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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Poetry Friday: My Blank is Bigger than Your Blank...

I was wondering when my kids would hear something like this from one of their friends. Last year, my best friend from college told me horror stories and I was shocked.

"No way," I said. "There is no way kids say this type of stuff."

"Believe it and weep," said my best friend. Her son, who goes to a private school, had it thrown in his face a few times in fifth grade. The boys would wear their shields of pride, spouting tales of glory on whose parents made more money, who had a better car, and who had better toys.

"I'm sure it's because Son is in a private school," I said. My friend smirked.

"Believe what you'd like to, but I'm telling you, it's going to happen. Whether someone says it to your kids or whether your kids say it to someone else," she said.

Right, I thought. Not on my watch.

I've spent so much time making sure the kids felt pride in who they are and understood what it meant to respect other people. I've taught the kids that material objects didn't define who they are or who others are. And I was so sure this was enough.

But, third grader came home the other day in tears. Her good friend has been teasing her about how her parents make more money than my husband and I do. Obviously. Because...

"I live in a bigger house than you do," says my daughter's friend. "Not only that, but my parents buy me more expensive things than your parents do. There is no way they could afford to buy you a blankety blank."

Fill in the words for blankety blank. It really doesn't matter what the item was. All that mattered to me, was the look on my daughter's face. A mix of rage that a friend would put down her parents, with a bit of doubt that maybe we didn't have as much as her friend.

Maybe her friend's family has more than my husband and I do. Maybe they don't. But I'm not a keeping up with the Jones' type of gal. Not that there's anything wrong with it, if you're into that sort of thing. I just don't want my children to spend their life haunted by this social type of pressure. There are plenty of other things they'll have to deal with in life. Ultimately, I'd like to impart to my children how their soul defines who they are more than anything else. All I can say is, this will certainly be an interesting journey.

I recently discovered this poem, There Was a Child Went Forth by Walt Whitman. And it is perfect for my theory that a child learns from what he or she is exposed to.

There Was a Child Went Forth
by Walt Whitman

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint litter, and the mare's foal and the cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there, and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads, all became part of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him,
Winter-grain sprouts and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road,
And the old drunkard staggering home from the outhouse of the tavern whence he had lately risen,
And the schoolmistress that pass'd on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass'd, and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls, and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country wherever he went.

His own parents, he that had father'd him and she that had conceiv'd
him in her womb and birth'd him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that,
They gave him afterward every day, they became part of him.

Click here to read the rest of this poem

Birthday girls, Franki and Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading are hosting Poetry Friday today.


Christine M said...

Wonderful poem.

And I'm sure that what you have instilled in your children will win out over any one's one-up-man-ship.

My children know we have less than some and more than others. Nothing to feel pride or shame in. It's just the way it is.

Mary Lee said...

As a parent (or a teacher), all we can do is our best with these kids. Every day. Unrelentlingly. We've got to believe that that will be enough.

Jen Robinson said...

I think that your daughter is richer than the other girl, because she doesn't have to measure her parents' love in things. But I'm sorry that you're going through this. It sounds hard.

HipWriterMama said...

You said it perfectly. This isn't anything to feel pride or shame in. I'll have to keep this in my arsenal of parental pep talks. Thanks.

Mary Lee,
You're right. As long as we do the best for our children, we'll see the good results from it. Sad to say, it's now that I'm a parent that I have a full appreciation for all my parents did.

Yes, this is hard. But sticking to one's belief usually is.

Thanks so much for your kind words.

Liz in Ink said...

Vivian, Knowing you (which I don't, really, but you know what I mean), I'm not the slightest bit worried about your girls. They will rise above and be clear on what matters. That's what parents teach, right? What matters...

Little Willow said...

I too am certain that your guidance will make them strong, stronger than any materialistic wants or jabs.

Erin said...

What a great post. You sound like a wonderful mother.

SevenImpossible said...

I am in love with this post, Vivian. Thanks, not only for the poem, but the food-for-thought. I am with you 100% on this struggle, but I'm still STUNNED -- like you were at first -- that kids in THIRD GRADE would talk like that. Oh heavens. Am I really ready for my girls to go to school? I think I'll be shocked a lot, even as someone who once worked in public schools as a librarian (maybe I'll always be hopelessly naieve). Anyway, thanks for the heads-up. I'm so sorry your daughter was so hurt by that. To be blunt and very inarticulate here, that just flat-out sucks for her.

(Thanks again for that poem I'd never, ever seen before. I wanna hang it on my wall to see daily!)

Jules, 7-Imp

m.thompson said...

Shields of pride....love that. Great post!

HipWriterMama said...

Thank you! You're right...parents do teach what matters. Here's to kids learning the good stuff!

Little Willow,
Thank you!

I really appreciate hearing that!

It is shocking isn't it? But, unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. From what I've observed, there will always be that group of girls who can be quite mean to one another. And totally clueless to how they're hurting one another.

Here's to arming our children with enough love and self-confidence to weather whatever comes their way!

M. Thompson,
Thank you.

jama said...

Jen hit the nail on the head. I pity the child who has to measure her parents' love by things. Her insecurity about this love is probably what made her spout off to your daughter. Geez, what kind of values are those parents instilling?

I'm sorry your daughter had to be on the receiving end of this. Sadly, this will probably not be the last time something like this happens.

Thanks for sharing the Whitman poem. I hadn't read it in a long time, and today it had more meaning.

Barrie said...

Great poem. There's so much to think of when raising kids, isn't there. I guess you just figure out what's important in your family and stay the course. Sounds like you've got it figured out. :)

MotherReader said...

I'm sorry that you had to go through that particular parental angst. My 11 yr old has been exposed to the Abercrombie crowd now, but she's pretty cool about it. I bought her one sweatshirt for Christmas and she was totally happy with that. Fortunately, even though this is certainly a status thing, I haven't heard about any meanness about it.

I'd say that "friend" isn't a very good "friend."

daphne grab said...

it sounds like you handled it beautifully and that your attitude will help your kids rise above that kind of thing. but it chills me that it happens at all. i love this time in my kids' lives when they are completely protected from that sort of thing and under my care for 20 hours a day. but each day it is slipping away...

Anonymous said...

This post means so much to me. I live in an affluent community, and my family and I choose to live comparatively simply. I hate all the comments thrust at me- about what I get as presents and how I don't get a few coach purses for birthday, let alone own one. Society is hard on children, so many have grown up thinking that what they have is right and others not having as much is right, too.

I'm surprised you didn't hear this complaint until third grade- I heard that the moment I stepped foot in public schools, which was first incidentally.

HipWriterMama said...

Thank you. And I know this won't be the last of things, but it just bites to have to experience everything through a child's eyes.

That's a good one. Stick to what is important to your family. Thank you.

Sounds like your daughter is handling things with finesse. I agree, I think my daughter is realizing that her good friend might not be one after all. Keep the fingers crossed!

Thank you! Enjoy this special time with your children, when they are all yours.

Glad you appreciated the post. I feel pretty lucky that we haven't encountered these types of comments before. Either that, or this is the first time it bothered my daughter enough to tell me about it. All I know is I'm so glad she felt comfortable telling me about it.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

HWM: I remember all too well those kinds of comments. Big hugs to your daughter. I know you're raising them to be strong, quick-witted and brave.

Kelly Fineman said...

Wonderful post and poem choice. I'm so sorry for your child - it's hard for them at that age to understand that the speaker is speaking from a place of insufficiency, oddly enough. Maybe she has the stuff, but possibly not the familial support, and she's filling that void with bad behaviour.

I hope it's all blown over.