Posted by: Hannah | 09/25/2012

Arthur Redux

Arthur’s back!

Arthur, who was my only experienced full-time client during that first tough year. Arthur, who came well-socialized. Arthur, who my own Harry and Ron fight over sometimes because they both love him immoderately.

This year he comes here before and after school, getting on & off the bus with Harry every day. His baby sister starts coming full time next month, too. They really have become part of the family.

So it hurts to see the poor little guy struggling. But oh, he is.

He’s a bit small for his age. He’s also very passive. We used to work on that here, sometimes: he would just stand there when one of the other kids took his toys or, in the case of That Rotten Kid Who Only Lasted Two Months, hit him hard enough to make him cry. He wants to get along, and he doesn’t like to fight or rock the boat, so he’s not really learned self-defense.

I used to encourage him to use his “strong voice!” when someone hurt him. We had long talks about it. He was doing better, but he was home with his mom and new baby sister for 8 months, and in that kind of environment he didn’t get the chance to practice much.

On the playground, it’s really starting to show.

During the first week, he came home every day dejected and sad, because one kid in particular played too rough. I talked through some strategies with him, and his mom contacted the school since it *was* happening every day, and it was always the same kid. And that got sorted out.

But then the second week, he got hit in the back while they were running around.

And then today he got kicked in the side while they were wrestling and playing.

In each case, he gazes at me with his huge blue eyes swimming with tears and tells me “there’s ANOTHER bully at school!”

In light of my recent post about bullying this may sound strange, but I don’t think the last two incidents were bullying. I think they were probably no fun for Arthur, but I don’t think these kids are laying in wait for him. I know that kids that age – especially boys – play pretty rough sometimes. It’s all very physical, and that’s normal.

He’s such a gentle soul, and the screaming hell-jungle that is the P – 2 playground – not to mention the school bus, horrors! – is starting to be too much for him. I notice that he’s got brown shadows under his eyes. When he gets home, he’s beat – Harry & Ron want to play swords! and chase! and monster fight! – and all Arthur wants to do is play with dinky cars. I often have to remind my two to give him a little downtime, to let him rest.

This afternoon they got off the bus, grabbed the toy swords, and headed right back outside. They played hard for nearly an hour before I heard the tears. Something had gotten in Arthur’s eye and he freaked the hell out. Harry almost had to carry him inside. It took all of my powers of distraction and gentleness to calm him enough to first identify the problem – a grass seed – and then get it out as carefully and painlessly as I could.

Once it was out, I sat and cuddled with him for a bit. And out it all came. He doesn’t like school. He’s tired. He just wants to stay home with his mama. He had a hard day and he cried a whole lot, and when I told him Friday was an inservice day he rewarded me with a watery smile and a “YAY!”

I know his mom is worried, but I think she’s worried for all the wrong reasons. She thinks the playground is out of control and that the school is full of big mean bullies and teachers who don’t care. I am struggling to find the words that will calm some of her fears while at the same time reminding her that learning how to navigate through this is part of growing up.

She needs to start giving him the tools to help himself with these little one-off incidents, so he can develop his confidence. He’s never seemed as young to me as he has this month; what little self-assurance he had is evaporating, and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

In the meantime, I did what I could do – I gave him a big bowl of cantaloupe and taught him some new knock-knock jokes.

I’ve said it before; this job gets into your head and your heart. Most of the time, that’s lovely. But sometimes, it just hurts.



  1. Aw, poor sweet Arthur. I’m glad he’s back in your care.

  2. Poor little guy. I hope mom does start trying to give him the tools, rather than trying to change the (normal, not bullying) environment. Right now, with the best of kind intentions, she’s undermining his ability to cope. Though we could wish for a gentler playground — I have my own memories of grade school playgrounds, and not all of them are happy — the solution is not to teach your child that he can’t be expected to cope unless the environment changes for him. She can have that conversation with the teachers, certainly. But with her son? He needs messages of confidence and assurance. “It’s hard at first, but I know you can do it!”

    Still. Poor little guy. I wish playgrounds were gentler, too.

  3. Ugh. I think you’re right, but I get that sometimes when you’re the parent it’s hard to see the problem accurately. Angus had a lot of the same qualities – timidity, dislike of rough play – but he was always big, so he had that to insulate him to some extent. You’re right that he needs to be given some coping tools. In the meantime, I’m glad he has you.

  4. This year has thrown my kids for a loop, mostly because they’ve been thrown into an environment where all the other kids have known each other forever, and unlike the city, aren’t as used to new kids. They’re also getting used to the idea of contact sports. The two combined have been…interesting. Knowing how to give the girls the right tools for the situation has been difficult, but mostly I’ve found it’s just supporting them and not letting them see it when my heart breaks.

    It’s good he has you and his mother, because he needs both good sense and hugs, coming from different places at varying times. 🙂

  5. Ah, hell, that poor kid.

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