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Friday, October 1, 2010

Parenting Fail

I went to talk with the Tongginator's guidance counselor yesterday because I am a Complete Failure as a momma and a Christian. Okay, okay, so maybe I just FEEL that way, but it isn't actually true. Or maybe I just shouldn't SAY it even if it really IS true. Because HELLO random social workers and possibly even employee of the you-kn0w-what agency in China reading my blog.

(They totally aren't. But one can never be too careful.)

Actually, I went in to talk with Little Miss Spider (the guidance counselor) because I am in over my head about a parenting topic that's not adoption related. (That's not to say I'm not over my head on All Things Adoption either, but yesterday my focus was on something more generic.) I felt kinda stupid talking with the counselor, even tearing up in her office for a short while, because - as a former teacher - I always swore I'd avoid becoming THAT mom.

Only now... just a little over six years later... I am THAT mom.

(It's kinda humiliating.)

Basically someone is being mean to my baby. And I've tried to help the Tongginator navigate this issue for over four years. Yes, a pint-sized terror has been consistently mean to my gal for FOUR LONG YEARS. A couple of days ago, I realized that I just couldn't do an effective job anymore. I couldn't parent my baby through this situation without disappointing myself and my God. And I realized that because I smiled - I! smiled! - when I learned that the certain someone terrorizing my baby received a harsh set-down from another child.

This certain someone being mean to my baby is only six.

And I smiled at her pain.

So I went in to talk with the guidance counselor, who was absolutely amazing, because I knew I needed help teaching my Tongginator to navigate this situation in a grace-filled way. Thankfully, Little Miss Spider has excellent taste in people. Because she didn't judge me too harshly (probably because she knows Pint-Sized Terror). And because she knew exactly who my baby was, even using phrases such as "a very smart little girl" and "incredibly intuitive" and "she'll be such a wonderful, nurturing big sister." She also described my Tongginator as "large and in charge" and "a force to be reckoned with."

Like I said, she knows the Tongginator.

Little Miss Spider will be meeting with the Tongginator occasionally over the next few weeks to talk with her about the situation. You see, I've tried talking with the Other Momma before. And I've tried to coach the Tongginator in how to deal with said Mean Girl. But nothing seems to stop the behavior. To be honest, I am so frustrated at this point, I don't even really know what to say. I keep telling the Tongginator (and myself) that "we cannot control what this little gal does. We can only control how we respond to her." But the things that I am thinking... well, I just don't want to think those things anymore.

Prayer is helping us emotionally, but it's not stopping the behavior. And I feel really worried that this conflict might escalate to become worse as the years go on. I mean, it started at age two. It got so bad last year, this little gal spread rumors in her kindergarten class that "the Tongginator is a really mean girl and you shouldn't play with her." Can you imagine what fifth grade will look like if the Tongginator doesn't learn to cope with this?

That's why I called for back-up.

I keep telling myself that maybe, despite my disappointment in myself, maybe this IS the mark of a good parent: knowing when you need help; understanding that you've lost control of yourself and/or the situation; admitting that someone else can do a better job at the moment.

I keep telling myself that anyways. But maybe I need y'all to do so, too. Have you ever stepped back to ask for help?

(Please say yes. Please say yes. Please say yes.)


Sherri said...

You aren't a failure! You did things exactly as you should have...when the situation continued, you stepped in and got help. That's not failure.

There have been times throughout the years when we have had to step in to be the voice for our kids. We've done it for our daughters and also for our sons. (remember that I am old and have 3 kids in college, 1 in high school, and now a 2nd grader and Kindergartner)

Don't worry, you are not THAT mom. Because if you are, I'm THAT mom as well.

I wonder what would make a child choose another child to pick on like that at such a young age? It's very sad.

Annie said...

Oh gracious goodness, ALL the time!!!!! I do believe I have called on YOU several times and asked for help!!!! Cut yourself some slack TM and realize that you are trying to help your beautiful little girl in every way possible!!! That is what good mommas do and you are one of the best "good mommas" I know!!!!!

Carrie said...

I can't speak about parenting, as I still have 3 months before I take on that role... but I can say that I think you should give yourself a bit more grace and not refer to this as a "parenting fail." Isn't it more of a success when you realize that you don't have within yourself all that you need to cope with a situation... and you choose to humbly reach out for help? This to me is a sign of strength --- when you can be vulnerable, real, and let down the "we're OK!" mask long enough to reach out and give your daughter access to perhaps the exact tools she'll need to cope not only with this situation, but also with future situations. (Or at least permission to ask for help in the future!)

Jacob and I were talking about this last night... in the last year, we've been seeing a counselor here in Beijing regarding some family issues. It has been enormously helpful, and while it isn't blog material, it is certainly not something we try to hide. As we've shared about our experience with some friends and family members, we have been shocked by the number of people who would never entertain the idea of seeking help outside the walls of their home when things start to feel a bit out of control.

You aren't the only one who doesn't know how to handle every parenting challenge that comes along... but you may be one of only a handful brave enough to admit it.

Sorry I'm writing a book. I really just meant to say: Kuddos to you for reaching out. To me, you are a momma to emulate not to snicker at.

Kristi said...

Oh my lands, yes I have! You are wise to reach out and seek assistance in an area you are struggling with. In my eyes, that makes you an even better momma than before!

Number 6 and no more counting! said...

You are a brave TM for asking for help. The support is just whats needed.


PS. Don't mess with me or my child, I am mommy!

Kim K. said...

You did exactly what you should have done. My husband (the school social worker) loves it when parents alert him to bullying issues. Take advantage of all the support.

Aus said...

Dear God woman - are you totally goofy? ;) I've been parenting with my bride for over 25 years and I don't have all the answers - why would you think you got them in 6? (OK - you ARE way more clever than me - but still...experience is a great teacher!)

I coach parents on bullying (cyber type generally) all the time - and the truth be told there is dang little you can do to stop a bully - but there are a great many things you can do to restore the individual's power to the victim.

You see - that's what bullying is all about - stripping the victim of their sense of self power - self determination - self control.

Can I tell you exactly what they are? No - because in each unique situation it will be different - but there's the concept, now look at the situation and figure out what to do. But I do have a suggestion - ask the victim this question "What can I do to help you get your power back?" That question restores to your child victim their 'power'. But when you do ask that question - be prepared to do what they ask (with in reason - hiring a hit man is probably not a good option!)

You have not had a parenting failure - you've had a parenting success. You're realized you were out of ideas and sought assistance - OUTSTANDING - continue in a like fashion for the rest of your days!

And - there's no shame or guilt when you smile at karma - even if the bully is only 6 (unless it was you that handed out the 'set down'!) ;) One of the joys of parenting - and something that makes it WAY easier - is for us to admit to ourselves that we only human - with all the strengths and weaknesses that includes!

You did some really great work yesterday - nicely done and maybe even brilliant!

hugs - aus and co.

Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

ABSOLUTELY! I have cried to early intervention workers, basically sent my son to his special needs preschool with the thought in my head that this was our family's last hope, I am visiting with the therapist at our international adoption clinic on Monday. I practically wear a shirt that says HELP ME, PLEASE!!

Good for you for reaching out, and good for her for helping!

autumnesf said...

Always, always, always call in a third party when it involves someone elses child and prolonged problems.

Number one smart rule friend. The more people involved, the easier it gets to have documentation and make formal complaints to the law if it escalates that far. And sometimes it does.

Been there, done that.

Good job girl!

happygeek said...

First let me say? Four years?
I would have smiled a bit after 4 months of it. So, don't go beating yourself up.
Secondly, when Miss T is sick you take her to the Dr. She goes to school rather than you homeschooling her (just like me) and when she was young she met with physiotherapists and the like. This is NO different. You've encountered something outside of your skill set so you got someone to give you a hand.
I wouldn't give it another moment of worry.
Save the worry for big stuff, like shopping malls and packing for China.:).

Briana's Mom said...

This is absolutely 100% not a parenting fail. It is the complete opposite. If you cannot stop this other little girl and T cannot either, then you definitely need to call in backup. I think what is making me fume is that the other mother knows about this and the behavior is not stopping. Just maddening.

Beach Mama said...

I am so sorry that this has continued, and for this long!Sounds like you have good control over your part of the situation. You have done the right thing, let's hope the school finally does the right thing! I hope Miss Spider has plans for dealing with Pint Sized Terror in addition to helping Miss T. After 4 years it is TIME that the school take this issue SERIOUSLY. I'm sure your school has a "Zero" tolerance policy for bullying. I probably would have put out a restraining order on the mean tot by now. Sorry for the long response, first blog of the day after my first cup of coffee!

Gayla said...

As a fellow former teacher- I have felt exactly the same way about being *that* mom... but that was before we were moms, right??? You are a GREAT mom and you are doing the right thing! The Little Terror needs to be stopped for her own good!

jen@odbt said...

I know you've done all you can and it's ok to ask for help especially in this situation. This is not a fail. You are being an advocate for your daughter. The bully needs to be stopped. Hugs.

Corey said...

Girl, it is NOT a Parenting FAIL to ask for help with/for your child (and I know you KNOW this, because you would not think it of any other mom. So DON'T say it about yourself!)

Bullying is serious business. Good for you for seeking back up!

sara said...

I've said it before and will surely said it again...you are an amazing mom. Asking for help is NEVER a sign of weakness or failure. Quite the opposite. Only the strong and wise know when and how to ask for help.

And I'm impressed, because after 4 years I may have started waiting for that kid after school :D

Karrie said...

We are soooooo dealing with a similar situation. I sent an e-mail to her teacher and was realitively pleased with the response. The teacher talked to the little girl and, so far, the bullying has stopped. And yes. This is bullying. Plain and simple.

Here is the letter I sent. (I guess I'm now THAT Mom, too. Welcome to the club... there is a lot of us.) :)


I am Anna XXXX’s Mom and I wanted to touch base with you on something that doesn’t seem to be going away on its own.

Anna has come home reporting multiple instances of a girl named K targeting her for verbal and now physical harassment and intimidation. I hate to put it in those terms, but that is what it has developed into.

This problem has been going on since the first day of school. Anna feels that K has chosen her to focus on because Anna is a new student and started the year off not having any friends yet. I asked Anna is she told the teacher when these things happened. She said sometimes, but that K does is “quietly” and “when no one else is looking.”

The following are a few of the interactions Anna has shared with me.
• Telling her she is doing her class work wrong
• Calling her stupid on multiple occasions
• Telling her to stop talking multiple times during lunch, when she tries to talk to other children
• Telling her she can’t play with K’s friends during recess
• Shoving her on the playground
• Stomping on her foot “as hard as she could”, Anna’s words, not mine

I am taking them at face value, knowing that this is one side of the story. But please keep in mind that Anna has always made friends easily and was excited and eager to change schools, even though she was very happy where she was before. She is a positive child, has always LOVED school and now is tearful and anxious about this girl each morning before school. I am open to any suggestions you might have in how to handle this situation and what advice you and I can give her to resolve this.

I am also copying Ms. B because I am not sure when she will be back from maternity leave and wanted her to be in the loop.

Thank you for taking this matter seriously."

The teacher responded quickly, listing actions she would take to stop this and also copied the principal. Bullying is very serious and the schools are required to treat it as such.

Best of luck. And I know how you feel. I wanted to squash that little K. I felt bad about that, but feeling bad didn't make the desire go away. It's a Momma Bear trait. We will do whatever it takes to protect our cubs. Grrrrrr.

Shirlee McCoy said...

A few years ago, I had to talk to Sassy's gymnastic coaches about a bully on her team. I knew the girl was being mean to Sassy, and I kept trying to help Sassy deal.

I happened to be watching practice one day and saw the girl shove Sassy off the balance beam. That's when I realized all my talking to Sassy and trying to help her was doing no good. The coaches needed to be involved.

When it comes to things like bullying, it is always okay to ask for help.

So, in answer to your question - yes, I've asked for help.

And in answer to your unasked question - You did the right thing!

As for thinking ugly things about a six-year-old, I tend to look at the parents and think ugly thing about them.

It's something I'm working on. Sigh.

prechrswife said...

I think you made an excellent parenting decision on this. In no way is this a parenting fail. I will also say that I think all of us "teacher-turned-SAHM" mamas fear being "that mom." :-)

Patricia/NYC said...

OK...number one...get those thoughts about "failure" right out of your head...STAT!!! (and if you get a chance, go read Single Dad Laughing's post about "perfection"...wow)

Great idea to call for back-up...at this point, after 4 years, the school needs to know...this is bullying, no?

We've got a similar situation here...a 3rd incident occurred within 2 weeks, just yesterday with also a "mean girl"...so reading this was particularly timely & helpful.

You are so lucky to know that you can trust Little Miss Spider...and I absolutely LOVE the way you are helping the Tongginator to navigate this issue...you rock, TM!
Thanks for sharing this as it helps so many! :)

Jboo said...

Oh yes, yes, yes -- have had similar issues and my girl is kind of quiet. When there were some issues with another girl (in 1st grade), my coaching didn't help at all, so I went to the teacher and asked for her help. I felt better, and most important, my girl felt better. And then, before the next school year, I requested that girl NOT be in the same classroom as she is too much for my girl to handle. The other girl is much bigger and has a huge personality (and mouth) and is overwhelming to my girl. I always try to remember -- if I don't advocate and look out for my girl, who will. I don't want to be a helicopter mom, but I do want the very best for my girl! Hang in there -- hope it improves. You're awesome!!


Cedar said...

Well everyone has already said it, but asking for help when needed is never a failure. Everyone does it all the time by asking other moms, etc. When it is a situation that probably needs intervention in at school, you have to seek the school's help. Imagine following Tonnginator around at school to protect her--THAT is the mom I don't want to be. :)

Lisa said...

I'm so sorry TG is going through this....(((hugs))) to you all!!!

Its never wrong to protect our babies and seek support.

LucisMomma said...

Yes, we've asked for help for one of our kids. It is hard, but it is also the right thing to do. Hugs, TM!

It's really hard when the other parent has no desire to change or does not see the wrong behavior (probably because the child is just like the parent). We are seeing that with one of the kids in Sunday school, no less. :(

Colin and Jill Canada said...

TM... How many comments do you get on your blog a day, and how many of us come to YOU for advice. Yeah-yeah...well don't you forget that.

You are our councellor.

On the other hand, I would likely have that other child on a platter a long time ago. 4 YEARS??! Grace? I know grace most of the time, but when it comes to my daughter and other children that are traumatizing my sweetie. I tell ya, I don't got grace! Even though I know I should have. It's the Mama claws come out!!

I hope you get the peace of mind you need and your daughter too, soon...very soon.


Amy said...

Ugh. We are just starting to deal with bullying around here. I think with boys it is different in that it builds up for a few days/weeks. Then something happens, and it is over. Boys (at least in the ones I have observed) seem to move on. Girls don't let it go that easily. But even then, 4 years is crazy.

Patty O. said...

Oh, I totally think asking for help is a sign of a good parent. And a smart one and one who is not too proud to accept help from others.

I have had to ask for help on so many fronts, mostly to do with Danny and his autism/SPD: therapists, teachers, a leader at the Autism Program we go to. I think it really does take a village (as much as that term is so overused) and to not ask for help when it is available is such a mistake.

Besides, I think the counselor needs to know what is going on, since she is at the school when you aren't.

And you know, I can't say that I blame you for your feelings about that girl. I have harbored similar feelings for a boy who is mean to Danny. I think those feelings are natural (though I know that doesn't condone me harboring them). Good for you for recognizing that you and T need some help in navigating this issue.

Anonymous said...

Is no one going to mention the gay elephant in the room? :)

Just this week three horrific examples of bullying:

1) Fred Phelps and company going to the Supreme Court to fight for their first amendment right to bully others at military funerals. See front page of the Washington Post.

2) An 18 year old kid throws himself off a bridge because his bully roommate records him in a same sex liaison. Would more people be more outraged if the coupling were male and female and recorded? It would still be harassment and bullying.

3) A student body president in Michigan is harassed by an assistant attorney general - following him to events with signs as well as creating a website devoted to disparaging him - and he's not even fired.

Or how about the mom that created a fake facebook page that led to the suicide of a 13 year old girl?

I'd say bullying is pretty serious. Chances are all kids will be harassed by bullies at some point in their lives. We need to teach our kids (esp our vulnerable adopted kids) as many tools as possible on how to deal effectively with this type of behavior - sooner rather than later.

Very sorry and I'm off my soapbox now. I feel your post is very timely this week.

Jill C.

nora said...

Thank you for writing the post - to ask for help is so hard. I had to do it today for the first time (more adoption related than bullying) but I'm over my head and need help.

Elaine said...

I've read your post several times trying to understand why what you're doing/feeling is making you a "bad Christian" and frankly, I don't get it. We're never expected to not feel in particular ways - even some good old Schadenfruede when some one who is terrorizing our child gets put in her place. We're only expected to 'sin not'. Action. Response to feeling. Which sounds to me to be exactly what you are teaching your daughter.

And as for help? If we were meant to navigate life all on our own we wouldn't have been given limits and/or the capacity for relationship. I think I understand not wanting to be the annoying Mom, but really? Of course you ask for help. And thank God that there are others in the world who can help you. Or so I think.

Bullying is very serious. I've been feeling such sadness with the cases in the news this week. And reading your post. The only way that we can work against something like this is to do it together. Someone is being mean to your girl and you want to protect her. But this is also a larger problem. Good for you for letting the school know what's happening. And strength as you and your little one negotiate this.

Sharie said...

You know we've been lucky for the most part. My bigger fear is that Amelia will be the "mean girl" and sometimes I'm afraid I'm too hard on her when she shows any sign of leaving another child out.

Janet said...

I think you did just what you needed to do. Our kids need to be equipped to deal with things, they need to know. And I, for one, OFTEN feel incapable of helping them. I never know what to say...."just turn the other cheek?" It doesn't always work, that's for sure. All I know is, when my son got into a fight over another kid picking on his little cousin, I wasn't angry. I was proud. Sometimes you have to stand up. (that being said, I do NOT tell my kids to hit everyone. But if there is a threat to your person (or someone smaller), sometimes you do what you gotta do.)

My prayers are with you in this dilemma!

Aunt LoLo said...

I'd be really interested to hear what tools Miss Spider has for Miss T.

(And...just a guess, but I think Miss T's personality will shine though any nasty smear campaigns. ;-))

Debby said...

I think you did the right thing for sure. Going to someone neutral that will help Tonga girl with the skills she needs to by pass this person.
At the same time maybe she will talk with this little person and figure out what to do with her.
After starting my before and after school job, I see things that amaze me. How children react to others and some of the things they do.
Not alot of kindness and I don't understand this at all.
I wish you luck and so glad you got someone else involved.

Soo said...

Well, I'm a social worker (or rather, a social worker in training!) and what you've written here is absolutely refreshing to me. I'm at a center where resistant parents constantly come in basically saying 'fix my child' and never once asking what THEY as the parent can do to help. What you've written here tells me that you're doing exactly what you need to be doing. Seriously, working with a concerned parent like you would be a treat! I hope things improve for you and your girlie soon.

Anonymous said...

It freaks me out when people say, "It is really hard for most people to say they are sorry." And it really freaks me out when people say, "Most people do not want to ask for help." I ask for help all of the time. And I say I am sorry often (sometimes when I am not really sorry at all.) I guess I have no pride. But I do still have friends, so my style must not be THAT offensive. Not asking for help when you need it, is a mistake. And thinking you never need help is arrogant. According to Socrates, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."
You just expanded the team working for your child. Great job.

Shannon said...

You did the VERY best thing. You recongnized when you needed help. I cannot imagine a better thing to teach your daughter. Seriously...none of us are supermom. I wish I was but really there are so many days that I get through by the skin of my fingernails.
You show her how to be a real, honest authentic Chrsitian woman by being real, honest, humble and authentic which means you accept help and grace and say, "I don't know when you don't know" I fully believe that is a far greater fit than a perfect mom with the perfect coifed hair and cookies baked every dya after school (or whatever perfect image you use...mine always involves baked cookies!)
Well done. I think you did the very best things you could hav efor your daughter,

The Byrd's Nest said...

I think almost every parent has asked for help and those who haven't by the time their kids are teenagers...well...they probably aren't that involved in their childrens lives to begin with. I think I have shared with you my older daughter's experience in school. You did the right thing my friend....you really did. When we were in missionary training, a speaker said these words and I will never forget them, "The words that people say to your child....paints pictures on the walls of their hearts forever". This is so true...six years old is not old enough to be armored with God's word so that she can fight for herself. I am so so thankful she is open with you and tells you things....and I am so thankful you seek help in a situation that seems impossible at times. I will begin praying for this little girl and her family...for God to mute her anytime she is anywhere near your precious girl. Big hugs my friend:)

Carla said...

Didn't I call on you for help?! 'nough said. ;)

Or I could talk about the actual counselor I talked to for at least one of my kids...heh..."talking doctor" is what we called them. ;)

Wanda said...

Coming by this post a little late and read through all the comments. Can't add anything other than a huge hug and an amen to all that was said.

(Look up good mama/wise woman in Websters....I think you'll find your mug shot there.)

Claudia said...

how late to teh party am I with THIS one? Oh well!

Just wnated to say that there IS a parenting fail going on here, but you are not the parent.

You get to guess who the other parent is, and I do'nt think it's going to take you very long!

Sending you a hug


Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

Heck yeah I have asked for help....plenty of times!!

I am so sorry to hear about the "mean girl" situation that The Tongginator is dealing with....but unfortunately we all deal with "mean girls" and I hate to say it...but even at the ripe old age of lets say Thirty Something.... I still run into the them.

You did the right thing asking for help....and I have no doubt that your intuitive girl will figure it all out:)

Hugs to you both~


PS. Saw your comment today..... that made me cry. I will think of her as we take off... I would like to think she will be our guardian angel as we travel to China.

PSS. Congrats to Rita on her referral....WHOOO HOOOOOO!!!

Football and Fried Rice said...

That's why I blogged :) I get by with a little help from my friends!

I have a sneaking suspicion, that I **too** might smile at my 5 1/2 year old friend's misfortune. . Which isn't right, I know.

The thing that makes me the maddest, is Mya still likes this mean girl. Still wants to be her friend. Still calls out to her from the car window when we drive by.

She doesn't "get it".

So, by that rationale, she will apparently escape this little season unscathed.....escape for getting to witness MY reaction, MY words, MY prayers, MY grace.

I must offer it up NOW if I want to set an example. You said it the best - the only thing we can control is OUR reaction to others.

You said it best Mama and I am so impressed with your guidance counselor! And I think you need to pay Mean Girl's Mama a visit.


Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

of course we have! (and God or life--not sure which--is really good at teaching us about humbleness.) It happens to all of us. My really good friend was really judgmental regarding how another parent dealt with teen pregnancy. . .Guess what? My friend's daughter has the most amazing little guy and has worked really hard in college. Point of the story? God's really good at reminding us to deal with our own problems instead of judging others. (And with me? well, I've had a lot of those moments. the one that comes to mind is dealing with my daughter using her boots to kick the other children. Kyler was never a mean child, but Kady? Well, that child has a bit of a mean streak. . .) : (