Okay, for those of us 'mothers' out here who think we know it all and find ourselves frustrated when our mothers are trying to impart their wisdom on us, I wanted to share a little story with you. As most of you know, I'm a single mother raising my precious daughter Kajal, now 10... yes, double digit, very emotional, ten. My mother moved in with us a few years ago. I always wanted to be able to take care of my mom but some days, there is no question... she helps take care of us. I work like a maniac and my mother throws meals together, literally it seems sometimes... out of thin air. When I'd be thawing out a frozen pizza she is pulling off a three course meal. She's raised 5 children and Kajal is her tenth grandchild. It's taken practice for me to sit back and listen to her when she offers advice, because more often than not... I think I know better, after all, she's my daughter right? My mother finds herself walking on eggshells some times, wanting to impart her experience but also wanting to give me room to make my own choices.
Kajals had a cold for the last few weeks. Runny nose, congestion... just when I think it's getting better she seems to take another turn for the worse. Her nose has been blown so many times the edge's are chapped and raw.
Last night, Kajal came out into the room with a look or terror on her face. Mom, she whispered, I need you. What's wrong? I asked, fear creeping into my heart.
Mom, my nose was bleeding and I couldn't stop it. I tried to use kleenex but I lost some.
Mom, it's up my nose, it disappeared. I can't get it out.
Okay, honey, let's take a look, I'm sure I can get it.
I looked, no sign of kleenex.
Kajal, are you sure it's in your nose?
She looks at me, very, very seriouslly. Oh yes, Mom, it's definitely up there.
I look again... no sign of anything. I'm ready with tweezers but, nada. My mind starts racing, where would it go? Is it up her nasal cavadee? Would it be sucked back into her throat, her lungs.. her brain????? My heart starts beating faster... I grab the phone. Kajal, it's okay, I'm going to call the doctor, everything's going to be okay. I starting dialing the doctor, considering racing her to the emergency room.
My mother calls out to me.
Did you ask her to blow?
What, Mom? Blow? Oh, hmmmm... no... blow...
Kajal, hm, could you try blowing your nose.
Kajal blows, nothing.
My mother calls out, Do it again!
She blows again, nothing.
Mom: hold one side and blow hard.
She blows, out comes the wadded up ball of Kleenex.
Pure relief spreads on her face and I can breathe again.
I look at my mother with pure gratitude.
Next time my mother tries to tell me something or offer up her advice I pray I take a breath and remember that very simple, single word.
I've been travelling on business every now and again and as I headed out of town for meetings in Philadelphia one day, Kajal said to me "Oh, Mom, you're going to the land of the Free".
I realized that she'd been studying the Civil War and the Underground railroad and I knew immediately where this was coming from.
We're all the land of the free now, honey....
Well maybe, she responded, but sometimes I feel like I'm on the wrong side.
Hmmm... the South certainly has been a bit different than living up North, but the wrong side?
Kajal, we're all on the same side now, we're on the side of Freedom, I told her.
Will you see the railroad?
The Railroad? Oh, 'The Railroad". No, baby, that existed a long time ago. It isn't needed anymore. Remember too, that the railroad wasn't a real railroad. It was a series of homes that were secret, that helped the people who were slaves as they were on their road to freedom.
The stories of the civil war hit home with Kajal, in many ways. When we travelled for a visit to Boston and she had a chance to visit the American Girl store, I gave her the opportunity to choose a new doll. After reading many of their stories, she found herself identifying the most with the stories of Addie. A young girl who had been a slave and escaped with her monther, to the North. Hence Kajal's excitement over the 'railroad'.
Why did you choose Addie, I asked her.
Because Mom, she's like me. Her life was very sad at first, but then it became happy... and she's a kind person, too. Just like me!
Kajal with her Grandmother picking out her new American Girl Doll, Addy
On the drive to the school bus yesterday morning, Kajal asked me a question that for a moment, left me speechless.
Kajal: Mommy, will you miss me if I die?
Me: (after a moment of shocked silence) I wouldn't even want to live with out you Kajal, you are the center of my universe
Kajal: would you want to be in heaven with me?
Me: if that's where you were, yes, I'd want to be there with you. Why are you asking this? What made you think about dying?
Me: Are you worried about dying?
Kajal: Would anyone else miss me, Mommy?
Me: Everyone who knows and love you, would miss you. (and then I list all those in our family and friends who love her)
Kajal: No one would miss me at school Mommy.
Me: why do you think that?
Kajal: because I have no friends there. No one likes me.
Me: But what about (list a few of the friends she's connected with)
Kajal: They're not my friends anymore. Nellie (let's call her that) says that I'm nasty. She tells everyone that I'm nasty. She tells them in front of me. Now when I try to play with the girls at recess they tell me no.
Me: Oh, Kajal, I'm so sorry that's happening. Have you mentioned it to your teacher?
Kajal: Once a while ago. She talked to the girls and they said they were sorry. Then they started doing it again.
They call me nasty. I don't know why.
Me: There is nothing nasty about you. You are amazing. This is not acceptable behavior on their part, honey. This is bullying.
Kajal: I don't know what to do anymore.
Me: That's okay. Just remember though, you don't need to have everyone like you to be happy. You only need one or two good friends and then those friends can really love you and that love can last a life time.
Kajal: like your friend Holly from kindergarten?
Me: Yep, just like that. She was my only friend for a long time and we're still friends. We've never said a cross word to each other and we're always kind to one another. That's what friendship is really all about. Always being kind and caring for each other.
The bus pulled up and we blew kisses to each other as she ran off to start her day in school.
I sped home to write an email to her teacher.
Kajal's teacher was aware there had been problems and she thought they'd been resolved. She agreed to reach out to the girls leading the pack and investigate to better understand the problem. I believe she truly cares about seeing positive change happen.
This is so unacceptable though. Bullies. I've watched the specials on them, read the books. They're as young as 5 years old and as old as... well, they're all ages. They pick a target and go after them, they charm those around them and recruit them onto their 'side'. I'm dealing with this with my irrational neighbors and Kajal is dealing with it in school.
Alot of people believe that putting up with bullies is a way of life. I don't believe that. I don't believe any of us, children or adults should just 'put up' with being treated cruelly or unjustly. I believe we need to teach our children to stand up for themselves and ask for help if they are the victims and teach them to not just 'stand by' if they see it happen to someone else. To stand up for what's right... not quietly watch and in silence, support what is wrong.
Things blew up. My little outburst to the children at the bus stop resulted in my neighbor totally losing it. I sit on the board of our neigh Home Owners Association. I was away on a business trip (literally a one day turnaround, flew out in the morning and back in the late evening) and had to miss a meeting with the community. The neighbor I've had problems with stood up and demanded my resignation from the board. She went on to say that I'd harassed her and abused my 'power of being on the board', then she accused me of threatening her child so much so that she needed to ask neighbors to watch him while he was at the bus stop. Okay, threaten her child? Oh my goodness! I guess complaining to a bus driver that kids are placing others at risk is now considered a 'threat'. They continued to stand in front of my community and accuse me of things that were completely untrue and I wasn't there to speak for myself. After telling my mother and I that they had wolves they went on to provide a note from their vet stating that the animals were 'dogs'. (A vet friend of mine told me that if someone told a vet their pets were Malamutes there would be no way for them to know anything else) and accused us in front of the community of spreading lies about them having 'wild animals'. Hmmm... who told who they had wolves? Never mind the constant howling.. .we didn't need to say a word to anyone to have the questions start swirling.
I've started to wonder how something like this could have happened. How could we have moved into a neighborhood, wishing for nothing more than friendship and have ended up in a position where we are targeted with hostility and hatred. This same neighbor tried to file a claim that I was harassing her. Even the Sheriff's office said they have no basis for their accusations, no basis for a claim.
I've had a feeling that I haven't wanted to voice for a long time now. When I look at my behavior, I know I'm far from perfect... but I've truly reached out to every one of my neighbors with friendship and good will. I received irrational emails from the neighbor in question and I responded again and again that I wished for nothing but peace between us (peace and a bit of quiet in the evenings). I feel threatened and have to admit, I've been in tears most of this evening. It's crushing and humiliating. To have vicious lies spread about you and believed... to have your words twisted and misrepresented.
I know what I need to do, I need to pray for them. It's the only way to find peace but I'm struggling doing that. I'm scared... scared of what this kind of hatred can turn in to. I'm stunned that people that I've been kind to can be swayed to believe one person's accusations vs. what their personal experience has been. How do I create a safe and loving environment for my family, for a child that's already experienced rejection and pain when we're surrounded by such negatively and hostility?
I have to admit I've been so disturbed and frightened by this aggressive behavior and public display and attack that I've reached out to our Sheriffs office and asked them to 'keep an eye' on our home. They've agreed to take this seriously and to do drive by's to keep an eye on things. They were very compassionate and understanding...
Something I've wondered about, felt for a long time but wanted to ignore has surfaced as a question. Is it racism? Does this hatred and irrational behavior stem from our bi-racial family? A part of me feels a resonation of truth in this... but perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps it's not that... it's just one person believing something of someone else that is simply, not true.
If you pray... please keep us in your prayers. Pray for our neighbor to have peace in their hearts and pray for Kajal, my mother and I, are pets and our home... to be safe.
UGGGH! I could scream this morning, oh wait, I already did! Bus stops... can we talk about school bus stops?? Beware, if you don't feel like reading about someone raging against their neighbors and unruly children sign off now because the mood I'm in this morning, who only knows what will be written next.
When I first moved into my neighborhood the bus stop was an exciting and cool thing. I came from the city, we didn't have bus stops.. we just walked our children to school. In suburbia, there are bus stops. Seems like such a sweet and normal thing.. walk your child to the bus in the morning then sweetly wave goodby as they ride off into the sunrise to greet their perfect school day. I have to admit, the idealistic view held up for the first few months. There were even other mothers there to join me and we'd talk over coffee as we watched over the children. The children would some times step out of line (figuratively, not literally) they'd start screaming as they tossed a ball back and forth (mind you this is before 7 AM) or run in the streets. One of us would say something and they'd behave again. It was nice, for a few months.
Slowly the other mothers stopped coming and I became the last mother standing at the bus stop every morning. Now granted, some mothers have jobs they have to drive to early in the morning (as you know I work from home so this is a morning trek I can make) others, well, they just stop coming.
Now let me back up to some problems I've had with a neighbor of mine. This neighbor has wolves. Yes, wolves. Two beautiful animals I'll admit. Shortly after they moved in they admitted to my mother and I that the 'dogs' in their backyard where full blooded wolves (a grey and a Timberwolf). I thought that was cool,. they were breathtaking and seemingly gently animals and the neighbors were responsible and put a 6 foot fence around their property. Months later when one of their animals started howling through the night (11 PM- 6AM straight through) it wasn't so sweet anymore. Countless nights Kajal would awaken in tears and frighten because of the howling.. when I tried to talk with the neighbors they ignored me and I have to admit, I'm guilty of leaving some pretty upset messages (after being ignored upon asking nicely) on their machine.
I know you think that I'm getting off subject but let me tell you, there is a link between the wolves and the bus stop behavior I'm about to share.
I guess I'm not the only one that the late night noise was bothering as some other neighbors called Animal Control. The mother assumed that it was me as I was one of only two neighbors to ask her straight out to do something about the noise. I know that wolves aren't allowed in our community and that in the county here you have to have a license to own them but I didn't want to turn them in to the police because I know their family loves the animals and I'd hate to see something bad happen to them.
Next thing you know I'm getting raging emails from the mother accusing me of making her life miserable and placing her and her children at risk. Me? Who keeps wild animals in their backyard? All because I asked her to find a way to keep the animals quiet (not even during the day, just late at night - was this unreasonable?).
She also accused me of yelling at her son at the bus stop. Yep. Did that. Her son is one of the trouble makers, screams and yells.. runs in the street and taunts other children to play with him and do the same.
Needless to say, this neighbor and I aren't exactly on good terms. The last out of control screaming and raging email I got from her I kindly responded that I didn't appreciate her unfounded accusations and hostile behavior (this was after she and some friends also posted on facebook that they wished something bad would happen to my 'house' animals and perhaps they should have an old fashioned 'barn storming') I also told her that I wished nothing but peace in our neighborhood and perhaps we could put aside our differences for our children's sake. To raise them in a positive environment. No response as you can imagine. Quiet is better than irrational rage, at least.
As the behavior at the bus stop became increasingly out of control, I called the school. The Principal confirmed that bus stop behavior was to be maintained at the same level the children are expected to behave at school. Then she also stated that it was the parents responsibility to watch over the children at the stop. They suggested I called the Transportation department who then told me to call the school back. The school suggested I call the police. Well, that didn't feel right. Call the police because kids are unruly, screaming and playing in the streets? Nope... I might be mad but I wasn't going that far.
This morning the same child (of the neighbor you've just heard about) got the other children playing, screaming and again, was running across the street. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal but when you've got cars pulling out for their early morning commutes, I get concerned it puts all the children at risk. I could just imagine a car swerving to hit one child only to hit the others standing quietly, at their bus stop.
I've ignored this child for the last month because of his mother's temper and the fact that in one of her raging letters she asked me not to speak to her child but this morning my patience wore out. Especially when he called another child to play with him, putting them now at risk.
Stop running in the streets and screaming... be considerate of your neighbors and be safe! The bus stop rules of behavior here are the same as at the school. No screaming or running/playing in the streets, I snapped at him and the other child now also, involved.
I'm the only parent here today, I continued, and if you want to behave like this ask your own mother to come and watch over you! This is unsafe behavior!
He rudely responded, I never heard of that, I never heard there were rules for this stop.
When the bus driver pulled up (and she's a bit scary herself) I addressed the issue with her loud enough for the other children to hear.
Are the rules of this bus stop the same as the rules of the bus line at school? Are the children expected to behave without yelling and running in the streets?
Oh, yes, she replied, the rules remain the same... (loud enough for all the children to hear).
Then she leaned over to me and suggested I speak with the boys parents (she's had lots of trouble with the same child and knew immediately who I was talking about)
That's not an option, I replied. Perhaps the school could send a note home to them instead.
I pray this doesn't start up another war with the mother next door but I am so frustrated. I'd like to let me daughter walk to the school bus alone but I truly don't believe it's safe. I've seen bullying at these stops, kids pushing other kids off the curbs into the streets. I've seen them playing chicken and soccer, running in the streets when it's still dark out and cars are pulling out to go to work. They're rude to adults and often rude and insulting to one another.
No one wants to take responsibility for what goes on at these stops. It's not on the school or even the bus company, they are only responsible for what happens 'on the bus'.
I lead the crime watch in my neighborhood and the officer I spoke with from the local Sheriffs office told me that it is the parents responsibility. That what ever their child does, they are fully and financially responsible. But who cares about that when a child gets hit by a car?
Maybe I just haven't had enough coffee yet this morning... I'm just so mad and feel so helpless.
The bus stop, like school, should be a safe and happy place... but things aren't always the way they are supposed to be, are they?
Simon is truly a blessing. Kajal is still sleeping peacefully, one week after bringing him home. We had tried it all, as you know... homeopathic remedies, mediation, yoga, ocean sounds, reading, music, backrubs, lullabies.. nothing worked for any extended period of time. Kajal could't fall asleep alone and once she did... she rarely slept through the night and she couldn't sleep in her own room for more than a few nights in a row...
Now, not only can she fall asleep in her room, she can do it with out me by her side. She sleeps happily through the night and wakes up refreshed, rested and after the sun comes up. This is incredible! Simon continues to sleep in her arms, purring happily.. one newly cherished tabby cat.
We went to the SPCA and rescued Simon, now Simon, has rescued Kajal.
Kajal has had trouble sleeping on her own... the nightmares that haunt her from her life in India still leave her afraid of the dark, afraid of being alone. I have faith that it's just a matter of time. I see her confidence growing. Some nights, she doesn't hesitate to head to her room and others... she knows she just can't. I don't push her, I encourage her... motivate her, guide her but I don't push her, I know she does it when she can and I try to trust that it truly is just a matter of time. We've started talking about adopting another child, finding a younger sister to bring into our family. I've explained that it would be a good thing for Kajal to be sleeping in her room every night before we introduce a new child into the family. So that they can share a room, together. Kajal is comfortable with that idea but her struggle to sleep alone continues.
One day she just headed to her room.. no issues, no grand statements. Just, Mom, I'm sleeping in my own room tonight.
That's great Kajal... what made you think of doing that?
My doll. She thought it would be a good idea.
She's my friend Mom.
She is indeed.
Kajal's American Girl doll, "Kajal" and Mr. H junior (a copy of the stuffed animal Jane Goodall travels the world with)
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How was your day, I asked Kajal after I picked her up from the bus.
Okay, Mommy, but Kiley was mean again.
Every day at lunch, when I go to sit down, she says... NO! You can't sit there! I saved those seats for my BFFs!
(BFF - best friend forever)
She saves all the seats Mommy and she's mean to all of us.
Have you tried talking with her?
Yes but it doesn't work.
Have you gone to the teacher?
Yes and the teacher told her to stop but she does it again, every day.
Hmmm... if this is happening in 2nd grade, what's going to happen in high school?
I couldn't help it, I found myself getting pissed off at a bratty second grader.
Kajal, you've got to nip this in the bud. If you don't stand up for yourself now, this little girl is going to be pushing you around for a long time... it's going to get a lot worse.
What do you mean, nip in bud?
I mean, stop it. What she's doing is wrong. I'd like you to try and tell her that, then sit right down where ever you want to sit, she doesn't own those seats.
Kajal thought about it for a little bit.
It's about standing up for yourself, honey.... and it could feel good. You've tried it before. Will you try it again?
Okay but what do I say.
How about something like: Kiley, you don't own these seats. You can't tell me what to do or where to sit then just ignore her and sit down where ever you like.
Will I get a prize if I stand up to her.
Hmmm.... maybe a little one, Kajal. If you stand up to her that would definitely be worth celebrating (okay so I bribed her a little.. .what harm can a little motivation do?)
Kajal came home the next day with a huge smile on her face.
I did it mom. I stood up to Kiley.
I did! I walked right up to her and told her she didn't own all the seats and she can't tell me where to sit, that it was wrong.
Wow! You're amazing Kajal! What did she say to you?
She told me that I wasn't the boss of her and I couldn't tell her what she could or couldn't do. Then I told her, you're right, I'm not the boss of you.
So she said, what are you doing then.
And I say... I'm STANDING UP FOR MYSELF!
Wow, that's incredible! You're incredible and so brave! Good for you! What happened next?
Well, then another girl heard what I said Mommy and she walked over and stood up for herself and told Kiley she couldn't be mean to her either.
Wow! Kajal do you realize that you not only stood up for yourself but you set such a positive example you helped another child have courage, so they could stand up for themselves! How incredible does that feel???
It feels good, Mom. Real good.
She sat smiling then raised one little eyebrow at me.
Can I have my surprise now?