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Friday, September 14, 2007

"I'm telling!"

We've just finished up our third week of school. It's been one of those periods where I'm busy and time is flying on the one hand, but on the other I've crammed so much into such a short time, that 3 weeks has felt like 2 months.

My baby boy started kindergarten. With another set of mixed emotions, I am now a free lady from 8:15 until 12:noon. Of course how do I spend most of that time? Either at the school or doing work for school. Two mornings this week I've devoted a couple of hours to cleaning the house, so that's good. (I like to clean with no one here, because then it actually stays clean--until someone else gets home!)

Back to my boy. Twice last week I picked him up from class in tears. "It wasn't a good day, Mom." The first day, I couldn't ever figure out the problem. The second day he told me. A little boy in his class who my heart is currently breaking for has a difficult time not trying to destroy or eat my son's lunch. That second day #4's teacher saw the tears and came to ask what was wrong. The discovery resulted in more trouble for this poor little boy and an admonition to #4 to "tell me if something like this happens again." The teacher reiterated to me that I should convince him to tell her if there is trouble with this kid.

When I was a girl, I never understood when to "tell" and when to not. Sometimes adults were surprised by silence and encouraged openness, and others a kid could get in as much trouble for tattling as for doing the bad thing. There was always an explanation that if it wasn't your business, if you weren't directly involved, keep out. But then sometimes, adults didn't even want to hear if one sibling had hurt another. And others, you could get in trouble for knowing a bad thing a classmate did without informing a teacher. It really seemed to depend on the mood of the grown-up you decided to tell or to not tell.

Of course, now that I am an adult myself . . . I'm still as confused as when I was a kid. My own patience for tattling indeed depends on my mood, and the recent frequency of such behavior, sometimes the severity of the actions being told about, and sometimes even on which kid is telling and which kid is misbehaving. So how do you set a standard for when to tell and when not? When I explain it to my kids, and I usually drift off into thought, trying to make it clear to myself what my expectations are. It's so subjective that I can't make my own rule.

So for now #4 has permission to tattle on his classmate and used that permission today after his banana got smushed in half. #4 was praised for doing the right thing--telling teacher so that she could take care of it. I think I agree with that in this situation. But I can't help but wonder whether we're training my boy to stick up for himself or to be Johnny Stool-Pigeon. Maybe at 5 it doesn't matter. Maybe I have a few more years as a parent to figure it out. Maybe #4 wll grow up and explain it to me. If he does, I'll be sure to tell.

3 fishy comments:

Jenn said...

That is a toughie, isn't it? I remember being told not to tattle - and I also remember being yelled at for taking matters into my own hands when one of my brothers did something to me, and being told I should always tell an adult and never try to punish someone myself. But then, you'd tell, and the adult would do nothing about it - or worse, get upset with you for tattling. It's a tough call.

To me (as an adult), "tattling" is more about one child trying to get another in trouble for minor infractions... when they're constantly coming in saying, "So and so did thiiiiiiiiiis..." with the hopes that that person will be "BUSTED!!" for something minor.

On the other hand, if someone really is doing something wrong (and I mean more than sticking his tongue out or repeating everything you're saying, LOL), I DO want to know about it, so I can put a stop to it. Certainly that applies to bullying-type behavior.

But I'll admit that I sometimes frustrate my own kids with this. My 8 yo is ALWAYS coming to find me, trying to get me to stop her brother or sister from doing something. And half of the time, I get frustrated with her and tell her to stop bugging me, because what they're doing is not anything serious, just something that is annoying her, and there's nothing I can do to "MAKE" them stop.

That's the great secret of parenting, isn't it? When you're a child, somehow adults create this illusion that they're in control and that you HAVE to do what they say - even though at the time, you're behaving horribly, and they're panicking, wondering how to gain control, how to "make" you behave. Then you become the adult and wonder why you don't seem to have that same magic power, that forcefulness adults had when you were young, to MAKE kids do, or not do, what you think they should. Suddenly, you're just the "great and powerful" Oz... great and powerful in name only, and just trying to keep things at a dull roar.

Jenn said...

Oh, and I'm sorry for writing you that novel... I must've been in a "mood" that night, LOL! I didn't realize it was that long until I saw it just now... :P

JP's family said...

I'll tell you what my rule is about tattling.
If somebody is doing something that is going to result in themselves or somebody else going to the emergency room I want to know. If somebody is doing something that is destroying the property of another person, I want to know.
The rest of it...I want the kids to work it out themselves.