As with my Saving Babies’ Lives post this one started off as a long detailed post taking a mundane event as a jumping off point.
I then use it as an opportunity to over think it, agonise over drafting and awkwardly try and shoehorn references to The Lucifer Effect, Abu Ghraib and Morecombe Bay and the dangers of tiny transgressions allowing gradual recalibration of the moral compass.
It all stared with my unease at seeing a parent calling their daughter a little sneak for the terrible crime of telling them that a bigger boy pushed over her brother.
All manner of soul searching followed as I wrote about the potentially lethal consequences if this mentality is allowed to play out beyond the playground and into the workplace.
It didn’t work. It was awkward and clunky. There is some truth to the idea that there can be dangers to speaking out against bullying, harassment and dishonesty and those attitudes having roots in the law of the playground. Linking this to a minor act of toddler aggression that took place in the hungry, impatient part of the day felt contrived though.
What it really was about was my unease about the situation and the questions it raised about how I would have handled it and how I would want my children to handle these inevitable situations in childhood and (over thinking it) beyond.
There’s always going to be a tension between doing the right thing and being liked. Do I want strong, confident children that stand up for themselves and others or do I want them to be liked?
The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive but often membership of the cool crowd is based on fitting in and excluding those that don’t. This is why the horrible shows about the complex dynamics of teen relationships give me the fear.
Part of the key to answering that question is whether the friendship of the cool crowd is worth sacrificing (or at least blunting) any firmly held values and beliefs. If it means that type of sacrifice are they friends worth having? From the safe distance of being a grown adult of course I can answer no but for a child growing up the answer isn’t so easy. That’s before we even consider the potential nightmare consequences of expressing an opinion online.
There’s also the added fun for those that do try to stick to their beliefs and values that their temptation becomes a sport.
As a (un)happily unpopular school kid I didn’t have to navigate those shark filled waters. I had no desire to be part of the group so stopped trying to fit in and waited for all that nonsense to pass.
As a result I have no pearls for wisdom, no sage advice or secrets to offer my children when they start that particular snake pit. I watch my daughter studying tomfoolery from the sidelines and feel sad for her (heavily projected) future and guilt at my part in her wallflower tendencies and lost opportunity to join in and make friends. Being a paragon of virtue is a fine and noble thing to wish for my children but the price will be for them and looking at the dog piling and sea-lioning that can occur in response it can be a heavy price to pay.
All of this is simultaneously miles away and just round the corner. I write of these high falutin’ ideals and values at a time when I come home to the cubs painting the floor, the walls and each other with a delicious mix of opened tea bags, muesli and milk but soon she will start school and have to be part of a group that isn’t just her brother and have to learn to adapt to the many and ever changing rules and dynamics of school and friendships.