That hurts me!" He told his teacher. And then a few days later, we were done for Christmas.
I hardly thought about M at all, other than to pray for Lee to find good friends and to be a good example to everyone in his class. I mentioned this to our Head Start Advocate, and she said that other parents had brought up similar complaints about M. I hoped his home life was stable and that he would have happy experiences that would help him overcome these more violent tendencies. I knew that any further complaints against M would only aggravate the situation, so I let it be. Lee is a tough kid, and the teachers were aware of the situation... there's nothing more I could do.
Today was Lee's first day back at school. I really didn't even think about M until after I had left Lee. When I went to pick up Lee, though, he collected his things, including a piece of paper with a few random letters drawn on it. Since Lee isn't that good at drawing letters yet, I asked him who had drawn the letters. To my utter shock, he said that M had, and that M was now his "best friend because he's so nice for me!" I asked Lee more about what happened, and from what I can piece together from a four year old's memory plus limited vocabulary, Lee has been trying hard to be friends with M, despite the meanness in the past. Today, they got along well; at least well enough for M to make Lee a card.
Can I just say how proud I am of my son? At four years old, he has mastered the art of loving others unconditionally. I hope it is a trait he can foster and care for and never lose. I let him know how great he is, and he just beamed. For today, I count my mothering efforts a success. And more importantly, I tribute this to Lee and his sweet, caring heart. I am very grateful for my boy!