I told J's parents about the conversation (see previous post) at the school carnival. I was in line behind them with the kids, who were waiting for five minutes on a big bouncer the school rented for the event. J's parents are both educators in our community, at different schools. His dad laughs when I tell the story, though underneath the laugh I think I hear a mild groan.
My first encounter with J is at school the following week. I join Una and her class at lunch time in the cafeteria and J sits across the table from us, with his carton of chocolate milk and hot lunch tray. He makes funny faces and funny noises and Una laughs like crazy. When J finishes his milk, he pounds the container with his fists and yells, "DIE! DIE! DIE!" Una, of course, thinks this is hilarious and cannot stop laughing.
That night at the school's open house, I tell J's mother about his words to the milk carton. "Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on the wall," she confesses. "Other times, I'm glad I'm not."
It concerns me that the boys in Una's class are so aggressive. She's been hit a number of times. Always the boys are the perpetrators of these crimes, and usually the same handful of boys, who aren't singling Una out for any special bullying. They hit all the kids.
K hit her the other day for not playing a game with him at the playground. "I told him, 'I dont' play games with people who hit me. So I'm not going to play with you.'"
I am dumbfounded when she tells me her declaration to K. Really, my child has boundaries? If it were me, well, when it was me, some 20 years ago, all I wanted was for someone to like me. Of course I was going to play dodge ball if a boy asked me to play, even if I had to drag my feet, even if I ended up getting slammed in the face with the ball and a bloody nose and the boy never stopped to see if I was okay. Of course I would play.
Who is my child and where did she get this self-esteem?
In my early twenties even, when the "cool" friends were having an unhealthy effect on me, I could not disengage from them. I wanted them to like me. It took me getting real unhealthy before I was able to change my ways.
Jesus said to pray for those who persecute us. To love our enemies. I used to think that the final word on an unhealthy relationship was to avoid the unhealthy person at all costs. I've learned that may be necessary when I'm in self-preservation mode, i.e., when I lack the strength to deal with an emotionally unstable person. But once I get some strength, fill up on what God has for me, I am beginning to see he's calling me to a more active form of love. Not just theoretical love from a distance. Which is why I tell Una it's okay not to play with kids if their gonna be mean, but we can still be kind to them in other ways. Like, she can offer them the place in front of her in the line to the drinking fountain. She can help them carry their library books.
As I'm dishing out this advice, my anxiety rises. I'm calling myself to a higher standard by telling her this. I know pro-active loving of my enemies sure doesn't come naturally or easy for me.
I was encouraged by my daughter though. At the open house last week, her teacher said, "Una was real sweet when K. apologized. She said, 'I forgive you.' " In all her years of teaching, Mrs. C. said she'd never heard a kindergartener forgive before.