Monday 18 May 2009

Winning friends and influencing people

I should not be writing on this blog. I should be working. I have so much work to do I could keel over and die quietly in a corner, but I have a pressing issue I need to get off my mind, which hopefully will leave more room for me to concentrate on work stuff.

So I've posted previously about son 1 and his issues with friends and school and life in general. It's getting worse. He goes to a teeny tiny school and has only 7 children in his class. Two of whom are girls and therefore in the eyes of a five year old boy, don't qualify as human beings much less playmates. This leaves 4 potential people for him to play with. Of these 4, he seems to only want to be friends with one. He plays with the others but they're not his 'friends'. The challenge is that his 'friend' wants to be friends with someone in year 1 more than he wants to be friends with my son.

This is causing my son unhappiness in the extreme. You can't force children to be friends. You can encourage them to play nicely and treat people well but more than that, there's not much you can do. I've tried encouraging him to be friends with the others in his class but there just doesn't seem to be the same chemistry for him.

What's more, he is a nightmare going into school in the mornings, frequently running out of the building, clawing and scratching at me. Once in school, he is fine. He reserves this behaviour for me. But I also know that he cries almost every night because he doesn't want to go to school because of the friends issue.

He's recently started asking to go to a different school. I am now trying to make playdates with old friends who now go to different schools in a bid to make him happy. But it's not solving the day to day issue.

The straw that broke the camel's back happened this weekend, when his 'friend' was invited to the coolest boy in the school's birthday party (he's in year 6) and my son wasn't. He was devastated to say the least. How do you explain to a child why he wasn't invited? It would have been fine if I could say: Well he only invited kids in his year group. But he obviously hadn't. He'd invited my son's best friend and not him. I'm not surprised. Despite the year 6 boy being very friendly to my son, he probably sees him screaming and wailing in the playground every morning and thinks he's probably a bit too babyish to manage a big boys party.

Sigh. It was heartbreaking. I've been close to tears all weekend as a result. All parents want their child to be liked. To be popular. To have friends. But what do you do when it doesn't work out that way?

I have considered moving him to another school, but the next closest is so full (30 kids in reception class already with no limit on the numbers) and the others are oversubscribed and a fairly long drive away. I like him going to the local school we can walk to, but if it means another 6 odd years of this, I might lose my mind. And my poor child will certainly lose his.

Tomorrow I'm going to do something that I'm dreading but that I'm doing (officially) to give my son some moral support. (Unofficially, I am trying to buy him street cred by showing the other kids in his school that he's got a 'cool mum' - at least I'm really hoping that's what they'll think - ergo, he too is cool and worthy of being friends with).

The theme of the week is Around the World, so I've agreed to go and give a presentation to the school on my Around the World sailing adventure. This is going to tax my geography skills somewhat, but I've shown my little presentation to my son and he thinks the kids will love it and he seems to be bursting with pride and excitement. I'll take my sailing gear too so they can try it on and there's a short motivational video for them to watch which should have them all nagging for sailing lessons.

It's a pathetic attempt on my part to try to help him win friends and influence people, but I don't know what else to do. I'm going to attempt to speak to his teacher, but I've already had to speak to her sooooo many times about his not going into school issue that I fear she might just silently roll her eyes and curse whoever has landed her with this problem child.

Wish me luck. And feel free to share your ideas on how to tackle this issue.


mum-e said...

Good luck! I really admire you for taking such a pro-active stance in sorting this out. You might also find that while you are there you get more of an insight into what is going on at school, whether you want you son somewhere with such a small class size, and the full extent of the problem. If the school isn't right for him, maybe a class of 30 wouldn't be so terrible...Thinking of you x

Anonymous said...

Hi Melissa, I've been off-line for ages so haven't popped in to see how you're doing. You poor thing (((()))) No words of wisdom I'm afraid - my three are not yet at this worrying stage. However, I think you are ACE for going in to the school to do a presentation, and don't think it's remotely pathetic - it's a great educational thing to do for all the kids, and your boy will be so proud of you :) Hope it goes really well xx

Tara@Sticky Fingers said...

Aye aye aye, that's just horrible.
I can relate to that feeling of total despair and helplessness.
Good for you for taking a proactive approach though. Hopefully it will only be a phase (don't we hope all bad behaviour is a phase!) and you'll come out the other end smiling.
I have an 'issue' with my daughter at her preschool nursery. Every morning she tells me she hates it there and 'why do I have to go' and 'I don't have any friends' and yet the staff tell me a totally different story.

Home Office Mum said...

Thanks all. I spent the morning doing a presentation to his class -I think I've now recruited about 40 future crew members for Clipper. My son was very pleased to have me there but went into meltdown when I tried to leave. And the boys in question were nothing but nice to him so not sure what the real situation is. Here's hoping it all sorts itself out soon.

Jane said...

Hope I'm not overstepping the mark in saying this but do you think his behaviour could be related to your sailing trip?

Ali said...

I'm a bit late on this but I just wanted to give you a cyber hug. These are the hardest of parenting issues. You want to protect your kids from any hurt and it's just awful when you can't do that. I hope that things improve soon. Good on you for giving that presentation. I think any kids would be impressed.

Nicola said...

What a heartfelt post and I really feel for you. And I think the presentation was a lovely thing to do and will have long lasting positive effects. The one thing I have found that has helped Captain Underpants when he has felt excluded is to keep instilling in him the life long lesson that at the end of the day it's great when people like you and are your friends but it is much more important to like yourself and be proud of the person you are. I constantly felt alienated as a child and wanted everyone to be my friend and was crushed when it didn't happen. Now I remind my kids of all the friends they do have and ask them to think about what they can do for the people they like - but not to have expectations and not to feel it is a reflection on them if the friendships aren't returned. All adult, mature stuff but my 5 year old does seem to get it. It seems to reduce his anxiety levels a little. I have also created a cork board with words and pictures of all things he is good at, loved for and pix of all the friends he does have - both near and far - as a reminder of what he has in his life rather than what he thinks he is missing.

Perfectly Happy Mum said...

Oh Melissa, I really did feel for you and your little boy reading your story... I often have that passing thought looking at my 2 gorgeous, adorable boys and try to imagine that everyone will love them and that they will be very popular. Unfortunately, I know that it is not real life and there will be people who don't love them, there will be times when they are not popular and it breaks my heart.
I really don't think that your attempt was pathetic, actually until I reached that stage reading your post, I kept thinking you should do something that makes him look really cool and what you did should definitely look REALLY cool!
The other thing I think is really important for us parent to remember is the lessons you learn from being unloved and unpopular are often as great as the ones you learn from being loved and popular. The best you can do right now is remind him all the time of all the things he is good at, all the things he could teach these kids. This should hopefully boost his confidence and help him through this.
Good luck and let us know x

Iota said...

I don't know if you'd get away with it in England, but on the 2 occasions when I've talked to my son's class, I've found that chocolate biscuits went down very well (they WERE Cadbury's chocolate fingers, so there was a thin pretext of introducing them to a bit of English culture, but I admit the motivation wasn't entirely pure).

Oh, I've just read your comment - I'm too late.

It is agonising being a parent sometimes.

Home Office Mum said...

Jane - the sailing trip could be part of the morning angst (although he's been that way since he started school - actually since birth) but the friends thing is unrelated I think.

Ali - Thanks

Nicola - that's brilliant advice. Will definitely be using that

Perfectly happy mum - the first thing my son said to me when I fetched him from school today was: Mum, all the kids said you were sooo cool. And he seemed genuinely happy, so hopefully it worked a bit.

Iota - i reckon chocolate biscuits might be my next cunning plan if this one fails!

And my son had a playdate with someone else today so was feeling happier with life. Here's hoping it lasts

Helen said...

I know that I am coming to this a little late in the day and also my kids are now teenagers. I remember having similar issues with all of mine and can empathize with your own feelings, however Nicola has some good advice and I think it is important to ensure they have a healthy self image first of all. I have found with the passing of the years that we often wish that they wouldn't try so hard to be accepted by their peers, especially during the teens! I think your presentation at the school is a great boon - I was pleasantly surprised by the comment of my middle son once - "I really like it Mummy, when you go to the school, my friends can see what a pretty, elegant Mummy I have!" Of course, that comment is tinted by a son's love of his mother, but all the same... It boosts their self image in the right direction. Hope you are feeling better about things now.