J went to a birthday party this past weekend, most of the kids from his JK class were there including their parents. I casually mingled with other mothers while J had a great time. There was one mother that I did not approach, and the regret that I didn't has been weighing on my shoulders more than I expected.
J had a great start to JK in September, he is a very sociable kid, he skipped on to that big yellow school bus without a look over his shoulder while I stood at the side of the road sobbing like a little girl.
Within a couple weeks of starting school I noticed that he was speaking in another tone, he was mimicking the voice of another child, he also spoke highly of a new friend and I was encouraging of this relationship. Then J's behaviour got a bit more aggressive at home, he was talking back, shouting and being defiant, all in this new tone of voice. I attributed it to him picking up bad habits from other students at school. In October I began to volunteer in his classroom, my first experience in the class room was witnessing the very challenging behaviour of one student. He was being mouthy, disobedient, and rude, and to my surprise I realised that this was the friend that J had been raving about, and it was this boys voice I heard coming from J each night after school. It was in this first visit that the teacher took the opportunity to chat to me about her concerns that J was being easily influenced by this boys behavior and asked if I would like them to be separated from sharing the same table and kept in separate play groups when possible.
I immediately said yes and the plan was in place, within weeks J had settled down, stopped mimicking this boy and started raving about another young boy who was now his best friend. Mission accomplished!
Yet as I continued to volunteer in J's class room I saw so much more in the misbehaving boy, besides his loud distracting behaviour that often got him sent to the principals office, I caught moments of brilliance, and a child wise beyond his years. He was smart, really really smart, he could read, he used language that far surpassed the other 4 year olds. I wondered what his home life was like and how such a clever little boy could be exhibiting these very challenging behaviours. I was judgmental, I had heard that his mother was barely 20, with piercings in her face and and a new baby in her arms I judged, I assumed that she didn't discipline him, that she was probably more concerned with her social life than raising her child.
So here I was this past weekend, casually chatting with the other mothers at the birthday party and from the corner of my eye I watched this young girl struggle with her son, he was being a bully, pushing and shoving, he was not listening and giving her a hard time. Yet she was trying really, really hard, she was trying to be calm with him, she was using tactical parenting skills that any of us would be in awe of, she was firm and followed through with her threats of a time out. I could tell that she was reaching the end of her rope yet I didn't talk to her, nobody talked to her, she was there alone, and not one other parent talked to her.
I am ashamed that I didn't reach out to her, even just a handshake and an introduction, it didn't matter what our children's relationship was, it mattered that she was a mother in need of a friend, and I didn't reach out.
For that I am ashamed.