Upon collecting Jack from school the other day, his teacher told me that he hadn’t had a very good day. Apparently, he’d had an argument with one of the boys in the other class. The other boy had shouted some nasty words to him and it had upset Jack very much.
“He really has been very sad about it all day. “ she said.
Now, I know that Jack is a sensitive child. I have collected him from school on many occasions to be told that he had been hit or even bitten and he’s always been the kind of child that has got over that kind of assault at that moment with little or no repurcussions. However, this was the first time that I had witnessed the effect that an emotional assault had on my son. He was visibly upset and somber and it hit me as if someone had punched me right in the middle of my chest.
Without a doubt, Jack got his sensitive nature from me. I was exactly the same as a child, and I am still the same as an adult. For this reason, I felt there is no one better to deal with this than myself. I had some time on me and suggested the two of us go for a walk along the river. I called off the meeting I had that afternoon and off we went.
In the car on the way, he said that he didn’t want to go to the river and wanted to go straight home. I insisted we go. I wasn’t going to give up until I had my cheery boy back. Even when we arrived, he plodded and slogged his way next to me as if his bag was too heavy, his posture didn’t improve after I took his bag off him. He really was dreadfully sad! I asked him to explain what had happened at school and listened as he explained.
“ It hurt my heart mummy.”
While listening to him, I was wracking my brain for a simple approach to help Jack lift himself out of this. I could see he was struggling with it emotionally and all I could think of was that senseless , “sticks and stones”, proverb I learnt as a child. I say it in a whiny, irritating voice as I write because that is exactly what it is, a tiresome and thick headed expression. Hardly the tool I needed for this task but I had no other tack?
“You know what Jack, when I was little, I learnt this saying which I never understood. It went like this:
“sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
And I think it is a very stupid saying because, if someone hit me with a stick or threw a stone at me, I know it would only hurt for a short while. I could count to ten and it would be over. But when someone says something nasty to me, I would be sad for the whole day because it would hurt my heart. Some people are like that Jack. You and me are the same like that and it’s ok to be sad.’’
He just looked at me with his arms folded under his chin on my chest as we lay in the shade of a willow.
I asked him if he had said anything back to the boy afterwards and he said he hadn’t. I told him that it was never good to say something nasty back because it wouldn’t make his heart feel any better. What he should do, is tell the boy that he had hurt his feelings or that what he had said was not nice.
“If you feel your heart needs it, then tell the boy that he should say sorry. He might not say sorry. He might even say that he doesn’t care that he hurt your feelings. And then you must walk away Jack, because it is not nice to be around people who don’t care about hurting other people’s feelings is it?”
I told him that if he needs to cry then that is good. I also said that it always helps to talk about it to someone, whether it’s your friend or teacher or mummy. But I said that he did not have to play with that boy again until he has said sorry because it is never too late to say sorry.
So often, when revisiting the lessons you learned as a little child, you find yourself being somewhat grateful of the reminder. We are faced with these problems throughout our lives and sometimes forget how to deal with them to the benefit of ourselves and others. I was pleased with my attempt at teaching Jack this life lesson.
“Should mummy make you a willow swing and push you a bit?”
“I would love to do that mummy!”
He was back and I felt positively triumphant.
What did I learn from this: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words are yours to live with.