One More Word? Yes, He is My Son

This afternoon, I walked away from the lunch table at my son’s school and a woman’s voice followed me.  “Is that your son?” I held the back of my hand up.  Was it rude of me?  I didn’t care.  Not one more word.  I had heard enough.  She had already tried to talk to me and I had ignored her, this Spanish “lunch lady” with the wide cheekbones and the light in her brown eyes.  I had already heard about it.  Ben, 5, had crawled under the table and kissed a girl in his class and yet another freaking note had come home from school that day.  But when I asked my child why he kissed this girl, he asked me a question.  “Mom, why did you give me a pink thermos?  All the kids made fun of me.”  I had stared at him, astonished, and felt relieved as he added, “And Rachel defended me.  She told them to stop making fun of me.”  After I took it all in, I smiled.  “So you kissed her?”

The notes and phone calls keep coming like junk mail or telemarketers who call at dinnertime.  Yesterday he got sent to the Vice Principal’s Office after he used his finger to shoot another kid.  The school has a no-tolerance policy for fake-finger guns.  And my son distracted all his classmates.  His table tattled on him because if he got them in trouble, they wouldn’t earn enough points to receive lollipops.  And he called a boy on his bus a “diaper head” on the way home from school.  He had a very, very bad day.  So my husband made him spread mulch as punishment, and I insisted that my dimpled mess of a son apologize to each and every soul he hurt first thing in the morning.  And I planned to show up unannounced for lunch.

And I did.  I entered the school and immediately I spotted a little guy with baggy jean shorts, skinny legs, massive calves and a rust-colored long-sleeved t-shirt.  He wore a vacant, frightened stare on his face.  I tried to breathe but his fear and pain were palpable and it hurt me to see this little boy because he is mine.

Then he saw me.  And hope entered his eyes.  He tried to smile and then looked behind him for his teacher.  He took his odd little hop, skip and dance-step and followed me with his eyes as I circled behind him to check into the office.  He did not scream “Mama” out loud but his entire body leaned toward me, into me, as if we were the opposing poles of a magnet.  I winked at my man-child and barked at his teacher, “Where will you be next?”  She told me that they had lunch in fourteen minutes.

A minute later, I caught up to Ben.  Standing in the elementary school hallway by the bathrooms, he appeared lost and so little, and so did his tiny classmates.  I felt their confusion and uncertainty and fear and I wanted to put their inchoate voices out of my mind.  A little boy spoke.  “Ben’s Mom?”

I nodded genially.  “Yes.”

“Ben is bad.”  Then another little boy exclaimed, “Ben is bad!”

A female creature heard that I was Ben’s mom and she said, “You’re Ben’s Mom?”  I tried to say I was and she cried, “Ben is bad!”

A darkness descended and my vision blurred.  I imagined my hand slamming through the glass window and blood dripped.  I closed my eyes and I counted to ten and I tried to think but I spoke without thinking.  I was running on reflex and running from anger and deep-seated rage at what happened to Little El.  She was “bad.”  She was very very bad.  Not my son.  “No, Ben is not bad.”

“Yes he is,” argued another little girl.  “He always gets in trouble.”

The glass is shattering and Little El screams.  Shhh.  It is okay sweetie.  I am holding you.  “Perhaps he does bad things sometimes, but he is punished, was—“

Another boy chimed in before I could finish explaining that actions have consequences in our home.  “Ben is always bad.  Are you Ben’s Mom?”  I shake my head in frustration and try to answer but shards of glass are stabbing me.

His teacher walks toward me and starts to correct one of the boys.  Before she can start in on me, I mumble, “Did he do anything wrong today?”

“No, not at all.  In fact, he apologized to the entire class this morning, first thing.”  His teacher is a veteran, and she does not put up with much, so when another kid interrupts and starts to tell Ben’s Mom that Ben is bad, she shakes her head at him, but my voice carries.  “Right, so at least 5 kids have already told me that Ben is bad.”  The teacher shakes her head and scoffs.  “We don’t use that word.  We say he is weak.”

“My SON IS NOT WEAK.”  I am not yelling but my body is torn.  It’s like my heart is bursting out of my chest.  Ben often tells me that he loves me so much his heart is bursting with love.  I feel that now for him.  My son raises his hand, and speaks with outrage, “Jason says my Mom is mean.”  I glare at Jason and then I recall that he is 5 and I try, very hard, to smile and I do, sort of smile.  It’s funny.  I smile so often, so easily, most days but now my heart hurts too much.  But I smile anyway.

His teacher finds me in the lunchroom and she grabs my hands and she promises me that she didn’t mean he was weak and I believe her, I think.  I tell her how hard we are trying, but all I want to do is buy Ben his pretzel.  And I want the glass to stop breaking.  And I buy our pretzels and we eat and I hug my man-child and he sits on my lap and the time passes.

That’s when it happens.  She asks me if Ben is my son, and I can’t take anymore, but one thing I am not is rude.  I stop.  I turn.  And I look her in the eyes and I respond, proud but grim, “Yes, yes he is my son.”

She smiles.  Her eyes are full of light.  “I love your son.  He is a lovely boy.”  My chest stops aching.  The glass stops breaking.  And she keeps talking to me, “He has such a sweet soul and the girls will love him.  A sweet boy—your boy.”  I hold his lunch box and for the first time in an hour, I feel warm.  “Thank you.  That means so much to me.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Yes, he is my son.”  I leave the lunchroom and I tell my son again how much I love him and I go home and wait for him to return to me.

© March 23, 2012 E. L. Farris

102 Comments on “One More Word? Yes, He is My Son

  1. I am wiping away tears. It only takes one person to turn a day around … to turn a life around. If only more people were like the kind-hearted lunch lady … this woman who chooses to look at your son and see all that is good … because there is so much.

    I cringe at the words, “He is bad,” surrounding your son at school. In my 10 years of teaching, I strived to recognize every student for something he or she could do well and be proud of. My classroom was a loving community where we were on the same team … helping and supporting one another. Other teachers would remark how nice the children were to each other in my classroom. That was the standard; it was what I expected. We did not put each other down, we held each other up. A teacher has that power, you know. And that is why it makes me angry that children, like your precious boy, are not feeling the love that EVERY child should feel when he/she goes to school. A classroom can and SHOULD be a protective, loving environment. I know because it was something I made sure every one of my students had each and every day.

    Thank you for sharing this tender part of your heart. I pray your words make one person realize they have the power to turn a day around … possibly a child’s life around.

    • Oh my gosh Rachel, thank you so much!! First, it seems a lovely coincidence that the little girl who defended Ben is named Rachel! And YES!! I cannot bear when children are termed “bad” or “weak” or anything derogatory. We do not do that at home; indeed, I will not allow my son to say hurtful things about himself (or my daughter/other son either). You were a teacher?! I am so certain that you were a wonderful one. “We did not put each other down, we held each other up. A teacher has that power, you know.” –Yes, I do know exactly what you mean. I see this at home, among my three children. I have too little power over what occurs in the children’s classrooms but my husband and I can control what happens here in our home. And we try, how we try, to make the children feel loved.

      Thank you so much for being here. xo.

  2. Oh El, all I can do is hug you. And give you platitudes like “it’ll be fine,” “don’t worry about the other kids,” “Ben is lovely and his light shines through ALL THE TIME.” The thing about platitudes is that somewhere, sometime, they were original thoughts. And they were so true that people repeated them ALL THE TIME.

    Ben is lovely. He is nowhere near weak — definitely not a proper way for the teacher to express herself or the concept of Ben’s behaviours to the class, but I can see how it would be hard to present it to a class of 5 year olds in a way that they could wrap their little minds around without going to the “Ben is bad” place (they won’t all be able to understand the difference between “bad” behaviour and “bad”). He’s not bad. He is spirited (that’s what I’d call it). That’s a hard thing for kids to live with but you have to know that it is also amazing. BoyGenius is sensitive — another misunderstood childhood emotion. Apparently, he’s too sensitive for the adult male psyche to handle.

    Our lunch ladies (they don’t serve, only supervise) are generally a horror. BoyGenius won’t stay and it is at least in part because of them. Your lunch lady sounds like a dream. And you have to know that she sees hundreds of kids day in and day out. She will definitely know a gem when she sees one; she sees one in Ben. (Don’t tell the other two, but he’s kinda my favourite.)

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    • My dear friend, oh my gosh, thank you so much for your wise and supportive words. And in some ways, Ben is the one I root for the most–I adore the other two, but he needs a mama who thinks he is the cat’s pajamas. I love the sound of your son. The world needs more sensitive souls. Oh gosh, I wanna write more but am falling asleep at the keyboard. I am so grateful. Much love to you!

  3. And you give Ben a great big hug from me, Mama Bear. Take one for yourself, while you’re at it. 🙂 You already know everything I could say to you in the moment, so just hold on tight.

  4. Give Ben a big hug from me, Mama Bear. And take one for yourself, while you’re at it. You already know everything I would say in the moment, anyway, so just stay strong. 🙂

  5. Can I just say I love reading your blogs… Your words always resonate with me. This made me cry tears of hurt, gratitude and joy. If only we could insulate our dear ones from being hurt. If only we could bear that for them.

    I echo the sentiments of the others: what a sweet ending. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  6. Oh El! We talked about this. Before you went in! The hardest thing in the world is when you feel like the world does not receive or recognize the child you love, when they don’t see his unique gifts, his unique strengths.

    We all have weaknesses, but how odd that his teacher would say something like that in front of the class. It makes me wonder if she isn’t part of the problem.

    Our schools have such little tolerance for the spirited behavior that SAHM talked about above. We want them to all be the same. It’s so much easier.

    I’m glad you turned around that last time, to hear something to offset that negativity.

    And you KNOW I get this, right. As the momma of a boy who has been bullied, I so get this. May you have a wonderful weekend — to forget about school for a while.

    • Thank you so much my friend. Yes, I do suspect the teacher is part of the problem. That is why I let my mean mama bear growl at her (the kid who said I was mean was truth-telling, lol). You know, I haven’t gone into school as much for Ben as I have for the others and I suspect that part of the reason is I feel the negativity that surrounds him and I get too reactive. I think I need to go in more often, just to let him know that I’m with him. And yes, yes pardner, I so know you get this. Big hugs to you and to your (not so) little one. And I hope you have a wonderful weekend as well. xoxo.

  7. I’m stunned by all of this. Words like “bad” or “weak” used to describe a child, in front of other children?

    I’m grateful for the sweet parting words, but . . . just bowled over by the others. :/

  8. Deb: I am and was stunned as well . . . sort of . . . Ben, like me to be honest, seems to inspire great outpourings of disparate emotions. That said, when I hear children tagged as “bad” or “weak” something in my soul cries or screams loud enough to break glass.

    You! How many hours hun? I cannot wait to smile at the pictures. Good on you my friend. xoxo.

  9. I have lived that walk many times, El. Except my son wasn’t “bad.” He was “stupid.”

    When the class took turns reading aloud, he couldn’t do it. They would all say, “Why can’t he read.” I would say “because he has dyslexia.”

    When the teacher would hang their art projects up to display, his didn’t look like the others’. “Why can’t he draw?” I would patiently say “because he has dysgraphia.”

    When the others were sitting still and listening intently to the teacher, and he was wiggling in his seat, they would hear the teacher say his name over and over again.

    They all saw his as defective. Except me. I see the greatness in him. And someday the world will too. But it’ll be a long, uphill travel to get there. It’s a good thing I’m up for the challenge, because he’s worth it.

    I’ve shared the quote that gives me the strength I need to support him before, but it needs to be here: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

    Well, that turned into a reply about me, not you… not what I meant, but I hope you can see what I was trying to share. Greatness lies in each of us. Ben’s will probably take a little longer for others to see, others who don’t know him as well.

    • ABSOLUTELY love that quote Lisha! I am stealing this and will be using it as often as needed!

    • I am so sorry you have walked this same walk, Lisha.

      Not having the projects hung–yep, been there. And I too see the greatness in my own son; I too am up for the challenge. If we’re not, no one else will be.

      I adore that quote. And of course I understand that you are sharing, because in sharing, you just showed empathy, compassion, a model for how to treat a child AND you let me know that I am not alone.
      Amen– “greatness lies in each of us.” Amen sister. xo.

  10. El, sigh. We try so hard, don’t we?

    Pause for a moment and look at the Big Picture: remember where we live. 15 miles for the Pentagon, among 5 military installations and 18 miles from the White House; George Washington’s beloved Mount Vernon is 15 minutes in the other direction; Monticello is less than 2 hours away. James Madison… Gunston Hall … 66% of people around here are drinking drab coffee that rests on their metal desks under buzzing fluorescent lights, who sit in gray buildings performing revolving door jobs underwritten by all Americans’ tax dollars. This area is not a … um… it’s nothing like San Francisco or Seattle where stars Can Shine Brighter simply because They Are and people are empowered to work with their assets.

    The school policy of “weak” and “strong” was borne about 8 years ago from the guidance counselors regarding use of “choice” of behavior, i.e., “strong choice” or “weak choice” when speaking of say, being rude or not raising your hand is considered a “weak” behavior choice. Being kind or patient is a “strong” behavior choice; that those terms have morphed into some form of shorthand for the younger set, who truly need the entire backstory is unfortunate indeed. I think the original policy itself, at the school, is a good one but it seems to me that if simply using “weak” or “strong” is the current iteration, it needs to be strengthened again. Part of the problem is that the guidance team has changed dramatically in the last 3 years, and Mrs. Galing (one of the foremothers of this PBS –positive behavior solutions– program) has moved on. Not coincidentally, the meme / “attunement” to this original (and in my estimation, the faithful delivery of) behavior policy has shown to be a problem itself.

    Yes, Ben’s teacher is a veteran, and while that is good, she is also plastic. Some of the younger teachers have a more … social worker-y way of teaching the children, looking at the whole picture, the holistic (why is there no “w” in holistic?) approach. Your friend Rachel, above, sounds like an ideal practitioner of proven teaching techniques meshed with progressive and enlightened programs.

    Kids is tough bidness. We (I) bear them, hoping our healthy DNA wipes out the unhealthy DNA but that doesn’t always happen. We (I) raise them with so much love and we are SO doggedly determined to not repeat what we endured that we can get in our own way. We (I) protect them from the boogeymen and the spiders (in our minds) without giving them the benefit of empowering them too. Ben is in excellent hands with you. I know of the lunch lady; she’s a peach and she’s given napkins to and opened the drinks for the “strongest” and “weakest” in that school — she knows what she’s talking about and her heart sees good in all the children because her heart has the good too. She went to the core of your being El, because that is what she sees. Goodness. Rest and revel in the home you have made.

    • Much love to you Molly. I also received your e-mail — not sure where to respond, LOL–omg, I read this while I was shopping at Home Depot for rose bushes, which are, by the way, my favorite of all flowers to grow. They are hardy but delicate and prone to the biting influences of disease; their thorns cut but when the blossom and bloom, they bring such light and joy into the world. A metaphor for raising my youngest, beloved child? Perhaps. I am extremely fond of him, and yes, growing roses requires determination and attention and so much tender love. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. God knows geraniums are easier to raise . . . as are so many other types of flowers. But my heart years for damn roses. And so I try every year to nurture them and I never, ever regret it.

      I have many, many comments about our school and its policies (grrrr) not to mention aberrant implementation of same but I must go for a jog before the t-storms arrive. And thank you oh so much for your words: “She went to the core of your being El, because that is what she sees. Goodness. Rest and revel in the home you have made.” xo.

  11. This was a delight to read. My own son has ADD & is on no medication for it so I too get the notes and phone calls regularly. I was reading your story and felt like I could have written it myself (it was a counselor, not a lunch lady for me). Elementary school is when most kids begin their social interactions with the masses and it always breaks my heart for children to be dismissed so easily by some teachers and their peers. Self esteem is so important as they grow up and all children should be celebrated for being unique, creative, and enthused. You only have one chilhood and it goes by so quickly!

    • Thank you so very much Liz!! And yes, we remain med-free and I would like to remain so for as long as we can. I am sorry that you have the same story but also happy, since the counselor treated you with kindness. And I agree completely: “Elementary school is when most kids begin their social interactions with the masses and it always breaks my heart for children to be dismissed so easily by some teachers and their peers.” xo, and my best to you and your son!

  12. when did we stop letting children be children? I remember being in grade school playing Cowboys and Indians,Cops and robbers,being chased around the circle of Duck,Duck,Goose.Getting an INNOCENT peck on the cheek from the boy with the crush was cute. Because of circumstances,I suppose,we have all become too “politically correct” and I do use that term losely.When is enough going to be enough??? Stop making our children grow up and be adults at the age of 5.let them be children again.

  13. My heart hurts for you and Ben. I decided that this was not going to happen to my girls, if I could avoid it, so I homeschooled them. I honestly believe that school is a tool of Satan. People are no longer taught to think and reason, just to fit in and do what they are told – be good “factory” workers. . .

  14. Wow! What a powerful story! I too have experienced incidences such as yours. My daughter was in first grade and I was visiting her class for the day. There was a little girl named Natalya who in the middle of a lesson was trying to tell me about my daughter’s behavior in school. A couple of times I tried to shush her and get her to pay attention to the teacher. Finally, I spoke in a clear, firm voice, “You need to pay attention to the teacher and stop disrupting the class”. The teacher heard me and asked, “Is there a problem Ms. Valentine?” I said “Yes, Natalya is trying to tell me about my daughter while you’re talking”. Immediatley, the teacher took action. I admit, I was a little angry that this little girl thought it was so important to tell me things about my daughter that I did not want to hear…Navigating your child through the elementary/middle/high school mine fields is challenging. I applaud you for your courage! When I read that statement about the teacher saying your son is weak, I felt that pain of judgement and I was angered that a teacher would label your son in any way. Being an individual is not encouraged in our schools and that’s a shame because many children feel that they have to hide their true selves in order to be accepted.

    • Thank you so much Mala!! Thank you for your supportive and kind remarks and thank you for telling me that story about your daughter and Natayla. Gah! I know exactly how you felt! And I would have felt a bit angry as well . . . I felt angry yesterday for sure. And yes, the schools do not encourage individuality–I too felt the sting of that as a child. Much love to you my friend!!!

  15. Many moons ago (before I had a “special” child) I volunteered in a head start in NJ. We had this little boy who was partially (almost completely) deaf. I worked with him one on one bc none of the “real” teachers could handle him. He often had accidents and would hide in a corner when he did. He asked “what’s this” 7 million times a day. No one bothered to answer him bc he was just “too stupid to learn”. It infuriated me. No one bothered to find out that this poor child was being beaten at home everytime he had a potty accident and that’s why he hid in a corner. No one cared to realize that just because he couldn’t tell you what something was didn’t mean he wasn’t retaining the information he was being given. The way others treated him broke my heart. I am proud to say that once I called CPS and he was placed in a home filled with love and understanding, he thrived. He is now in middle school. He still has a tough time learning new things but he is a very smart little boy and the parents who adopted him shower him with praise and kisses every day.

    No child should hear that they are stupid or bad. Does no one get that the more you hear that, the more you BELIEVE IT! I now have 2 children with special needs. I think my student was god’s way of preparing me for what was to come. Or maybe just a test to make sure I could handle it before he blessed me with my boys!

    • Thank you so much, Crystal, for understanding and sharing your story with me. “I am proud to say that once I called CPS and he was placed in a home filled with love and understanding, he thrived. He is now in middle school. He still has a tough time learning new things but he is a very smart little boy and the parents who adopted him shower him with praise and kisses every day.” –GOOD on YOU!! Blessing to you!! xo.

  16. El, YOU are awesome! My son, Winston, has Asperger’s. I loved reading your emotions in this post because I felt ever bit. Oh, the time I had to pick my toddler child up from daycare because he had bitten another child 8 times in an hour and was banned (completely understandable, of course) about killed me because I knew he was going through hell since I had filed for divorce agains his abusive biological father… Winston wasn’t bad, just tough times. Soon after, I found out Abbie, who is 21 months older and was 4 at the time had taught Winston to bite by secretly biting him! I caught her in the act! Lordy, Lordy, I sure appreciate you sharing… I needed that! xo

  17. Oh, El. I don’t know how you do it. You know my position. None of those words should have left any of those mouths. I wonder how much the teacher IS to blame. Does she berate him or use him as a “bad example?” Does she side against him with the other children? Where was she when his classmates teased him about his thermos? Is she incapable of either keeping him busy or redirecting him? For heaven’s sake! It’s almost April, she hasn’t figured him out in nearly an entire school year? I’d figure out how to get a nanny cam into that classroom for some real insight. It’s easy to behave when there’s an observer.

    He does sound spirited. And bored. I hope things get better. xsnos

    • The Incompetent Hausfrau,
      Thank you so much my friend. I agree with so much of what you’re saying above. I do believe there is much of this rolling downhill, so to speak. And yes, for sure, my little man is bored and spirited. The key is to preserve that spirit! And yes, by now, she should have a grip. xoxo.

  18. I wish I could say it gets better with time. My son is 10. He has autism. He is singled out, excluded, bullied and made fun of by typical students. I rarely go to his school anymore. It hurts too much, having children half my height tell me how awful my sweet boy is. We don’t see the behaviors at home…not so much. School causes untold stress for my son. He works the hardest to fit in, and yet is excluded the most. I feel what you feel. I see the school number on my caller id and my heart drops. I see a note in his backpack detailing some misdeed and I want to crumple it up…make it all just STOP. He is not bad, but the school and the students do their absolute best to make us feel bad. I wish I could offer hope, but I cannot. It gets worse.

    • My dear Amy,
      I don’t have words other than to say that I know what you’re talking about and I feel great compassion for you. I do and feel the same thing: “see the school number on my caller id and my heart drops. I see a note in his backpack detailing some misdeed and I want to crumple it up…make it all just STOP.” Big hugs to you my friend. All we can do is soldier on I reckon.



  19. I am completely taken away with your words. Powerful. Strong mom, beautiful son.

    To label kids as anything…to pigeonhole them into tidy little boxes, is just too easy and we are too careless. Shows how hurtful words can be. What we say and how we react can have such profound effects on a young child’s view of the world. I worked at an elementary school and as an ed tech in my 20s so I’m well aware of this, unfortunately.

    • Thank you so very much She’s A Maineiac. Thank you. And yes, any labeling, even to say one child is “good” strikes me as potentially negative, and I endeavor not to do that. I have three children, so if I were to tell my eldest son “Jim, you’re good,” and did not say the same to Ben, would he then think that he was not good? And yes, absolutely true “What we say and how we react can have such profound effects on a young child’s view of the world.” Thanks again for your kind comment!

  20. I can SO relate. It’s hard to watch my little guy try SO hard each and every day and still get labeled. He’s such a sweet and loving little boy and his accomplishments make him so proud of himself. I tell him all the time how proud I am to be his mom!

    • We also want to remain med-free. I was a fierce mama-bear when 7(!) teachers sat around and discussed my son having ADD. I sat there crying in anger and told them I felt they were diagnosing him! Once I used the word ‘Diagnose’ I felt like they got scared and started to back-pedal very quickly. I took him to the pediatrician and her comment was so helpful “No one is allowed to be different any more.”. There are some cruel little kids in his class and I constantly am having to teach him how to deal with cruel comments and actions that truly hurt his feelings.

      • Krista, you have the best pediatrician: “No one is allowed to be different any more.” — Amen! And we too are trying to remain med-free for as long as possible. I respect and love how strong of a mama bear you are and have been for your son!! Thank you so much for stopping by!! Please come back soon. xo.

  21. Wonderful post! I am however completely taken aback by the school’s policies. Sounds like a hell instead of a school to treat little kids so strictly. And the way the kids talk about him?? Our school would seem extremely permissive compared to yours, but I don’t think any kids are labelled as bad so consistently. The teachers just would not stand for it.

    I’m so sorry this happening to you and to him. No kid is bad, Even the behaviour you describe does not seem bad in any way. He’s just a normal boy…

    Huge hugs to you…..

    • Big hugs right back at you Dorothy!! And I am concerned about the school my children attend, to put it diplomatically. I cannot stand for any child to be labeled as bad, or labeled in any way really. In fact, I don’t even label my kids as good — I tell them I love them all of the time, and I compliment their actions, but I try not to define them, if that makes sense. Thank you so much for your compassionate words!! xo.

  22. Well done mum! Your man-child is growing into a lovely boy! The lunch lady was divine – can I borrow her to say nice things about my 6 yo girl? PS wonderful blog post – a tear came to my eye at the end xxxx

  23. My son used to say that about another little boy – a little boy that had a lot of energy, that was (is) on ADHD meds, that has too much energy and used to get in trouble in their kindergarten class. My son would come home and say, “Jason got in trouble. He’s bad.” My response was, “No sweetie, he’s not bad. He just has a lot of energy and that energy has nowhere to go.” They are now both in first grade. Although they’re not friends, my son has actually defended Jason when someone else called him “bad,” and I knew at that point that my son got it!

  24. Although we are at opposite sites of the world, I understand your worries, your love, your anger, your cares, your frustration, because our children are alike. We were fortunate to find a school that specialises in special children, because that is what our children are: special! They have a sensitivity that needs special care. At their school when they are a “bit too much”, the teachers find them enthousiastic and prais them for it. When they are “too much” they are allowed to get up and get a cup of tea for the teacher. We are so greatful for this school that understands what our special children need. They encourage watching pedals falling from the tree and take this opportunity to tell the children about nature. I do believe that our children will make a difference in the future, because they are in touch with nature, their inner child (I still am and am proud of it) and nature. What a gift! A warm greet from the Netherlands, Nataschja

  25. And a very warm greeting to you my new friend Nataschja from the Netherlands!! I so very much loved and appreciated hearing about your sweet child. And amen: “I do believe that our children will make a difference in the future, because they are in touch with nature, their inner child (I still am and am proud of it) and nature. What a gift!” xo.

  26. Well, this broke my heart. Not sure how much the end put it back together either because the “bad” words always last longer for me, but thank goodness some one sees your son as a complete person and not just a handful of actions.

    • Kristina,
      Thank you my friend. Aye, the bad words seem to last longer for me as well. That said, all we can do as parents is just keep trying and doing our best to raise our children with love.

  27. El, this post hit home for me. My boy has been referred to as bad and I know the feeling of the stabbing glass. My boy is so amazing and wonderful to me, but it’s almost as if no one else can see it. Not even his own step-father who I also love so much.
    Much love and admiration to you and your sweet boy, El. xoxo

    • Just to clarify, because I realize that it may seem like I’m putting my husband in a negative light with the statement that he doesn’t see Lucas as I see him, but that wasn’t my intention. Chris is a loving father to Lucas. It’s hard to love someone else’s child as your own and to see them like their biological parents do.
      I only said it to further illustrate the point that I worry that if even Chris has trouble seeing Lucas’s light sometimes, then strangers may never see it, and that makes me so sad for my boy.
      Chris is doing his best, and to me and Lucas that means the world.

  28. El, this is a beautiful post. I’ll admit that I often don’t read your blog because it’s so incredibly heavy, and I don’t always have room for more heaviness in my life. But the added perspective is always good, and you’re an excellent writer. I’m glad Karin urged me to read this post.

    As a father, I know that internal scream. Like when the random old dude at the grocery store muttered under his breath about my screaming/crying son (who has special needs) and I wanted to take his head off with my bare hands right then and there, or kindly remove his jaw so he can’t speak another hurtful word.

    As a step-father, it’s difficult to see the amazing wonder in my step-son that his mom automatically sees. I have glimpses, and I try to hold on to those, but it can be tricky. So a lunch lady who goes out of her way to tell you what a wonderful boy your son is–that’s a blessing.

    • Chris, thank you so very much for stopping by and reading this post and commenting AND sharing it on your page!! I am very grateful! And yes, I understand how you feel as a father for sure, and to a lesser extent, as a stepfather (and if I don’t understand completely I sure do sympathize). Thanks again, Chris!

  29. I could have written this about my son, Alex, but not as well as you did. I really needed to read this today. Bless you and your wonderful son!

  30. Thank you for posting this blog! My son was your 5 year old. He is now 9. My approach with him has really been flying by the seat of my pants. Last time I was at school and the kids started in the “Logan is bad thing ” yes it still happens ..I actually asked the kid telling me if he had gotten into trouble lately? (lol). This year he has a teacher who appreciates his sense of humor and he has bloomed with her encouragement!

    • Thank you so very much Janine, for posting your kind remarks above!! I am so glad that your boy is doing so well this year! And yes, I understand what you mean re “flying by the seat of your pants.” Thanks again and come back soon!

  31. Schools are not designed for boys. Someday we as a society will admit this and create better environments for growing boys into young men. I have raised three and had to take them out of traditional school in order for them to thrive. Your blog was lovely, I have been there. People had strong love/hate opinions about my children. Now they are in their 20’s and doing well in college and life. Life (even college) is not like school, protect his heart and help him grow into the man that God designed him to be, even if you have to throw yourself into a few arrows to protect him along the way.

    • Thank you so very much Wendy, and I get the distinct sense that you threw yourself into a few arrows to protect your boys along the way–good on you! I am so glad that your children are doing well now!

  32. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. It could have been written about my son and me. He is in the third grade and has had struggles since kindergarten, but this has been an especially rough year. He has such an amazing, beautiful heart that I wish others could see, but it seems they can only see the “bad” in him. I hope one day he will find a “lunch lady” that believes in him. Thanks again!

  33. Wow, lovely, wonderful. Keep hugging and holding him he is lucky to have a heart to hold him like yours.

  34. Hey there, El. Never saw your blog before today, but I identified with this story SO much. Now that two of my three are “all grown up”, I can say with some relief that they do turn out all right. Just keep your wits, and don’t let anyone else’s opinions break you down. My strategy for dealing with all the advice and criticism works like this: Listen, process, make your own decisions based on the available information, repeat. It’s impossible to not judge yourself harshly at least sometimes when there are so many voices that seem to be against you, but try. Listen most of all to the people who tell you honestly, and with no ulterior motives, what you are doing right. And most of all, stay true to yourself and the path that you are forging.

    You are doing great.

    • Hello Lisha, and a warm welcome to you! Kudos to you for raising two of three to “all grown status!” I appreciate what you’re saying above re keeping my wits, processing opinions and not letting it break you down. And thank you re “It’s impossible to not judge yourself harshly at least sometimes when there are so many voices that seem to be against you, but try. Listen most of all to the people who tell you honestly, and with no ulterior motives, what you are doing right.” I’m glad you’re here.

  35. Gosh it helps to read about other moms facing the pains we feel with our children! Thank you so much! My son is in high school and I still feel his pain! I’m burdened with him not making wise academic choices but he’s got a good heart and is such a good boy, but he’s not strong academically. It’s hard because I feel a lot of judgement from family, friends, I feel my son wincing at us judging him. Anyway, thank you for posting real life! I encourage you. And am so thankful for the message of today’s post – we all can do something during each day to lift someone up! I imagine that woman at school must be your saint! 😉 God bless you and your family!

  36. Hi El. Like a lot of other posters here, I can relate on so many levels. I have 3 boys aged 4-17. My 4 yr. old has recently been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, but my 10 year old who has always struggled with ADD actually had a Kindergarten teacher telling the class that he was “bad,” and the kids would always repeat it to him and then to me. He would come home feeling sad, defeated and broken. I removed him from her class the next day once I realized what a negative, hurtful environment her class was for my son. I also made the Principal aware and filed a complaint. The times I have entered into his school and sat across tables from teachers, counselors and even Principals advocating for fairness and kindness for my son is immeasurable, but I still do it today, and I will do it for a million years. I also know the struggle my youngest will face, but I’ll be there.

    Find those teachers that see in your son what you see: a beautiful soul with talents, with love, with dreams, with feelings and self awareness no matter the behavior. He is your light; you know it, and he knows it. There’s just no stopping a Mom or Dad who is cheering their son on, even if it means stepping on toes and demanding better. That’s what I’ve done, and people knew who I was walking into his school, knew who my son was in school, and I always believed him, no matter what.

    Some teachers have no business teaching really, and he’s had a few damaging ones. I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face when I confronted a teacher about something she had told my son in front of the class. She told him loudly that they all would just have a better day if he didn’t come to school, among other things. After my conference with her and the counselor, he felt so validated and loved because I was there advocating for him. It’s just what we do as parents, and I know your son will have an amazing life because you’re his champion. Never give up; never let others label your son or treat him like a behavior problem. Because he isn’t; he’s your baby! God bless you for the parent you are, and bless your son for being exactly who he is.

    • God bless you Marie, for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me. And yes, for a million years, and then a million years more, we will be in their corner with them. Thank you for caring and thank you for being you. xo.

  37. Thanks you for this post. It brought me to tears. My son, now 12, used to get into trouble all the time until around first grade, when it started to tail off. I had days like what you describe here. He always got along well with adults but not with the other children, although he was pigeonholed as bad by many of the children and their parents and it broke my heart. I was so fortunate that his principal saw him as a good kid with self control problems and never treated him with anything but respect. He doesn’t have anything diagnosed with a name, he just needed to learn some things and was less mature than many of his peers (still is).

    Just keep advocating for your boy. There are so many variations in behavior among kids, but don’t let anyone make you feel he’s bad.

    • E: thank you so very much! I am so happy that your son’s behavioral troubles tailed off around first grade–I know how frustrating it can be when our children are pigeonholed. And thank you: I will keep advocating for my Ben. Thank you.

  38. I don’t know you but I feel your pain. My children are all grown…my youngest is 19 now. I was told my oldest cried too much. She needed thicker skin. She was 5 at the time. My middle child was too friendly. One teacher even had the nerve to tell me my child was a “space cadet”. She was in 3rd grade. My son would get overwhelmed and climb under the table. I am happy to say that they are all normal healthy adults because they were loved and encouraged when they got home. You are doing a great job. I think your boy sounds delightful!

    • Lois: thank you so very much and I must say that all three of your children sound amazing and lovely! I am grinning at you, and grateful you stopped by to comment. And thank you re “You are doing a great job. I think your boy sounds delightful!” xo.

  39. Our 7 yr old neighbor kid was “a bad boy.” He got this reputation by burning his house down, literally. He had a scary temper and violent tendencies (both he learned from his dad) and a vulgar mouth, he was a mean bully, and all of it made worse because he was egged on by his brothers.
    But when he came to play, I saw none of that. He played gently and sweetly with my girls (he’d ride their princess figurines around on his cars), he’d sometimes accidentally cuss but he’d give a sheepish look and cover his mouth, he’d run up to me and give me hugs, he’d always ask to play with certain toys he knew were breakable, and he was a true joy as a friend for the kids.
    I think for him (every kid & every situation is so different) he was walking out his reputation that others gave him. Everything he did was tainted because of his past, and no one let him get past that. He was “the nasty redhead” so he lived up to the name.
    Except when someone said to him “you’re kind and good, and welcome anytime here,” he also lived up to that as well.
    You’re a good mom, El. School sucks.

  40. Ellie Ann: I think that happens very often–that a kid “walks out his reputation that others gave him.” It can be so hard to bridge from living down to the way you’re conceived by others to living according to your own dictates. I know I struggled with that as a child. My family said I had a “chip on my shoulder,” and let me tell you, that chip turned into a boulder!

    But yes, it can work in reverse, such that children live up to what others say about them. And hopefully one day that same child can make up his or her own mind about what sort of person they want to be. Someday.

    Yes, school sucks. Thank you my friend.


  41. When I do my talks to parents of dyslexic kids, I always say “Some people are better suited for adulthood than childhood.” My Brian is one of them. Your Ben sounds like he is, too.

  42. I always loathed when I would go in during reading time and some of the other kids would tattle on my son. I just chalked it up to the fact that their parents hadn’t taught them any manners. It’s always interesting to see the kids in a group and then you find out who the real jerks are.

    • Yep, Heather, it is so very hard when the kids tattle to US as the parent. Of course we know what’s going on at school–grr. And I hope that it is on the parents and not the teachers. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  43. I admire your restraint and the love and strength you have for your children because i was that WEAK child at one point and I can still be WEAK. All the way to the point where my leg would be knee deep in the ass of those other childrens parents. L I T E R A L L Y. If you need a foot let me know

  44. I love, love, love this post. My son isn’t in school yet, but I know the kind of love you’re talking about.

    It breaks my heart to think of my kids joining the world, so to speak. My husband and I work in education and try to make schools better places, but it’s hard and it can be a cruel environment for lots of children.

    • Aw Sarah, thank you so very much. And yes, I do know what you mean when you write that it breaks your heart to think of your kids joining the world; however, gosh, the world is such a gorgeous place in so many ways and I will never give up hope that my babies will find the nurture they need. Good on you and your man for working in the education field. We need compassionate educators like you two! xo.

  45. Well, I’m a little late to the party, but I loved this post. The world is not a kind place for a sensitive, beautiful boy, and it sounds like your son is one of those. I know because I was one myself. It’s hard, it hurts, but it’s sooooo worth it in the end. Hang onto that little man, hug him and keep telling him how special he is.

    My son is a sensitive and beautiful young man, he’s 16 now. I watched over him closely, and still he got into some difficult situations as a young boy. Mostly from when he reached his bursting point. He was such a funny boy, he used humor to deflect most of the painful stuff, it was a great discovery for him. We’ve grown up (yes, I’m still a boy I guess), hugging each other, holding hands and for many years kissing. I finally had to back off on that part, but he’ll still hug me in front of his friends, and still wants to hold dad’s hand when we walk across the parking lot or stroll down the mall. I love that boy, and I love his heart!

    I just wanted to encourage you and let you know that it can come out all right, he just needs your love and support to offset the world, and it looks as though he’s getting that. He’s a lucky boy, because he has you, don’t you ever forget that!!!! 🙂

  46. Dear E,

    You are so beautiful that it cannot help but shine through your son. He’s going to be fine and so are you. Keep loving, keep hugging, keep being a strong mama lioness for him. What a touching post.