Wednesday, April 04, 2007

High Drama

The boys were all fighting last night. Huge accusations were flying across the room-

You told [girl] about what happened in third grade! Ben to Jake.

Did not! You told [another girl] that I liked [girl in class]! Jake back at Ben.

Well you do… Ben, with a sassy attitude.

DO NOT! I don’t like girls! Jake, with great indignity.

You told me that you would give my webkins password away and I would never be able log on again! Zachary shouted at Ben.

But you told [girl] about third grade! AND that I loved her! Ben screamed at Zachary.

All hell was breaking loose. They fight, sure, but this was a first.

WAIT, I cut in. What is going on?

I can’t even begin to write out the words flying across the room.

STOP. Everyone to the living room.

I assigned seats to keep the most pained apart.

Okay, what’s going on?

Words fly. Screaming ensues.


I have never heard Zachary shout such a declaration. My heart breaks. He has been struggling lately with an emotional growth spurt. More like fighting it every step of the way.

TIME OUT. Every one needs to take a break. We can’t scream. We have to calm down and talk.

I send everyone to his own room except Jake (who shares with Zachary). I keep him right next to me.

I time five minutes. I plot how to go through this so everyone is heard.

Quietly, I call everyone together and give the rules. No one can raise his voice or else we have to separate again and start over.

The story comes out. A girl in Ben’s class was taunting Jake about a girl she thought he liked. She also went up to Zachary and said she “knew the whole story about third grade and Ben.”

Ben was expelled from school in third grade. A group of girls were teasing him. One of them was someone he really liked and thought liked him. He was so hurt and angry; he didn’t know what to do. At home that night, he drew an angry picture.

This is what I’ve told him to do with big feelings. Draw it. Write it. Smash a pillow. Get it out.

Problem is? He took it to school. And the kid he shared a locker with found it and handed it to the teacher.

Zero tolerance is zero tolerance. Ben was suspended for having a bad thought and drawing it.

No, I’m not kidding.

It landed him in therapy for a year. Not because of the drawing but because of the response of the school.

It’s painful for him.

The reminder today for Ben was hard.

The reality? The girl had been told by her friend- the one Ben drew the note about. She tore apart the brothers with a single taunt. She was fishing for a response.

I looked at my boys, after they all were able to quietly explain what happened, I said, you stick up for your brother. No matter what. Someone says something about your brother? You tell them to stop. In a few years? You’ll never see that girl again. Your brother? He’s going to be in your life forever.

All my concerns about the school come crashing back. It’s not about the level of education- Newton is one of the best schools in the country- it’s about Ben’s friends. About how he is seen in his class. I can’t believe the third grade incident has been brought up again. Will he always have that tag?

Zachary is struggling with a growing realization that he is, in fact, a leader in his class. He refuses to take the role. His teacher called me over the weekend to talk about how we can help him accept the role. There is a vacuum, she said, and he is the right one to fill it. He knows. It’s bubbling under the surface.
And Jake. My baby. He’s not a baby anymore. His charm has put him in a role of being pursued by older kids. Always has. The problem now is the older kids are Ben’s friends. It is a triangle Jake is learning how to play. I have to keep vigilant and try to help him find ways to get his needs met in ways that grow his relationships with his brothers.

In the end? I was amazed they all came together and were able to speak without shouting. Thrilled Ben was able to apologize to his brothers for accusing them- and actually mean it. Hopeful that Zachary is starting to bring to the surface some of the emotional churning he’s feeling inside. Pleased Jake was able to speak without hitting anyone- and smiled when he had a captive audience.

And amazed I kept my cool and didn’t join into the shouting match.

I love these moments. High drama and calm resolution.


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