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April 14, 2009

Don't you point that finger at me

-36 Zachary has been in preschool for two years, and he has brought home some pretty unpleasant stuff.  There was the stomach bug accompanied by the fever, the strep throat, and the spring break we all got conjunctivitis.  Not to mention the periodic emails warning of lice infestations and the one handout while we were living in London explaining how to identify symptoms of anal worms.

More repulsive than the illnesses, however, are the habits he picks up.  In London, he learned to let other children bully him, a lesson we worked hard to undo.  Here in L.A., where the kids are generally kinder, he has nonetheless brought home a few choice phrases

.....phrases from which I wish I could have protected him.

“I hate you” and “you’re a baby” get him sent right to the Unkindness Chair (unless he says the latter to his sister who does happen to be a baby).  We have tried to protect him from even knowing the H-word, so ugly do I find it on the lips of children, but of course one cannot prevent one’s children from learning such things unless one never allows them to leave the house.  Assuming we actually want him to interact with other children, we need to accept that he will learn to say some things we’d rather not hear, just like we have acquiesced to the Goldfish fetish he picked up from school snack time.

However, there is one habit he has brought home that is mystifying as well as frustrating.  This is his new tendency, every time he so much as bumps into a chair, to exclaim: “Ow, you hurt me!”  He does this even when there is no one in a four-foot radius around him, and, while it is sometimes an actual accusation, more often it is almost a one-word automatic response: “Owyouhurtme,” or, sometimes for variety, “Youdidit.”

As an adult survivor of child abuse, I cringe when my kid accuses me of hurting him, even when it is clear that I was actually busy washing a dish in the next room.  As a conscientious mother, this new habit bothers me for other reasons.

My kid, it seems, has picked up the national pastime of looking around for someone to blame.  He cannot just have hurt himself because he is four or because he was wiggling incessantly on his seat, an activity that usually results in him falling off of said seat in a very Marx Brothers kind of way.  No, if he gets hurt, someone else must be at fault.  It may be his brother, his sister, his mother, or his grandparents all the way across the country, but someone else must be to blame.

As his mother, I am responsible for teaching him to vote, to hold the door for old ladies, and to offer his seat on the bus for pregnant women.  I am also responsible for teaching him that sometimes he can find a solution to the problem and sometimes he cannot.  But either way, sometimes we have no one to blame but ourselves.

And, sometimes, we need to simply sigh and accept even lice or Goldfish without pointing a finger.

This is an original post for L.A. Moms Blog.  When Emily is not confiscating year-old Cheerios from her children, she blogs at Wheels on the Bus.


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