Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mommy Radar


Up til now, I had hoped to avoid a certain parenting issue entirely, I naively thought perhaps I was out of woods on this one. But something has been happening with a boy in JH's class at school. I'm discovering that this particular parenting issue is far worse than grocery shopping with a child that is jacked up on sugar or catching barf with my bare hands.

It involves telling my son to be judgemental. Or to put it in a way in which I can live with it better: telling my son to use his better judgement.

This boy: He's been talking about him a lot. He's a new boy this year, one of only two - JH is with all of his same classmates and his teacher from last year, so they all know each other pretty well. I think JH wanted to help this boy out because he was new, and for that I'm really proud. He's been talking my ear off about this boy, P* does this!, P* does that!, but one day last week, he told me that P* was nine (in second grade). My mommy radar went up a notch, then the next day he told me that P* had a cell phone and sometimes was called R* instead of P*. My mommy radar started to inch up next to the red zone, then the next day, he told me that P*/R* stuck up for him. "How nice!" sez I, and the needle begins to drop back into the safe, pretty blue zone. "Yeah, P*/R* told me that if someone bothered me, he could just grab him by the tenders, or pinch their neck." Staying calm, but firm, because that mommy radar needle is now spiking the far end of the red zone, I reminded JH that that was NOT okay to do to anyone, and if someone at school was bothering him, he should use words first, then tell a grown up if it doesn't stop. Now I'm seriously worried that maybe P*/R* isn't the best person for JH to hang out with, but I don't want to tell him he can't be friends - after all, kids are a lot better at being friends without judgement than adults are. Maybe JH can be a positive influence on this kid, I tell myself, trying with all my might to get that needle back down to a safer, calmer color.

Yeah, but.

I finally met P*/R*, and his "uncle", who was so scary, it was all I could do not to run away. We all met at the park, and he told me that they had come looking for our house (JH had given our address out - and YES we had the conversation about THAT not being safe), and in our conversation I discovered that no one in the house works, yet they have a WI, a Playstation, not to mention the kid has a cellphone, but the "Uncle's" teeth were rotten. And he couldn't read.

It would be one thing if this boy were a good student, or had some redeeming quality that I could overlook all this. But JH tells me the boy hates school, is disruptive, and has alienated all of JH's other friends.

So no. Never again will I ignore my "Mommy Radar". It's there to keep my child safe. I've told JH, firmly but gently, that he is to play with other friends at recess. He should be nice to this boy, but make different choices about who he plays with at school.

The needle hasn't come back down yet, but I'm hoping, hoping it will soon.


Living In a Girl's World said...

Wow, that's a tough one. Has any of his other friends who don't want to hang out with R/P said anything to JH about his contact? Just wondering if a little positive peer pressure would work. Was JH receptive to your "suggestion"?

I, Rodius said...

Wow, fishy. I hope JH is able to navigate these rough waters OK. And I always love a little vicarious drama on the internet. I hope we get to learn more about what nefarious deeds are going on with Uncle Snaggletooth. Good luck!

Amber said...

That is scary.My mind would be all over the map trying to figure out what is up with that family.
I think I know what you are thinking,and my hunch is that you are probably right.Maybe talk to JH's teacher?

Lisa L said...

I had a similar situation once when my oldest was 7. She befriended a kid in the hood who came from a very sketchy background. The house was full of lurking adults and random kids. The light bulbs were red. Curtains drawn all the time. The child told me one day how unfair it was that her stepdad got 'in trouble with the cops' because he siphoned gasoline out of someone's car into his own. "We needed the gas!"...They were raising puppies in one of the bedrooms - poop and pee everywhere. God, the smell was outrageous. THe kids mom was beginning to confide in me that she needed to leave but didn't know how to get away from her (abusive)b'friend. And then came the rough part. They invited Jess to spend the night. And I just couldn't do it. I had to wildly make up excuses without letting on to Jess that the very thought of her being in that house made me freak out. I didn't want to come across as judgemental either, but day'um. I didn't want to expose her to god only knows what. I hope JH can reconnect with his old friends.

Anonymous said...

We have navigated this same terrain - Bailey has a remarkable propensity towards choosing friends who are "funny" - meaning they are the most disruptive in class and tend to not get good grades. Of course, my son is far from an angel and is often doing the disrupting himself, but he tends to choose kids that add fuel to the fire rather than encourage him to reign them in.

We haven't ever told him that he shouldn't play with anyone, but we've wanted to.

Aerie (aka Mrs. Rodius) said...

Ouch. P/R is a product of his environment and while you may have sympathy for him, you still need to protect JH. It sounds like you've already handled it as best you can. The question is...how will JH handle it? Can JH see that while he may like this boy or want to make the boy feel welcome, that the boy's behavior and family situation are potentially dangerous and heed your advice?

Best wishes to you on this!

Peggy said...

Hello Annie --

Love your blog although I don't think I've ever commented before. Well, here goes . ..

You're right to follow your mommy instincts. But it's so sad that the kid is in this sitation.

I was in my first grader's classroom today and noticed a chart on the wall that I hadn't noticed before. The kids turn in a reading log every Monday showing, with a parents' intials, that they have read 15 minutes on 5 occasions during the previous week. I admit that I was a school geek (loved it, would still be a student if real life hadn't called) and have passed this trait on to my daughter. Neither she nor I have ever considered not doing the reading and the log. Yet as I looked at the chart, it became clear to me that 3 boys have NEVER turned in such a log. NEVER. And the 1st quarter is about over. Correct me, people, but that's not a first grader's fault, is it? They are highly directable little beings who forget things if not reminded. There are three sets of parents out there who have never bothered to help their kids do this REQUIRED school assignment. Oh, and two of them are "repeaters." Wonder why, huh?

Think they're going to turn in the habitat project that's due next week? So sad. What chance do they have?

That being said, we keep our children from bad situations because they are young and impressionable and that's what we're here for. Well, that and doing the reading log.

Sorry for the rant. I just couldn't help myself.

Donna said...

I imagine JH may have picked up on this boy's "outsider" status and being the upstanding soul he is, befriended him. If he is as bad an apple as he sounds, he will quickly wear out his welcome with a nice kid like JH. Soon enough the cognitive dissonance will build up and he won't be able to reconcile "coolness" with increasing bad behavior. I'm betting that either this kid does something totally offputting to JH very soon or else his poor excuse for parents will end up moving again and not think twice about changing his school.

Meanwhile hold your breath and thank your lucky stars that he did not go to a birthday party like my then-5-year-old did. Pretty much his whole class was invited (flag #1). We did not really know the family, but he is pretty good friends with the girl (flag #2). The invitation touted a bounce house, cotton candy, and sno-cones. Cool, right?

Pull up to the house and there are at least 4 adults, including a very pregnant lady on the porch smoking. (can you said red flags # 3, 4 and 5????). The bounce house looks like it was rescued from the dump and there is a half broken swingset in the back yard along with an almost totally decrepit trampoline. Pretty soon there are way too many kids in the bounce house. Heads are bonking. Kids are yelling. Adults? No where to be seen because they are coordinating the cake for not one, but TWO kids. This is TWO parties. With 2 "adults" in charge. With about 25 kids.

And the cotton candy and snow cone machines (along with the load from the bounce house), blew a fuse, so they made the cotton candy across the street...

Never, never will I say yes to a playdate or birthday party without prior knowledge of the family.

anniemcq said...

Thank you all for your comments on this. JH told me today that P/R stole a first grader's ball that she was playing with and he told the playground monitor. He said that P/R told him he wasn't going to be friends with him "FOREVER", but that he had forgotten by reading time.

It's so hard. If I were the one dealing with this boy at my school, I would do everything in my power to show him the support he doesn't have at home, but my boy is just too young to deal with the weight of this situation, and I am going to do what i can to keep him out of the way.

If he were just kind of an obnoxious kid, that would be one thing, but I'm really honestly thinking that there is something illegal going on at home, and that this kid has a lot of anger.

I'm doing my best to put it in a way that lets JH know that he can be nice to him without playing with him all the time. He did mention that he had played with his other friends today, so I felt some relief. I am going to talk to his teacher about it when I have an opportunity to do it without him hearing.

English Garden said...

Sounds like you are dealing with it in the best way, I'll have to remember this stuff.

Mom on the Run said...

Tough situation. My daughter befriended a girl two grades older. They sat together on the bus. We had the girl over for a playdate...it was a disaster. I set the playdate start time at 10 a.m. Her mom said the nanny would drop her off. Got a call at 7 a.m. from the kid asking to come over. I put her off til 10. Got 3 more calls from kid. 10 a.m. kid rings door bell, no nanny or adult standing next to her. Kid was 9 at the time. I see the nanny's car leaving our driveway...no wave or acknowledgment at all. How did she even know it was the right house? The play date was long and I had to stop the girl from tying a rope around her neck while sitting on top of the swing set pretending to be a dog...very odd.

Two years later we had the same girl over for a birthday sleepover for my daughter. You would think I would have learned my lesson. Girl alienated other kids. wanted to be first, told everyone she would throw up if the kids ate pizza, started making bodily function noises during the movie. First and hopefully only time I have had to call a child out on behavior and threaten to call hr parents. Sad. I discouraged all contact wkith this girl after that incident.

Mom on the Run said...

One more thing... If you think the child is living in questionable circumstances, you can always talk to your school's "Pupil Personnel Worker". These people deal with truancy, medical/dental issues for students, etc. If uncle's teeth are rotten, perhaps P/R does not have any dental checkups.

Also, you could bring your concerns to the teacher about the behavior at recess and questionable comments made to your son by the boy. I have had teachers tell me that they talk to the class as a whole about any behavioral issues.

anniemcq said...

An update: I've talked to JH's teacher, and have a call in to the school counselor. I've also suggested a lunch buddy for the boy. They are mentors who come in and have lunch with the child one day a week. JH seems to be realizing that he needs to play with his other friends at school, while including this boy. I told him to ask himself this question when playing with any friend: "can I play with this person AND my other friends too?" If the answer is "no", then that's something called a red flag, and he needs to be careful.

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