Today was not a good school day for my kids. I picked my daughter up, only to be greeted by an incident report sharing that she pinched two boys to try to prevent them from going down the slide. She was hysterically crying as we walked to meet my son at the bus. He immediately inquired as to what was wrong before looking at me with his big, soulful eyes, and murmured, "I hate to tell you this, but I had a day kind of like her's." He told a friend he couldn't trust him because he was lying too much, only to have the friend refuse to speak to him for the remainder of the day. My son went on to say that he was crying, so the teacher spoke to him and then the friend, but that only made things worse.
My heart, as you may imagine, was squeezed pretty tight. Disappointment in my daughter and compassion for my son overwhelmed me. As a mom, I wanted to immediately text the moms of my daughter's friends and apologize. I then wanted to call the mother of my son's friend and have a heart to heart. But, it's at times like these I'm especially glad I'm a teacher. I know the greatest lessons I can give my kids come when I give them the space and support to learn to work things out on their own. The kids I see struggle the most in middle school are those whose parents are always involved in every incident. I tell my students I don't want to hear from their parents about why they couldn't do their homework. Instead, I want them to be responsible enough to have a discussion with me -- and accept the consequences. Development of character and an attitude of responsibility and ownership start at such a young age.
So, instead of my manic texts and phone calls, my daughter is sitting next to me, writing apology notes, and my son and I have role-played how he might initiate a conversation with his friend tomorrow. I can't say I'm sitting easy, but I know this feeling of discomfort is better experienced with these small kid problems than in the future with big kid issues. Good reminder, too, that what my students bring with them as they walk through my classroom door each day is far weightier than their homework.