Another parent blogger recently wrote about how local parents have ostracised her child from the neighbourhood peer group. He’s a victim, she thinks, of “the parenting wars”; these parents blame his any tiny incidents of less than perfect behaviour on the fact that she’s too “permissive.” Actually, she’s an “attachment” parent, and while it is true there are few things more irritating to other parents than one parent’s parenting evangelism, I’ve no reason to assume she’s a pain about it in person. Above all I doubt her child is especially badly-behaved because of it. Unless he has special needs of some kind, I doubt he’s especially badly behaved at all.
And I know how much exclusion hurts. It hurts us as parents, especially if we feel indirectly responsible. It hurts the kids so much that they’ll pretend as quickly as they can it never happened. Until now, any neighbourhood exclusion experienced by my son has been more about social snobbery with an undercurrent of racism rather than my parenting style, though that may partly be a reflection of my own sensitivities. In practice, he gets along fine, in every environment, so far as I’m aware. No one at school or elsewhere has voiced any complaints, on the contrary.
At least I don’t think so, but now I’m starting to get worried.
On Saturday, I was upset all day, downcast, introverted; short-tempered and critical with him. “Why are you in such a bad mood?” he asked around lunchtime, and so I told him. I’m heartbroken, because other parents from his class have taken their children out of our afterschool violin practice group. There were only the four of them in it, including him, so it’s now effectively defunct. And it was my pride and joy, the best thing I’d done with my life, just about, since giving birth.
It ran weekly for half a term, following a circular email I’d composed and sent to every member of my son’s music class – about 12 – in February, after the teacher suggested we practice at home together. This was quite a brave shot in the dark, given our school’s very mixed intake, and I kept my expectations low. But three parents responded with enthusiasm and to my absolute delight, our little group was born.
I don’t know why I care so much. My son doesn’t need the extra practice, I get on his case enough anyway, though he loved doing it this way, which was always reason enough to continue. He’s the sociable only child of socially isolated parents, so any excuse for a bunch of classmates round for tea is a good one. There’s the clue, perhaps, to my grief. A socially isolated parent, I was doing this quite labour-intensive thing for me. I loved feeling useful, feeling engaged, playing, if you like, at being a teacher and giving other people’s kids, as much as my own, a fruitful, enjoyable time. It didn’t always run smoothly, not every time, not last time; but it ran, mostly, pretty well. The kids seemed to love it.
But after this term’s first and only session, the parents have decided their kids don’t want it anymore, at least not with us. There may be school-gate politics at work here, it may be that one alpha-mum is leading the flock away from this definitively non-alpha who presumed on her lowly status by initiating an ambitious sub-group. I don’t know exactly what, either nominally or essentially, I or my kid have done wrong, I can only speculate blindly, flailing uselessly and terminally around the truth. But I do hurt; much more than my son, who does not doubt his popularity. He also practices well anyway, so I really shouldn’t care. But I do. I do; I’m desolate!