Yesterday I really just had too much to think about. Ann Curry leaving the Today Show, the Supreme Court decision on the healthcare mandate, the fires in Colorado, an appointment with the crazy pill doctor, and my son telling his camp supervisor that "my mommy said that if someone hits you that you can hit them back."
Thanks for that, Will - totally not what I said. Mostly.
Monday of this week I posted on Facebook about an altercation that Will had with another child at camp. The long and short of it was that Will kicked the other kid because he was ripping his necklace off, hurting his neck and halfway choking him. On the way home we were talking about what happened, and how it possibly could have been handled differently, and Will was very worried about being in trouble at home. I finally looked him in the eyes and told him that "Daddy and I will never punish you for defending yourself. Try to settle a problem with an adult or by walking away first, but if someone is hurting you, you are allowed to fight back."
Maybe this is not PC or whatever, but I am not going to teach my son that he has to let someone pummel him, or in this case, rip a necklace off his neck. Especially one that he got at buddy camp with his dad and had owned for less than 48 hours. I assured him that starting trouble or bullying would most certainly land him in very hot water and tried to be sure he understood the difference. And I do believe that his tendency towards, shall we say, ending a problem rather than starting one will serve him well as an adult man but teaching him the discretion it takes to understand what to do or not do in situations like this is trully challenging.
The next day after the necklace incident, he did great. The day after that, I got yet another note and was pulled into a mini-conference again. This time involved a pushing contest with another child who was, in Will's estimation, cutting in line. Again, in trouble at camp, and this time in trouble with us as the other child is five or six years old and Will is almost nine. I tried to explain to him that a line cut by a first grader was in no way reasonable grounds for pushing and shoving, even if the other child pushed him first.
However, the coup de grace was when the supervisor asked me about his "hit them back" statement. Ugghhh.
Some of parenting is easy. Don't steal. Be honest. Treat others as you would like to be treated. But it's the intangibles that are so difficult. Don't kick - unless someone is choking you, then it's okay. Don't hit - unless someone tries to touch your penis (yes, that happened earlier this school year). Tell the truth - unless it is an unnecesary statement that will hurt someone's feelings. For a hyper-literal child like Will this is like speaking a foreign language. Cecilia has that kind of innate people sense to understand these things but my son's thinking is so black and white that grey may not as well even exist. I really hope that continued teaching and explaining will help him learn the difference because I really don't want him to get his block knocked off and I really, really don't want him to think that physical solutions are the only ones.
How do you guys teach your kids the difference? Do you find the space between wrong and right to be clear? When is it standing up for yourself and when is it using poor judgment?