Monday, February 11, 2013
Of teasing and complaints
The brat and frens at school have been teasing an unfortunate with a word that happens to rhyme with his surname. While the word is not abusive, it is definitely not something polite and I would be the first to tell the brat that teasing is not one, had I known of it. Unfortunately, the parent of the child, naturally upset, has sent in a long note to the school, listing out the names of all the children who are teasing her son, with the rhyming name, and with the consequent result that this becomes an official matter. For those who say there is a fine line between teasing and bullying, I agree. For those who say that when many kids gang up against one kid, it can be detrimental to the kid ganged up on, I agree too. But I also feel kids need to be talked to, rather than threatened. I can talk with my son, tell him that this behaviour is not acceptable and he needs to stop. I tell him to think of how terrible he feels when others tease him regarding his love for chicken, his little paunch and other stuff that they pick on. Kids are cruel. We've been in kid land before we grew up and became adults, so we should know. I grew up being called moti chasmis, thanks to my girth and my spectacles which weren't as common back then when I was a child as they are now. I lumped it, my mother was very clear that I needed to sort out playground or school issues right there and nothing was to be brought home. I survived the teasing, I learnt to channel my skills towards other things, to develop my self esteem not based on my appearance, given I was no oil painting through my childhood and adolescence. I tried to teach my son the same. To fight his own battles, to realise that what is good within him is not dependent on what others around him say, to have his sense of self worth intact and to not be cruel and mean. I might have failed a bit at the latter, but I'll rectify it. The brat, he has been bullied. Rather cruelly at that, in the past. We've worked on it, taught him how to fight back, to respond, to deal with it, perhaps a bit too well. For the parent, who feels the need to constantly step in, for the littlest things, who does not allow his or her child to learn to deal with the unpleasantness in the world, I worry. Every child needs to learn how to fight back, how to cope, to realise that they must be able to tackle teasing, unpleasantness, with the parents providing support and self esteem, not insulation. And there is this lovely letter by Abraham Lincoln to his son's teacher that I read everytime I need some reinforcement as to whether I'm on the right path. (Thanks @brownbrumby for reminding me of it today). I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. It contains, according to me, the essence of what parenting is all about. He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero. That for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend. Steer him away from envy, if you can. Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to lick. Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books. But also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and the flowers on a green hillside. In the school teach him it is far honorable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas even if everyone tells him they are wrong. Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the band wagon. Teach him to listen to all men. But teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through. Teach him if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders but never to put a price-tag on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right. Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient. Let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself because then he will have sublime faith in mankind. This is a big order, but see what you can do. He is such a fine fellow, my son !