Of course, I can’t take all the credit for my son’s great wisdom. He has a wonderful mother too.
While I was waiting with my son for his school bus to arrive, another little boy was standing there looking through his yearbook. He is in 4th or 5th grade, and my son is only in 2nd, so I’m always a little concerned that maybe Charlie (my son) looks up to this other boy. I say “concerned” because the other boy isn’t the best of role models.
I, the lone adult, stand out there at the bus stop every morning with Charlie, and I try as much as possible to just leave the kids alone, but I watch carefully what happens, and today, I was greatly impressed with something my son did, I’m sure without even thinking about it.
The other little boy looking through his yearbook said to no one in particular, “I’m going to show you all the girls I hate.” Then, he pointed at three successive girls saying about each one, “I hate her.”
“I call them the ‘Hippo Club’, and I hate them because they are fat, fat, fat!” he said.
None of the kids at the bus stop said anything. Then, after a few moments and with great fanfare, this boy, pointed to another picture and declared, “He’s got a dorky smile!” He repeated it four or five times and showed the picture to the other kids before getting to Charlie.
He showed the picture to Charlie, said one more time, “He’s got a dorky smile,” and Charlie, without batting an eye simply said, “He’s my friend.” Immediately, Charlie started pointing out other pictures on that page and said, “He’s my friend; he’s my friend; and he’s my friend; and he’s his friend.” The conversation shifted entirely. The comment on the dorky smile didn’t come up again, and the bus arrived a few moments later.
Here’s what impresses me the most about that scene: I have a great tendency to “go with the flow” so that people will like me. On top of it, I’m by nature and upbringing a very critical person, so I spent a number of my growing up years just like the other boy with the yearbook and the critical eye, and I have worked hard to overcome that tendency of mine, but my son is not like that. He is not swayed by the opinions of some other kid. He knows what’s right, he knows what he believes, and he doesn’t mind speaking up, but he manages to do so without being obnoxious or belligerent. And he does it all unconsciously!
Charlie directly countered a negative comment by simply saying, “He’s my friend,” and then, in a very effective move, took control of the conversation away from the critical boy to point out more friends. I don’t think Charlie had a clue how important his actions were. His three simple words and immediate response said convincingly:
He’s my friend, and I won’t let you talk about him that way, and just so you don’t make that mistake again, I’m going to point out the rest of my friends.
I want to have that kind of strength.