I guess I’m just stupid. I’m so stupid. And ugly. Nobody likes me.
We’d just been arguing about some ordinary something. Whatever it is mothers and their 5-year-old sons argue about. As is typical, he got a little more hysterical than the situation called for, so I sent him to his room to calm down.
From the hallway, I could hear him sniffling in his room. Crying and muttering under his breath about how stupid he was. How he was ugly and that nobody wanted to be his friend.
My heart almost literally broke. Tears flood my eyes even with the memory.
How could my precious, sensitive little man ever say these terrible things about himself?
After he had calmed down, I asked him about the things he said. Could he actually believe them? Where did he hear such awful things?
There is a boy at school who I have known to be a troublemaker. In conversations with one of the teachers, this little boy taunts the teacher, telling her he’s going to call the police on her. He is said to be rude and mean to the other kids.
This boy is said to be the perpetrator, the one who has called my son “stupid” and “ugly.”
For a moment, I was angry with this little boy. And then, I started to wonder, what kind of home is he growing up in that has taught him to say these things to my son? I look at his mother with curiosity. I know her face, but not her name or anything else about her. What are their lives like?
My son’s previous daycare provider brought up an interesting perspective. T only says these things when he is in trouble. She worries that it is actually an adult in his life who has said these things, and he is too scared to tell me.
So I brought it up to T in a conversation last night. I encouraged him to tell me if anybody – including adults – said anything mean to him. I told him that even if a teacher was saying bad things, I needed to know so I could put a stop to it.
He told me that there have been no adults saying mean things, but he did seem interested in what I could do if one did.
I’m devastated that this has become an issue in our lives. Even in my deepest depression-induced anger, I have never said unkind words to my son. I have yelled at him for not listening to me, or told him I was becoming frustrated with his behavior. But “stupid”? “Ugly”? Never.
I’m left to worry and fret about what is happening in his life when I am not around. I feel another twinge of guilt that I can’t be with him and protect him always.
He is sensitive. Sometimes I think he is too sensitive. But he takes after me. If he is hearing these awful things, I know he will take them too close to his heart.
I feel close to helpless in this situation. I can talk to his teacher, the director at the school, his dad. There is nobody else spending time with him away from me. But if it is just a child at school who has his own homes issues to be dealt with, then what more can I do? Besides comfort my own child, remind him that he is loved and lovable. He is intelligent and logical and beautiful and sensitive and funny and wonderful. If someone else’s words are holding so much weight in his mind, how can I make mine hold even more?
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela