Perhaps we should call this post “Why talking over dinner, and talking in general with your child as they enter the cesspool of school and life is important!”
I’ve heard the most interesting story from my fourth grader over dinner this evening.
While sitting and listening to my oldest son share his experiences, favorites, and other items of his importance the following gems of conversations burst out of his mouth. With eyes that got big and serious he shared, “My teacher use to teach prison mates! Prison mates that were drug dealers, drug addicts, and you know murders!!! And WE ARE NOT to use his name on Facebook, because then these drug dealers, drug addicts and you know murders will find him! And I don’t know… Maybe you know… (wielding his fork pretending its a knife as though he’s being stabbed).”
I sat shocked. Then gasped. Then laughed. And said in disbelief, “Are you making this story up?!?!” Which is possible; because this story is from the same child who last week spontaneously yelled, “Beware of the white unicorn ahead! It will forecast your doom!”
But my son sat insistent, now giving me the weirdest look of disapproval then saying, “I’m serious. ‘Mr. Whatever’ told our whole class today. We aren’t suppose to post his name on you know, Facebook or other media, because those murders and you know drug addicts may find him!”
To which I questioned, “Your teacher told you that today during class? Just you? Or the whole class?”
J: “The whole class! He told the whole class!”
Me: “Good. He told the whole class. Don’t be alone with ‘Mr. Whatever’, ever.”
Me: “Because he sounds like a complete loon. The story your teacher told you is not appropriate for him to share with a fourth grade class.” To myself, I recall I’ve never used the word drug addict before in my life with him. Rather we’ve explained drug problems, and such but I’ve never used that word. This story my son is sharing may have been shared with him by his teacher.
J: “I like my teacher. He’s serious! I gave him the look. The same look I give Daddy when I think he’s telling a big made-up story, and I looked at my teacher for a few minutes and he never laughed or cracked like Daddy did.”
Me: “Your father’s has the common law of alleles working against him. Most parents, don’t lie to their children. Your father doesn’t have any obvious or known mental health issues. AND Of course your teacher didn’t crack. People with mental health issues, such as paranoia often don’t “crack” or think they have a problem even when it involves deviations of the truth.”
J: “He’s telling the truth!”
Me: “Maybe he is. Maybe he’s not. Its important to be objective to other people’s points of views and what they share with you. Regardless if this story your teacher shared is true, it is important to remember that not all people tell the truth. It is also important to remember that not adults are completely sane, correct, or are handling their mental health issues well.”
J: “Like what mental health issues…?”
Me: “Mental health issues such as paranoia. Being afraid of fears that aren’t real.”
J:” ‘Mr. Whatever’ is being honest. He’s afraid these murders, and drug addicts, and drug dealers are going to find him if we put his name on Facebook.”
Me: “‘Mr. Whatever’ has fears, I’m not saying they are valid fears, but they should be treated as true because to him these fears are true. I promise I won’t put his name on Facebook. I also need you to promise that you will share every single detail of your teacher’s story today with me again.”
My son rattles of the same exact story again.
Me: “I want you to promise you will share every story your teacher shares with you this year. We need to make sure your teacher is getting the help he needs, and I want to make sure that you are hearing details and explanations that you need to hear. YOU can always talk to me, and us.”
My youngest son is sitting intently through this entire conversation listening, I’m sure since the word “murderer” was shouted across the table. My three-year-old is also sitting, listening and paralyzed by the seriousness that this conversation has turned to.
J agrees that he will share every detail with us.
Me: “Every single detail of these classroom stories?”
J: “Yes. Why?”
Me: “Because it is important that we talk about things you may have heard at school from other teachers and students. Do you know what a drug dealer and drug addict is?”
J: “No. Maybe someone who does drugs?”
We talk for a while about drug abuse, drug addictions to over the counter drugs, to illegal drugs, to legal drugs. We talk about drug dealers too. Then we talk about why we say no to drugs, and how we say no to drugs. Fun conversations. Conversations that when you first held your baby in your arms, you never imagined you’d have with an almost ten year old! Ten!!!
I’m shaking my head inside, but not outwardly. I never want my son to think that these conversations are an inconvenience or disappointment. I welcome conversations and want him to hear these hard truths from us and in a way that aligns with our family values and with credible understanding.
Parents… If you child doesn’t hear these conversations from you, then they will ask their friends the answers. Do you want their their friends with limited advice, or worse misinformation, to beat you to the punch? My answer is no. Thus, we talk about drug addicts, drug addictions, mental health, drug dealers, paranoia, and the importance of truth telling at the dinner table with a seven-year-old and three-year-old listening. Regardless, of the fun in this conversation; it needs to happen.
I’m not a parent that will go around putting my children in harm’s way. I’m protective and cautious. Yet, I refuse to put my kids in a bubble to not be exposed to any of these conversations or safe, but looney people.
We talked more about mental health issues, and how some people suffer from some very serious mental health issues. We talked about truth telling, and being honest.
I also point out to my children, that it was possible that ‘Mr. Whatever’, rehabilitated and taught prisoners. Maybe he has good reason to be fearful of these people from his past. Regardless, the story and details ‘Mr. Whatever’ shared are not age appropriate to share with young children. And that we should all keep age appropriateness in mind and consider motives when sharing information with impressionable minds!
After dinner, I texted another mom whose child is in ‘Mr. Whatever’s’ classroom about the incident. And she replied that her child told her that “‘Mr. Whatever’ told her son the same story.” To which I replied that it was a completely inappropriate story to share with fourth graders. Then quipped that our children’s school must be proving asylum overseas for ‘Mr. Whatever’, and that I was going to post “Mr. Whatever” as my Facebook status just for kicks, screen shot my new status, and email it directly to his school email, of course including the message “My child has shared the most interesting story with me over dinner…” Of course, I would never do this. But I was annoyed by the nonsense. I also jested to this other mom that our kids will have the best fall dinner conversation fodder to offer.
Regardless, of the story, and my child’s protectiveness of his teacher I want to hear these things and be able to talk openly about these things with my child.
Cheers! Kanpai, to future, interesting, necessary, dinner time conversations! This fall my oldest child is going to ‘win’ the best dinner time topics contribution!