I'm telling you, parenting never gets easier...
Yesterday at school Sparkle and a classmate were disagreeing about something. Neither child was at fault in anything, both boys were just each convinced that he was right. The lead teacher went over to make sure they were okay and by then they had mostly resolved whatever it was. Sparkle had turned and started to walk away. And his classmate, J., still convinced that he was right and Sparkle was wrong, and apparently needing to take a parting shot, said,
"Well, anyway, all black people are liars."
The teacher immediately corrected J. I'm not sure exactly what she said. And she immediately talked to his parents about it when they came to pick him up.
"Oh my, now where ever could J. have heard such a thing?" they pondered. (I wasn't there, I'm just recreating the conversation from what the teacher told us later.)
"Surely, he's never heard such a thing from us!"
"Ahh, but wait... Perhaps... Perhaps it was at that Republican tea party rally we took him to a few days ago."
So... I don't know if Sparkle even heard what J. said. It happened yesterday and he didn't mention it. The teacher left us a note to come talk to her we didn't see it until this morning. Huge props to the teacher, by the way, who we think handled it appropriately.
I have to tell you that my initial reaction was not entirely Christ-like. Something along the lines of
"F*** you, you racist Republican a**holes!"
Huh... I mighthave been generalizing and stereotyping in a potentially unfair way. Exactly the reason I was mad at them. (Though... grrr... I still think in their particular case it just might be true.) Happily, I did not actually say that. Nor did I tell my child that all Republicans are racist. You see how that works? You just avoid assigning any particular characteristics (good or bad, but especially bad) to an entire group of people.
I understand showing your kid how to be politically involved, how to make himself heard, how to form social and political opinions. But this family's methods are off the mark. Peaceful conflict resolution requires tolerance, respect and the ability to agree to disagree without resorting to name calling and racist attacks.
The dad of this family is a wealthy specialist physician. I'm not sure what the mom's job is. They both drive BMWs. They are, of course, as white as can be. I'm guessing their taxes are going up and they're upset about it, the poor, poor things.
J. is also the kid who recently informed Sparkle that doctors and dentists are rich. And that it's better to be a doctor or dentist becausethey are rich. Previously, I don't think Sparkle realized that some people make significantly more money than others. He just generally knows that at least one person in a family needs to have a job so that the family can pay for the things they need. And he definitely knows that when you have more than you need you should share.
Anyway, he's been asking now, "Do construction workers make a lot of money?" as we drive by the road repair crew. "Do bank workers make a lot of money?" "Do Wal-Mart workers make a lot of money?" So I wasn't impressed with this family already, and kind of sad at Sparkle's loss of innocence about social class and wealth. But maybe they were trying to explain something about education or financial planning or something and their kid got stuck on that rich vs not-rich concept for some reason. Not the end of the world.
Now, I'm pissed. I know that Jesus is "especially fond" of these people and that he can forgive them for being jerks. So I'm working on that.
We're wondering what our response should be. We'll check with Sparkle to see what he thought and if he heard Js last "liars" remark. Should we tell him he should keep being kind to J, but encourage him to spend his time with other classmates? Do we need to talk to J's parents ourselves?
In theory I'm all for talking about tough things as they come up, in real time. We don't want to be hiding things or shielding our kids too much, but helping to blunt the blows and show them how to still stand strong. But for now we're still processing... And feeling sad that this won't be the last time and it's not the worst thing that will be said to my sons. Thanks for listening.
Well, I didn't post this before but here's the follow up anyway.
Sparkle and J were arguing about whether or not Sparkle is six years old. J doesn't think Sparkle's really six, and Sparkle obviously is pretty clear that he is. Sparkle says, "He believed me before when I told him I was six, but then he didn't believe me." There was some sort of shirt tugging after that which we're not really clear on, except that it was J. doing it to Sparkle. He says, "He was trying to pull me down." Six year old boy wrestling or potentially hurtful violence? Not sure...
J "got in big trouble" per Sparkle's report. He had a time out and a talking to and had to miss part of kindergarten that day.
Sparkle did not hear J's "black people are all liars" comment. We did tell him, and talked to him about it. It was mostly, "Thanks for telling us about what happened with J. You're right that you're six. That was silly of him not to believe you. We wanted to talk to you about why J got in trouble after that. We talked to your teacher and she told us that J said that all black people are liars. Maybe he was saying that because he didn't believe that you were six. At first Mom and Dad were very upset and angry that J would say that, because he said it in a way that was supposed to be hurtful and because it's not kind and not true. You know that sometimes people feel like they can't get along with other people who are different from them. Maybe people who speak a different language or are from another country, or people who look different, or believe different, or have a different kind of family. You know that that's silly and wrong, but maybe J doesn't know that yet. You know that Jesus loves all people because he made them and they are special to him. Jesus loves and forgives people even when they are unkind and hurtful, and that's what he asks us to do to. So, we can forgive J and continue to be kind to him. But he needs to learn how to treat people respectfully. We want you to tell us if J or anyone else ever says anything hurtful to you. We'll always listen and help you."
It was a short conversation, actually. Sparkle sat in my lap in an armchair (I wanted there to be snuggling and closeness right at hand) and Beloved was about 5 feet away.
When we talked about needing to know if anyone said hurtful things Sparkle got a bit teary and said, "Well, S and A said something hurtful to me." And then he was reluctant to say exactly what happened. My heart was in my throat wondering what could possibly have happened. But... It turned out that it was mostly nothing. Sparkle wasn't so much reluctant to talk about it as he just couldn't really remember. I guess these are boys from the first grade class from last year and they said something like, "You're a soccer ball." What? I remember there was something going on last year where the teachers had to step in because the older boys weren't letting the younger boys play soccer with them or use the soccer balls. But as far as we can tell it wasn't a long-standing problem, Sparkle wasn't singled out in any way, and everything was fine.
So, once again, long story and thanks for listening.