I’ve been spending a lot of time being mad at five year olds lately. I never even knew that one could get angry with a five year old. But this school year has proved challenging for me. Last fall Astrid came home and announced that her water bottle was “wrong.” “Wrong, how?” I asked. “It’s a baby kind of water bottle,” Astrid replied. “Juliet told me that. She asked why I had a bottle for a baby instead one for a big kid and then she laughed.” I looked at her water bottle. The water bottle that she picked out for school. Sure, it was pink and had some hearts on it – hearts and pink – things that she liked. But it wasn’t a sippy cup. It was a “normal” water bottle. Sure, not one that I would carry typically, but I’m not five. “I want a water bottle more like yours for tomorrow, Mom.”
“Well do you still like your water bottle?” I asked.
“Yes, but I’ll just use it for dance and home”
“I think instead you should tell Juliet that you happen to like your water bottle just like she probably likes hers. Tell her that everyone can have a water bottle that they like and it’s not polite to make fun of anything or anybody. Ever.” I gently nudged.
“But she made me feel too bad to even say anything. So I’d rather just have a new water bottle.”
The next day Astrid went to school with one of her sister’s water bottles. I never asked if she said anything to Juliet.
A few months later Astrid stopped letting me kiss the top of her head when we parted ways at her classroom door. “Why can’t I kiss you anymore?” I pleaded. Sad. She would duck away from me when I tried and refused to respond or even make eye contact. I can respect her space and needs and maybe she was growing out of long goodbye kisses and hugs, this wasn’t my first rodeo…but still….I have a 12 year old who stopped parent PDAs when she was about six..and I have a 10 year old who would give a kiss and hug to her parents at anytime and anywhere in front of anyone. This refusal of the morning goodbye peck felt different..and not like her.
“I just don’t need a kiss before school anymore.” She said.
“Really? Well okay, but can I kiss you in the car before we get out for school?” I asked.
“As long as Adam doesn’t see.” She looked down as she said it, “Because he will make fun of me. He told me it’s disgusting when you kiss my head and that I’m too old to have my mom kiss me. He told me he’ll be watching everyday.”
I told her that was creepy. And that Adam needs to mind his own business. And that I still kiss my own mom goodbye and I’m super old. I told her to tell Adam that she can damn well kiss anybody she wants to kiss because it means she loves them and to tell Adam to pound sand. Or something like that.
But again, she just said she’d rather avoid our kiss goodbye if it means Adam will say nothing to her.
And for me, as a parent, it gives me pause at a place of choosing where to pick my battles. Do I tell the teacher about the kids making my child feel bad and that maybe there needs to be a little lesson of “live and let live” and “everybody is different and likes different things” and maybe keep your damn mouth shut if you don’t have anything nice to say. Or do I just let Astrid choose how she wants to handle it. Make the choice to tell the kids to just stop or make the choice to focus on something else and move on. And the child in me wants to plant a “baby water bottle” in Juliet’s locker and plant a big wet kiss on Adam’s head in front of everyone. But I won’t.
I’ll just continue to tell my kids to be them. To love what they want to love and not worry if it’s not the same as their friends. To not worry about what other people think. To not be a sheep. And to never be that kid that tells someone else that what they love or have is wrong. Instead say “Cool water bottle.” Or say nothing at all.
And I’ll try not to give those two kids the evil eye when I see them in the hall. We can all be above that.