Sunday, September 11, 2005

Still Following the Leader?

My son, WildCat, has had a really positive first month of Kindergarten. It has been fairly uneventful, which for a Type-A like me, is a big relief! But, I'm seeing something go on that concerns me a little. Let me back-track here and explain.

Prior to this year, my son has tended to befriend girls much easier than boys. It was to the point that I actually started to wonder why that was, and wonder if this was a problem for him. It isn't that he hasn't had boys as friends exactly. It's just that he's tended to come home and talk about the girls in his class more. And, I think the reason is this--a lot of little boys around his age are just very aggressive. Not ALL boys, but a lot are. And, my son is a very, very non-confrontational peacemaker type. So, he learned early on, by being in a playgroup of my friend's children that just-so-happened to be filled with little girls, that you are much less likely to have someone body-slam you or tear the head off of your favorite Rescue Hero if you are playing with the girls. (Parents of boys, I mean no offense here...girls can be nasty in their own ways, but you know what I mean here.)

Last year, during the year, I saw a subtle shift in him. He made friends with a handful of boys and has stayed friends with these kids. But, this year at kindergarten, he has shifted even further. He never talks about being friends with girls. In fact, he can't even tell me the name of a lot of the girls in his class. He has several good girl friend who are in other classes that see him regularly on the playgroup. Through their moms', I'm getting a vibe that Ryan has snubbed their daughters and this just seem so out-of-character for him that it has baffled me.

But, through the tiny shards of information he's given to me (he doesn't give me much folks, It's like pulling teeth), I am starting to put two-and-two together. Apparently, there is a boy in his class who has targeted my son to tease because he has a few friends that are girls in other classes. One of these friends, is a dear friend of mine's daughter, who has really been his best friend for the past two years or so. WildCat told me that he doesn't play with girl friend A or girl friend B because The Tormenter (my new name for this kid) will tease him and he "doesn't want him to know he has TWO girlfriends, Mom."

I told him, "Why would you let someone like that keep you from playing with the friends you have loved to play with for several years? Tell him, SO WHAT if she's a girl, she's my friend! Walk away from him and he'll stop teasing you."

But apparently, he didn't take this advice and instead is continuing to boycott girls. And, all of this hits a sore spot with me. Back when I first started blogging, I wrote about this
here. Well, it seems now he IS following and he's avoiding friends of his that he's always loved just because they are girls. Later, I heard some more negative stuff about The Tormenter's classroom behavior from another Mom whose son is in the class. I mentioned something to WildCat about this, and he defended The Tormenter and told me he liked him and he was his friend.

So, I don't know what to make of this or if there is anything I can do. I want my son to have a strong backbone and stand up to bullies and peer pressure. But, he's also made more friends this year and is doing quite well socially speaking. So, do I let this go? Do I keep after him about being friends with girls? What would you do? The irony here, that 2 years ago we were worried that he didn't know how to make friends with the boys, has not been lost on me either! Talk about a change of events!


Anonymous Erin said...

Hmmmmmmmm. Well, I'm not a parent yet so I don't know how I'd handle this. But I think it's good that your son has friends and is being social. He's very young - he'll start being friends with girls again soon enough! And I think that parents, as hard as it is, shouldn't get overly involved in kids' social lives because when it comes right down to it, we all have to navigate the tumultuous school years on our own - and we all seem to come out fine, with a few emotional scrapes and scars along the way.

Anyway, I'm here from Michele's tonight. I hope you've had a good weekend!

9:58 PM, September 11, 2005  
Blogger Carmi said...

I've always encouraged our kids to befriend whoever they wish - same-gender or not. We have zero tolerance for bullying. As soon as the pattern is identified, that's all I need to speak to the teachers involved to squelch it before it gets worse.

10:02 PM, September 11, 2005  
Blogger ~Cathy~ said...

Here via Michelle's! I wanna kick the Tormentor's arse! LOL

10:11 PM, September 11, 2005  
Blogger Canadian Mark said...

I mostly agree with Erin on this one. Even in kindergarten it shouldn't be long before Wildcat discovers the true worth of the opinions of those like the tormentor.

It's all a big learning long as you're the one coaching at the end of the day, he'll be fine. You sound like you know what's going on.

I thought Michele was going to send me...but ~cathy~ beat me with her quick reflexes on the publish button. Any-hoo, Michele almost sent me.

10:39 PM, September 11, 2005  
Anonymous Angela said...

Thanks for checking out my site :) I've been reading through your posts and very much enjoy your style! From one Maeve fan to another, I've got to tell you that I'm also a huge fan of Laughing Cow wedges and Katherine Hepburn and Moonlight Path... I'll be back!

11:01 PM, September 11, 2005  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Is that Maeve as in Maeve Binchey? I LOVE HER!

Anyway, I think he'll be okay, seriously. This is all stuff he's going to be dealing with for the rest of his life and I'll tell you from experience that he's going to spend the next 12 years or so trying on different "personalities" to see how they fit. Is he a leader or a follower? Does he stand up to bullies or try to stay out of their target line? etc. I have totally watched this happen with my stepdaughters over the years and they always figure things out.
Just keep trying to get him to open up about what he's going through. He'll make better decisions if you can get him to talk to you about them.
Good luck!

7:18 AM, September 12, 2005  
Blogger christina said...

Steph, I seem to be pulling out my 'teacher card' left and right these days with all my blogosphere pals sending their kids off to kindergarten, but for whatever it's worth, here's my two cents. The shifts your son has taken friendship wise are totally normal. Before kindergarten, especially coming from a family that is open and positive and peaceful, kids are not really very aware of their gender. They're just friends with whoever they like. By kindergarten however, they start the scary process of becoming self aware, and start looking to others to see how they measure up. Round about that time they start noticing that boys are boys and girls are girls and that CLEARLY girls have cooties or visa versa. And yes, he'll probably start playing more roughly and following in the footsteps of the roughest of boys...but that won't necessarily last forever, or even for the school year.

I'd encourage him to be friends with whomever he's TRULY interestd in being friends with by giving him the option to have play dates outside of school. You can even suggest one of the girls he used to be friends with and see what he says...

In school, learning to navigate the world of peer pressure is important. And it's okay if he's vetoing all girls as long as you help to remind him that though he doesn't want to be friends with them right now, girls are smart and interesting and fun too. I think those initial stereotypes that kids form at around the kindergarten age are fine as long as parents and teachers alike remind kids that everyone is special, different and equal.

What I've always told my second graders (who go through that whole gender thing all over again at a whole new level!) is that 'you don't have to be friends with everyone, but you have to be able to work with anyone.' Coopertive games and activities in school go a long way to mending those initial friendship divides.

Soo sorry to post such a looooong comment. All of it to say, don't worry, you're an amazing mom & he'll turn out just fine!!!

9:31 AM, September 12, 2005  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

Thanks for all the advice, guys!

Lucinda, that is the Maeve we speak of! Wow, another similarity between us. You are right...we must be related somehow!

Christina thanks for the teacherly advice. It is MUCH appreciated and I'm quite happy to hear this is a normal phase and he'll hopefully come out of it. The main thing I want to focus on is him not letting people bully him into giving up his friends. That bugs me most of all.

4:47 PM, September 12, 2005  
Anonymous Andrew said...

I'm not a parent, but I was going to say what Christina said: It could be a phase that he goes through.

I remember kindergarten and I remember kids being cliquish and mean to other kids. I think that is helpful to just make sure that kids are aware of the ramifications of their actions, e.g. "you ignored so-and-so and now she feels bad," to help them fine-tune their social conscience.

And enroll him in a martial arts class to make him impervious to bullying! :^)

10:57 PM, September 12, 2005  

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