Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble

Remember that movie, with John Travolta? He has to be protected at all times, so he's in a plastic bubble. A strange movie, but I always think about it metaphorically for child-rearing issues.

My son, Max, is the timid type, very sensitive. I try not to overindulge it and strategize and role play with him about how to get through scary situations and conflicts and all of that. But I also don't force him into everything with that old pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps attitude (well, maybe sometimes).

So when my Urban Mamas group started blogging about true-mom confessionals, I was bothered when the original poster said that she lets some conflicts between her son and others "play themselves out".

All right, I understand that children need to learn to problem-solve, and I also know that I won't always be there for Max. Here is the issue, though. Max is meek. He quietly accepts mistreatment from other children, and rarely tattles.

Letting a conflict with Max play itself out means he just swallows the abuse, and is heartbroken later, at home. And I don't think that's appropriate. Another child's right to express his aggression impacts my child's right to feel safe.

Perhaps it's easy to forget how different children are from one another. Certain children thrive in dealing with the ups and downs of peer situations. Other children are shy, or have lived through traumas, or have been abused, and may not respond readily to these types of challenges.

After days of wrestling with these issues, I chose to write about it because I worry about the children who stay silent through painful situations. Max, this one's for you!

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