Most days I love being a parent, however, like most anything in life, there are days that I ask myself the question, “Am I really cut out for this?” Yesterday, in particular I was asking myself that of being a parent. Two noteworthy things happened that crushed my heart.
First, my beautiful, sweet, innocent little boy barely avoided an incident in school where he would have gotten really hurt by his classmates – not physically but mentally hurt (the WORST kind of pain in my opinion.)
The incident began with a simple homework assignment given a few days ago to all the preschoolers in my son’s class by his preschool teacher. Each student was to make a bag for a school friend (or two, or three, the assignment wasn’t specific) filled with trinkets inside of the child’s choosing to give to their friends to help cheer them up if they were sad. They were to sign the bag so the friend knew who it came from. My immediate thought in reading over this homework was, “Uh oh, what happens if someone doesn’t get one?” I had no idea if anyone in his class considers my son a friend despite the fact that he talks about a couple of people in the class an awful lot. I was worried. But I thought, surely the teacher will have a plan for students that might not get picked by their classmates and I went on to help my son make bags for three of his classmates and hoped for the best.
Yesterday was the day the bags were distributed. The teacher called each child up to the front of the class individually to give their bag(s) to their chosen friend(s). I was horrified after only just a couple of minutes because it quickly felt like a popularity contest in preschool, a place where children just begin to form friendships. I couldn’t believe this was happening and that I could do nothing about it but helplessly watch the whole thing play out. I watched in dismay as kids who I knew were friends with each other exchanged bags between them. I observed in agony as some children began getting multiple bags while others sat patiently waiting for their turn to get just one package. My heart ached when the boy who my son always talks about gave his bag to someone different. After ten minutes of watching this my son asked me quietly, “Mommy when will I get my bag?” I painfully answered “I don’t know honey.” I later breathed a great sigh of relief when Frank (thank GOD for Frank – a name I’ve not once heard my son mention) kindly gave my son a bag after being nudged to do so by the teacher. A minute later my heart was pained again when the teacher announced that all the bags were given out and the innocent little boy sitting next to me sadly called out that he didn’t get one. I did talk to the teacher after the fact and found out that the boy was not forgotten after all since she did indeed have a bag for him in her office given to him by a girl that was not in school that day. Regardless, the entire incident was heart wrenching. After talking with his teacher later I found out that the exercise didn’t turn out at all the way she’d intended it to. Apparently it was supposed to be an exercise in empathy where children made bags that would be kept in her office and later be given out to classmates by individual children when a child was hurt or sad. Unfortunately the directions to the assignment were not clear and many parents addressed the bags “to” someone, therefore her plan was thwarted and she felt at that point she just needed to pass out the bags.
The second unsettling incident that happened yesterday followed the awful bag giving incident by mere minutes. As my son and I were walking out of school on the sidewalk in front of the parking lot a very unexpected statement was shouted over to me by a boy of about 10 years old whom I met once only briefly (he is a brother of one of my son’s classmates), “I know that he’s adopted,” he yelled to me as he pointed to my son, “my mother told me.” This he belted out, in front of my son, my son’s classmates and their parents in a tone that was not at all different than that of someone yelling outside of a courtroom, “You’re guilty and should be ashamed!” Or at least that is how I heard it.
I didn’t know what to say. I was shocked. Purely shocked. WHY would this be mentioned now, and not just mentioned but yelled across the school yard as if it were a horrible thing, and by a sibling of a kid attending our son’s preschool? I managed to wave his way and casually say, “That’s right.”
Even though our son’s adoption is not a secret and he knows where he came from, I don’t like knowing that some kids and people throughout his life will talk about him behind his back and and make comments to him or around him about his being adopted, especially if it has a negative connotation to it which might make my son feel like his being adopted is a bad or shameful thing. I had never yet experienced this side of adoption firsthand and I felt slightly assaulted even if it wasn’t meant to be a negative statement. Up to this point everyone who has learned of our son being adopted has been very positive about it at least to our faces. I’m certain if we had adopted a child who was of another race that we would experience negative comments more regularly but for us, a family of the same race, this really took me by surprise. I’m not ready for my son to hear rude comments about his being adopted from other children who might have no understanding at all of what adoption is all about.
I mentioned the incident to the kid’s Mom and she explained that they had talked a lot about adoption in their house since they have cousins that were adopted from foster care. She suspected that her son was still very curious about the whole thing, especially since they talked about my son being adopted over a year before. Oh course she was also very apologetic in case I’d been offended. She’d said she knew we had an open adoption and she assured me if we did not she never would have told her son that our boy was adopted.
Both of these incidents at school brought to surface a realization about being a parent that I never really fully comprehended before which every parent comes to understand at one point or another, and that is how much we wish to protect our children but how clearly we will not be able to. That has got to be the most heart wrenching and painful thing for any parent to accept. AM I cut out for this? If these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg as far as parenting is concerned as I suspect they are, I think I may need to get some duct tape and superglue ready to help mend my heart each time it breaks.