Even we therapist moms can lose it sometimes — and this incident definitely made my temper spike!
Dr. Michelle Golland: OK, I have a confession to make to all of you moms. I hate to say this, but I am the mom who is defending her 9-year-old son after he punched another kid and wound up in the principal’s office last week. I’m a psychologist, I help heal relationships and I don’t believe in violence, but (oh my god, I’m saying “but!”) my son, Asher, has had a long history with the kid he punched in the nose. (Yes, he punched him in the nose!) Horrible, but (OK, again with the “but”) you see, this boy and Asher had been in school together last year and had had issues. Asher had felt picked on, teased and “left out of the group” because of this kid. I had held Asher while he cried and struggled to manage the conflict on his own, his self-esteem crushed.
I can tell you right now that trying to use my clinical skills with my own children only goes so far. Your kids are like wearing your heart outside of your body — and you are just praying that others will treat that heart with love, kindness and understanding. So last year, when Asher was struggling with this boy in first grade, I intervened in some appropriate and (truthfully) not-so-appropriate ways.
Asher and I practiced ways he could express his feelings in a calm and cool manner to this kid. I initiated a playdate at our home — which didn’t go so well. It wasn’t the boys who were the problem; the other boy’s mom insisted on staying at my home during the playdate. I knew it was going downhill fast when Asher and his friend came out wearing full-blown Nerf war gear: goggles, Velcro vests and bright-orange Nerf guns (cocked and loaded).
They were so excited as they both bounded around the corner into my kitchen. Then I and the boys were stunned when the other mom said that her son was not allowed to play with Nerf guns. She might as well have said, “Michelle, you suck and are a horrible mother who is certainly going to create a serial killer out of your son!” OK, maybe I’m being sensitive, but seriously: The boys were so dejected as they walked away, stripping off their Nerf gear and dragging the guns on my hardwood floor. Needless to say, there were no further playdates scheduled.
Later, after Hanukkah last year, this kid kept telling Asher that he was a liar about having an iTouch. (My parents tend to spoil the kids. We wouldn’t have bought it, but hey, Nana and Papa have the spoiling card to use at will in our house.)
Anyway, for about a week, Asher would come home in tears because he was being called a liar. I spoke with his teacher, and she explained that the boys were working on these issues. She also admitted that this kid was targeting Asher. OK, now I was really pissed!
When Asher came home that same day and again said he was being called a liar about his iTouch, I told him not to worry — that Mommy would take care of it. I slipped his iTouch into my purse and went to his school to serve lunch like I do every Tuesday. As all the boys settled in at their little round table ripping open Lunchables, I kneeled down and said a big hello to them all. Then I said that I had heard that some of them couldn’t believe Asher had an iTouch, so “I wanted to show all of you how neat it is!” I pulled it out. Asher was wide-eyed, and a smile broke out across his face. His doubting friend looked at me with surprise, then looked at Asher and said, “Cool, Asher.” Mission accomplished. I know — I am so lame, right? But I tell you: Asher never came home crying about being called a liar again.
Fast-forward to the punch in the nose. I was volunteering in the library. Asher’s class walked through the door — but no Asher. Walking up to his teacher, I asked where Asher was. She said, “He’s in the principal’s office because he got into a fight.” I actually gasped and said, “Oh my god, is he okay?” She said, “Yes. He threw the punch.”
I ran to the principal’s office, swung open the door, and sitting next to Asher was THAT kid. My heart started racing. I needed to explain to the principal the “past issues” and defend my son. (I know: It was lame, since I didn’t even know what had happened. But I did just that.) Out in the hallway, I said, “Asher has had real problems with this child before, being teased by him. This kid is … well, how do I say this? … kind of a jerk.” Can you believe it?! I told the principal that this kid was a jerk!
Now, any dignity I had was clearly gone. I am the suckiest mom who may be creating a serial killer with all the Nerf guns we have, and clearly (with the punch in the nose), my kid is on the road to being a violent criminal who just may one day cook meth in our basement. (Those are my deepest fears, by the way, and I don’t even have a basement!)
The principal, with all her grace and diplomatic finesse, said, “Thank you for the information, but let me figure out what happened, and I will come and get you.” I walked back to the library in sort of an adrenaline-rush stupor and waited. When we spoke a little while later, she explained that another kid had pushed Asher, and the boy he punched was the referee of the game but didn’t see him get pushed down. So frustrated Asher punched him — obviously totally bad on Asher’s part.
She also asked me to let go of the history between the boys and said she believed they actually wanted to be friends and that they do like one another. OK, now I’m a sucky, judgmental, defending-violence loser mom who wasted a lot of money and time getting a doctorate in psychology. Given the situation, I totally owned up to and apologized for my inappropriate behavior. The principal put her hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s all right, but it is important we set a good example for the boys.” I smiled and thanked her for understanding. I realized then that even moms sometimes need a good talking to from the principal.