Last week, my son cried on the way to school because I informed the kids they were getting fish cutlets in their lunch. I was surprised because I had made them the day before and they loved them. But my preschooler was worried about what the kids would say about his stinky meal. My heart was heavy all morning and I felt torn about the situation. I want my kids to feel good about themselves, confident enough to withstand any comments from their peers. I mean, don’t we all want that? And haven’t we been in that boat before, at some point or another?
So many of my readers shared their thoughts with me on this, and especially sent messages of compassion for my kids. Thank you!! You were curious about what happened, so I’m going to tell you!
Me: Soooo…how did lunch go?
Me: Did anybody say anything?
Son: Nooo…oh…just… (insert boy’s name here). He said, ‘That’s gross!’ *wrinkles nose and smiles a little smile – a smile often associated with his story-telling*
Me: Would you like to take a fish cutlet to school another day?
Son: No. Someone else might say something.
Me: Did you have a good day at school?
Son: Yes, it was so fun! We played….(and carries on a full monologue about the awesomeness of school).
In other words: I really don’t know what actually happened. Many mixed messages and none of them triggered an alarm on the Mama Intuition Radar.
Then with my 7 year old girl, this happened:
Me: So….how was your lunch?
Daughter: SO YUMMY!
Me: Oh good!! So nobody said anything then?
Daughter: I just kept it in my lunch kit, and covered it with the flap in between bites so no one could see it. *laughs*
OK, so again, not a reliable situation. The other day, though, she came home and said people were asking her weird questions about her wrap. They were questioning her about the actual tortilla. From my daughter’s report, the conversation basically was a repeat of these lines: What is that? Um, a wrap. What is that? Um, a wrap.
What do I conclude? I will continue to send meals that are good lunch material. I try to feed my children as much homemade food as possible. And some of that will be Indian. But in all honesty, I don’t think this has anything to do with culture. A couple of my readers suggested that the teachers could put on a food-tasting session so that classmates can try foods from each other’s ethnic backgrounds. That is a great idea, and I would hope parents are invited to also taste the cuisines! (wink, wink) But I also think that really – kids are just being kids here. Curious. Blunt. There is an age when they know right from wrong, teasing from questioning, but I don’t think everyone my son’s age is there yet. And my daughter didn’t feel the questioning was malicious – just ‘annoying’, in her words.
But the bottom bottom line is I want my kids to feel good enough about themselves that being different is not a bad thing. I remember navigating that tricky road. I remember being made fun of in elementary school for being caught holding hands with my mom at the grocery store (I was 11. I continued to hold her hand on walks well into my 20’s). I remember being told I ate frog eyes when I brought tapioca pudding for lunch. (Which I continued to do whenever I was lucky enough to have tapioca pudding!) I remember being called ‘ugly’ in grade 8 by a guy I didn’t even know. But I was a little more concerned about poverty than I was about what some random dude said about me. I had peers who I connected with. And I also had my journal in which to spill my feelings and then feel good about being heard by ‘someone’. But it’s not always that simple or easy.
As parents, we need to be aware of what is happening in our kids’ lives especially when it comes to their encounters with their peers. I know I can’t know every single interaction that goes down, but I hope that I can lay the foundation for them to come to me if anything doesn’t feel good to them.
Pink Shirt Day, at the end of February, exists for a reason. I think we all need to be on board with that; we need to let our kids know that we stand in solidarity for them, but that they have the inner wisdom and strength to stand up for themselves, too.
It’s really tough to hear when someone’s child takes their own life because of the bullying of others, and my heart goes out to parents who have to pick up the pieces after that. Your child’s life mattered and continues to matter as we try to eradicate bullying.
I want to thank you for trekking along on this journey with me. Your comments and suggestions and check-ins are so welcomed and appreciated!
Have a great day and tell me what you had/are having for lunch today!