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Robin Gorman Newman Headshot

Mom, Mind Reader

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We have become pool regulars ever since the lovely outdoor swimming pool in our community opened for the season.

From summer to summer, we encounter people from previous seasons. It's an opportunity to catch up on their goings-on of the year. There are always new members who moved into the neighborhood and others you no longer see... those who may have relocated or passed on or opted not to rejoin for whatever reason.

But mostly there's a lot of consistency, and some things don't change. The kids look bigger from year to year, but once a troublemaker, often still a troublemaker.

Such is the case with a boy named Jerry who just finished 4th grade. My son just completed 3rd. Jerry lives two blocks away. He and Seth have always been like fire 'n ice. Jerry is a tough kid. He's one of four boys in a family where the father says little and the mother clearly wears the sweatpants. You can witness their parenting dynamic at the pool, and I have to imagine it translates back home. I don't know how Jerry gets along with his brothers. I see them together at the pool, but they don't typically play together. Jerry is the one who the lifeguards are always reprimanding. I recall that last summer, he was even given a "time out" from the pool due to poor listening.

A few days ago, Seth came to me and said that Jerry called him a cry baby. When I asked why, he said he didn't know, but then wanted to know why I did't speak to Jerry. I said I didn't know that this dialogue transpired, but would he like me to speak with him?

Seth didn't reply. But, knowing him as I do, I don't think he'd want his mom standing up for him unless absolutely necessary. I would never let him be in physical jeopardy if I can help it.

I have always taken the attitude that Seth can defend himself, but if something happens that he truly can't handle, I'll step in. I know he can do it, and he'd want to. But even a strong kid has his moments. We all do.

I proceeded to explain to Seth something to the effect that... not everyone in this life will like us. Not everyone will respect us. Not everyone says smart or nice things. So, if someone isn't a person you care about, then try not to let their meaningless comments register with you. They aren't worth your time or energy.

He understood, but whether or not he can apply the principle at age 9 is something else.

It's tough when your child gets to an age that they start to concern themselves with what others think, say and do. They take things personally when they shouldn't. Even as an adult, there have been times when my feelings got hurt and I took something personally that was totally not worth it in the scheme of things and life.

But what really struck me with this scenario is what Seth didn't say. The fact that he walked around for some unknown period of time thinking about the Jerry situation and then expected me to have an awareness of it and handle it once he revealed it to me. In a perfect world, I imagine he'd like me to snap my fingers and make it go away without having to ask me to do so. Magic mom!

Last time I looked, I wasn't able to pull a rabbit out of a hat. And that said, I'm not a mind reader, either. No mom is. If Seth doesn't tell me something, I can't know about it, unless I bear witness or hear through the grape vine.

How will it be as he continues to grow up?

I want him to know he can always share openly with me... without judgment... and receive love and support. I want him to know that while I'm always there for him, I can't get inside his head. I have an innate sense of how he looks at things, but he often comes across as a strong person who is able to shrug things off (and, other times not). I can't anticipate when those times exist.

I know there are bullies out there who will cross Seth's path. I've never quite understood why they act that way. But not all children are raised well, and there's a lot of dysfunction in the world.

As long as I can maintain open communication with Seth, I will do my best to be his sounding board and encourage him to know he has my ear.