I broke quarantine (with my Dr’s blessing) to go see S’s football game at school today. I knew there wouldn’t be too many parents and I could get away with not kissing any mothers or children.
I slept late and woke up at 8.20 am and was in the car at 8.45 am. J came with me because she wanted to cheer S on. I arrived on time and as suspected there weren’t that many parents (but more fathers than I expected).
I looked around the school stadium. State of the art equipment, olympic size pool (I have no idea what size that would be but the pool is big) a great space for students. I though ALhamdullilah, my son is lucky to have access to these facilities, to be able to use them to learn about competition, fair play and team work.
All the classes file in with their team T-shirts on. The team names are all based on honorable characteristics such as ‘Poise’ and ‘Courage’ and S’s team ‘Respect Others’. Not the catchiest name but it’s the though that counts. They all lined up in front of where we were sitting and once assembled sang the national anthem. Very few people stand up when it is sung! I always stand up, and in a big crowd a few others do. Don’t know why that is. We were always made to stand up when it was sung at school. But I digress.
All around the stadium there were big banners with slogans on it that were, frankly, confusing. On one side of the basket ball net the banner said “Losers Quit When They Are Tired, Winner Quit When They Win” and on the other side of the net one that said “Playing Not Winning Counts” So, wait a minute, are they supposed to win or just play?
Anyway. The students are seated in the bleachers on the opposite side of the court from where we, the parents, are. Each game was about 10-15 minutes long starting from 4th grade down to 2nd grade so S didn’t start for an hour yet (meaning I could have had another hour sleep but what ever, who’s counting).
J did well sitting through the games and spent the time waving at her brother and pointing out other kids she knew from his grade. She also went through all the contents of my bag then re arranged the straps (they were the kind that unclipped) about 10 times. I was just trying to stay focused and not yawn too loudly.
Finally at around 10.20 am it was S’s turn to play. My heart actually started racing, I couldn’t believe how excited I got about all this. It didn’t really matter if he won or lost but he loves football so much I was just excited to see him play.
Throughout the game S did a lot of running. Blocked a few passes, and a lot of shouting to his teammates to pass him the ball. S’s team goalie blocked a shot but the next one slipped past him. They had a few good tries to get a goal themselves but it just didn’t happen. Tough. I felt a little sad for his team but I was sure they would bounce back. Play harder next year.
The teams all came down from the bleachers again and sat in groups on the floor in the middle of the stadium. The process was not tidy and organized but hardly anything is at the school anyway. So in the middle of all this chaos one of S’s class mates ran up to me and said “S is crying on his own behind the bleachers come” I said “Is he hurt?” he said “no, he is sad we lost” So I said “Go tell him its O.K. and inshallah you’ll do better next time”.
Then a member of the faculty (who I never really understood what role he played because he would be the one calling me from school sometimes and say something like S and so and so had a fight. I would ask if S is hurt. He would say no. So I would say DEAL WITH IT! kids will fight, you are supposed to be able to resolve conflict) came up to the bleachers where we were sitting and said “Um S (S’s mother), Come quickly, S is crying on his own!” I said “He’ll be fine, tell him he has to come sit with his friends and get the medal”.
The teacher walked back to S and kept waving at me to come. Then his homeroom teacher went to where S was. Then another man in a thob who God knows what he does at the school joined the group all checking on S. And still, the annoying teacher kept waving at me.
Then the mothers (all but one who totally got what I was doing) started saying “Go to him!” and “He’s probably worried about how you will react because he lost” and “You should go and see what’s wrong” and they all looked at me like I was horrible.
What was I doing you ask? Here is what was going through my head. I know my son, he HATES to loose. He knows that sometimes when he cries he gets things because it works in certain places, one of those places is school. Boys are mean, if I get up and go and comfort him in front of all the 2nd 3rd and 4th grade he will be the “baby” of the school. He is not hurt. And most importantly I EXPECTED ONE OF THE FACULTY AROUND HIM TO TELL HIM TO SUCK IT UP, SIT DOWN WITH THE REST OF HIS CLASS AND GET HIS MEDAL! I expected the coach to give him a little pep talk. I expected them to calm him down because that is what they should be doing. Not crowding around him and waving to his mother to come running and help him.
Only the mother sitting beside me got what I was trying to do but she agreed that once the headmaster got involved there was nothing left for me to do besides go and talk to him. My heart was breaking that he was upset but my blood was boiling that not one single member of the staff was able to diffuse the situation and it turned into this big thing. As I got up even J gave me a little push and said “Mama go to him”. I felt bad. But I still believe it shouldn’t have gotten this far! What happens when he has a meltdown and I am not there? (obviously they call me!) and “Mama” is not going to be there to solve his problems and resolves his conflicts throughout his school years.
He was in bits, he was in full blown, catch your breath, runny nose, streaming tears break down. I told him I understood that he was upset but the way he was reacting was unacceptable. He said he was angry because no one passed him the ball and if they had then he would have scored a goal and they would have won. I again, calmly told him that if he had issues with his team mates he should go talk to the team captain or the coach and that this was not an appropriate or acceptable way to act. That he is not hurt and there is no reason to cry. I told him to go sit with his team NOW and to apologize to them and congratulate the winners.
During all this J was convincing me that she could get him one of the cups if she asked the teacher or maybe a gold medal. She didn’t understand why I kept saying no to this brilliant idea of hers. It was so sweet though how concerned she was for him! It just made me feel lousier.
He sat down with his team mates looking miserable, got up to get his medal, looking miserable, then sat down and took his medal off and threw it on the floor beside him, caught my eye and immediately put it on again.
J asked if she could go sit beside him, I didn’t see why not. The teachers didn’t have any control on what was happening any way so why should I care if J goes and sits with his class. The whole time she sat beside him and talk to him and held his medal for him.
When all the classes got up to leave one of the teachers handed J a gold medal. She went up to S and hung it around his neck. Then S thought better of it and gave it back to J. As the classes walked out I pulled him aside and gave him an ear full. The other mothers looked at me like I was a monster BUT I WANT TO RAISE MY CHILD TO BE AN ADULT NOT TO STAY A CHILD!
I feel HORRIBLE that he cried so much and all I wanted to do was hug him and sit him on my lap and go out and buy him a bigger cup that made the school cups look puny and pathetic. Then I might as well play the next game for him just for good measure. Do his homework for him (why not) I can even enroll in what ever college course he wants to major in just to lend a helping hand then marry him off to someone who will take over for me.
J wanted to go with S to get his school bag and as they walked back to the car I saw that he was carrying a plastic bag in one hand. J climbed in the car and buckled into her car seat. S followed and said “I feel much better, J really cheered me up” He gave her a hug and said thank you. My heart melted at how close they are and how sweet it was that she took such good care of her big brother.
J asked “What’s in the bag” so S brought out something wrapped in newspaper. I looked back at them smiling, waiting to see what it was. S seemed hesitant, in hind site, to unwrap the item but I would have NEVER imagined what was in that paper. When he did unwrap it he immediately said “The teacher gave it to me!!! I didn’t ask for it!! He just said for me to take it home!!”
HE GAVE HIM A CUP!!! HE GAVE HIM A DAMN CUP!!! I was livid! At the teacher not at S because the look on S’s face was enough for me to know that he knew how wrong this was. Calmly, as calmly as I could through clenched teeth, I asked him what he thought of this. He said he knew he didn’t deserve it. I reminded him of the cups we saw at the sports store. I asked him how he would feel if I go out and buy him the biggest cup there. He said it would mean nothing. I told him the cup would not come into the house. That tomorrow he will give it back to the teacher and tell him he can’t accept it. and if the teacher insisted he will tell him my mother and father would flip if I brought this home.
Now the rest of the day we had many conversations about this. I calmed down, and listened to all he wanted to tell me. I told him what I thought about it all. I gave him some ideas for solutions to get through the problems he is facing with his team mates and other class mates. I explained that what he was feeling was not wrong, it is how he reacted that was wrong.
A few points, he was all the way across the stadium (where all the teachers were) when he started crying. There was no discreet way for me to go to him and I wanted him to save face in front of his class mates. S is a great boy, but like all children he sees weaknesses and knows how to exploit them, that comes with being the first grandchild and a very charming boy. When I went to speak to him he pulled himself together and only started crying again when his coach came up beside him. Before that he was pushing his teammates away.
I have gone over and over what happened and I keep thinking should I have gotten up, walked across the stadium, through his class, in front of the parent and teachers to stop him crying? Was it too harsh? I felt the situation going out of control but there were at least 8 members of staff there beside him and not a single one could control the situation! And inside me I feared exactly what happened in the end. S cried S gets what he wants. Is this really a tactic I want him to rely on?
So what do you think? what would you have done?