What a sad, but necessary truth for an almost 6-year-old to learn. BBZ has been struggling lately in the world. In May, he moved from his predictable, 3 teacher staffed preschool to a day camp run mostly by college students and attended by kids going into kindergarten through age 14 or so. He went from the typical daycare setting to a laid back, less structured play time. I suppose I should have known this would cause some struggles, but I guess I didn't really know, since this is my first experience outside of daycare for my boys.
He immediately found out about Pok_mon cards. This was pretty exciting for us because he seemed to have made some really great friendships because of these cards. He used some of his money to buy some, so he could trade them at camp.
It didn't happen immediately, but we began to notice through his story telling that kids were swindling him. They would trick him into trading a card that was worth more, or they would do other unfair trades. One day, he came home so excited about a card he got in a trade that he could barely contain his excitement. When I asked him if I could see the card, he explained that the kid didn't have it that day, but that he would bring it the following day. When I asked him if he gave the kid his card yet, he said yes (of course he had, my sweet and honest boy had not yet learned that people can be cruel and untrustworthy).
So I explained to him that he would probably not get the card. He had such a hard time understanding this. I explained that sometimes people will do things that don’t make sense, to end up getting what they want. I gave him the words to use the next day if the kid didn't bring the card. I suggested he tell the kid that he wanted his card back unless he had the card that day.
Truth be told, I wasn't sure what he would do. When he came home the next day and I asked what happened, he said that the kid did not bring his card to school. When BBZ told the kid that he wanted his card back until he brings the one for him, the kid and the others boys said there was no trade-backs. I then said to him that I guess this boy is a person he won’t be able to trade with again. If he has shown that he cannot be trustworthy, then maybe he shouldn't play cards with him anymore.
What a sad lesson to have to learn.
Next, BBZ was having a hard time during the aftercare program. He was crying a lot, and having trouble having fun. I can see why, really. It’s just a big room with some games and teachers, but very little structure. I think it is probably a typical aftercare program, as I understand them. One day, he was barely able to tell me why he was so sad.
It turned out that his favorite camp counselor wasn't there, and the sub refused to have the kids put sunscreen on before heading out in the afternoon. We apply sunscreen at home, and then the teachers do a second application in the afternoon. BBZ heard the regular teacher say to the sub “hey, we need to put sunscreen on the kids” and the sub apparently said something like, oh its fine. This really bothered BBZ. At first I was kind of surprised by how much it bothered him, but it didn't take long for me to understand.
N and I are both rule followers. It bothers us like crazy when people don’t follow the rules. It makes sense that this would bother BBZ too. So I explained that people won’t always follow the rules. We cannot control what others do, we can only learn how to cope with a world that can feel very disappointing sometimes. He was confused, and it broke my heart.
A few days later, his aftercare teacher said that he was very sad during his time with her. He had told me that the teacher instructed the kids to leave their P cards at home, so of course we did, because we follow the rules. Well, apparently the other kids didn't, so he was feeling sad and left out. (that doesn't seem like his problem as much as theirs for not enforcing the rule across the board, but whatever) So again, I had to explain that some people follow the rules and others don’t.
I then began to really struggle with how to support him. He was sad every time I picked him up from aftercare. He talked about how much he didn't like it. I even thought about not working anymore so he wouldn't have to deal with this. But then it hit me.
This is the world we live in.
My sweet, innocent, naive little boy is growing up, and will soon be in a world where people are not kind. Where they take advantage of others. Where they want their way, no matter who is in their way. While this was a sad revelation for me, it was also one that showed me how important my role as teacher is for my young boy. He needs to learn how to cope in this world. He needs to be able to stand up for himself, and to know that he can choose how he wants to live his life, even if he sees others breaking the rules.
Oh how I wish I could protect him from this place. When we were making the decision to start a family, this is what I didn't want. I was so unsure about bringing a child into this broken and dysfunctional world. But as a baby and young toddler, I could shelter him and show him only what I wanted him to see. He’s past that now. I could change things to continue to shelter him, but I don’t think I want to do that. As hard as it is to see him learn the truth in the world, what I tried so hard to keep him from so far in his life, he needs to learn and understand how to get by and cope with the way the world is.
It’s such a sad realization to know that I can no longer protect my child from the big bad world. If he doesn't go toward it with tools and coping mechanisms, it will find him, and he will not be prepared.
I still get frustrated with this world. I have to make a conscious effort to see the things I want to see, and leave the rest behind. Hopefully, my boys and I will travel this path together, and see some great things along the way, too.