It really surprised me that the children had a scuffle while they were at school because for the most part, they do very well playing together.
(Especially when they aren't at home and there are no toys involved.)
(Or any kind of playground equipment that is designed for one person at a time.)
(And particularly when they are well rested, well fed, and feeling healthy.)
According to the teacher, the only time they have ever acted out, it has been against each other ... no other children have ever been involved. And ever since I was made aware of the situation(s), I have spoken with the children several times regarding what happened.
The more I talk with them, the more details emerge. But the very first time I talked to them, the conversation went something like this...
Me: "I am so sad."
The children unanimously, "Why? What happen?"
Me: "Well, I was so upset when Elizabeth's teacher pulled me aside and showed me the terrible scratch on her neck. I was heartbroken that her brother would hurt her and I was terribly embarrassed that my children would act so poorly when they were away from home. And then to hear that Carolyn had acted badly at school? I cannot believe it. You know, you are a direct reflection of me. When you act badly, people will think that you learned your bad behavior from me, so I must be a bad mother. Sniff."
Them: Wide eye silence.
Me: "Sniff. Boo Hoo."
Them: Wide eye silence.
Me: "Oh, what have I done? What have I done to raise children that are cruel to each other? I love them so much, why don't they love each other and treat each other with respect?! Boohoo!! Sob!"
They all jump up and throw their arms around me. Even Henry toddles over and tries to climb on my lap. "Oh Mommy! You not cry any more! We love each other!! We love each other! LOOK! I am hugging my sister/brother/sister/brother!"
The next day, while we are out shopping, William who is perched in the shopping cart, out of the blue says to me, "Mom, I am so sorry." I didn't know what he was apologizing for so I asked, "Sorry for what, love?"
He took a deep breath and said, "I am so sorry that I did that to Lizbeth on the playground. I so sorry, Mom." I stroked his hair and said, "Well, thanks for apologizing. But please do me a favor. The next time you get angry, please remember to take a deep breath and keep your hands to yourself. Hands are not for hitting. If you need help, please ask me - or one of the teachers. But please don't hit your sister again. OK little guy?" He smiled and said, "OK, Mom. I'll try."
Oh how I love this little boy. He has such a good heart and is so intentional in his thoughts and actions.
This morning, almost a week later, while we were sitting down for breakfast, William brought it up again. This time he told me that the reason he grabbed Elizabeth was because she wouldn't play with him. Since this was the day Charlie and I had taken Carolyn out of school to have a "Special Day" with us at the zoo, he didn't have any one to play with.
Elizabeth would run over to show him a toy - before running off to join her friends. He told me that he was feeling sad and "fwustwated" that she wouldn't play with him, so the next time she came trotting over, he grabbed her by the shirt so that she couldn't run away again. Although Carolyn didn't contribute to the conversation, I suspect that the reason that she was grabbing at her brother and sister was for much the same reason. Carolyn is extremely shy and my guess is that she didn't want to be left alone.
The explanation that William offered made me both relieved and sad.
It was good to know that he didn't act without provocation, but I felt teary at the thought of my little boy's future. Knowing what I know about school and life for that matter, almost instantly, I felt overwhelmed with the challenges our children will face as they grow up. The obstacles that every child, every person, must face at some point in their lives.
The courage it takes to reach out of your comfort zone and make new friends. The teasing. The bullying. The wanting to be a part of a crowd and feeling left out. The pain of not feeling accepted. The realization that the world outside your front door isn't always as kind as the one inside.
Unlike last week when I intentionally made myself cry, this morning when my eyes began to tear up, I sipped on my orange juice to wash down the lump that was rising in my throat. I didn't think any one had noticed, but these children see everything. William came over and gently placing his hand on my arm said, "Mom, do me a favor, OK? Please don't cry anymore. I pwomise to do better."
Through blurry eyes and with a forced smile, I replied, "OK, I'll try." But as I watch our children grow and forge their way through life, something tells me I won't be able to hold my end of the bargain nearly as well.