It was another beautiful Spring day and I was driving my daughter to preschool. She was singing along with me in the car and although we were no Divas, we knew we didn't sing that badly. I knew the screeching and crying wasn't my daughter, and she knew at least today, that it wasn't me. So what in the world was making that racket?
We had just pulled up to school and there in the parking lot was my girlfriend Lisa and her son Brahms. Yes, I did say Brahms, for privacy purposes, his name was not really Brahms, but it was similar. It was a name that screamed, yes I am somewhat eccentric, elite, and very special. She thought that giving him an interesting and relatively obscure name would not only set him apart, but would also communicate to the world how wonderful, and special he was.
Unfortunately, Brahms picked up on that sentiment right away and he knew that no matter what he did, his mom would be his champion, fan...do I dare say adoring, totally obsessed, and overly dotting stalker even?
Lisa was a great mom, loved both her children and did everything possible to make them feel loved. She also had two great kids, who my kids really enjoyed spending time with for the most part. However, there was one thing that that Brahms and his Brother (let's call him Napoleon) did that was a problem...they threw tantrums every time they didn't get their own way. They were extremely smart boys who knew how to play their mom like a violin.
So what was that horrible loud noise coming from the preschool parking lot that beautiful morning...it was Brahms. Lisa was with Brahms outside on the preschool playground. She was crouched down with her arms around him as he screamed and cried that he didn't want to go to school. He was yelling that he hated school, that everyone was mean to him and he wanted to go home. Lisa was beside herself.
After walking in the front door and dropping off my daughter, I came back to the playground and asked Lisa what was wrong. She proceeded to tell me, in front of a crying Brahms that something must be wrong in that class. All the boys are mean to Brahms and every morning he cries that he does not want to go to school. I thought that was strange, since I had often helped out in the classroom and Brahms looked very happy. He had lots of friends, participated in circle and seemed to really enjoy the day. In fact, he spent a lot of time playing with my daughter as well.
The only time Brahms wasn't happy was when his teacher told him that he would have to wait for something, share with someone, or take turns. As long as he was able to do his own thing, march to his own drummer and get his own way, he was happy as could be. However, add a sprinkle of discipline and out came the water works.
I suggested that I walk Brahms in and that she go and talk to the teacher. Surprisingly, as soon as I took his hand and told him were heading to his classroom to meet his friends, the crying stopped and he skipped along with me into the building. Lisa, then proceeded to the school's office and asked to speak with his teacher.
Later that day, I asked Lisa if she had spoken to his teacher about the issues. She said that she did. She told the teacher that Brahms was very unhappy going to school and that she wanted to know who was being mean to her son. When the teacher seemed stunned and couldn't provide the list of 3-year-old hooligans, Lisa ran to get her son and brought him to the office. She then asked Brahms. "Brahms, who is being mean to you?" He started to list the names, Billy, Parker, Clayton and Ronnie. Hmm, said his teacher, that's really terrible and I feel sad that those boys were mean to you, but Mrs. Charter, none of those boys are in Brahm's class or even in our school. Lisa was speechless how could her perfect little angel have made up such stories? There must be a Billy and Clayton somewhere in school. I looked at Lisa and said, "Lisa, I love you, but you are being played my friend."
Lisa was stunned, and looked at me like I was crazy. I told her that Brahms was a wonderful boy, and very smart. He sees how she reacts to his every whim, his every need, and never questions anything he says to her. I told her that I've been in the classroom and just as his teacher has told her in conferences, time and time again, Brahms wants what Brahms wants and giving in to every one of his wishes is not helping him. I pointed out that every time Brahms was upset about something, she would immediately coddle him, ask her baby what was wrong and how she could make him happy. He's got it now, as any smart child would and he knows, that if he cries loud enough, makes up enough stories to push her buttons, she will ride to the rescue, even if it's not warranted.
The truth was that Brahms, didn't hate school, he loved it. His friends weren't mean to him, but sometimes they wanted to use the red race car too, or wanted a turn deciding what to build that day. Lisa was trying her best to be a great mom, but by giving in to everything her son asked for, by blindly believing every story he told, was not only not helping him, it was hindering his social development.
It wasn't long before my daughter stopped asking to have Brahms over for playdates. "He was just too bossy," said my daughter. And Brahms wasn't begging to play with her either, since the last time they got together, she told him he can't cry about getting a blue lollipop. "Don't you know, you get what you get and you don't get upset." Unfortunately, Brahms didn't know that saying, because his mom would never set any boundaries and she didn't teach Brahms to respect the boundaries set in school either. She never gave him the gift of being told no. The gift of helping him to learn how to bend, be flexible and get along with others when things might not go his way.
I ran into Lisa a few months after the big confrontation, in the classroom. She was helping out, and Brahms was staring into the bowl of cereal she brought him for lunch. "I don't want to eat this", Brahms yelled. "Why Brahms", Lisa sweetly asked as she rubbed his head and kissed his forehead. Brahms answered, "because this cereal has blue bugs in it."
I knew, this was going to be it. Brahms was finally going to learn that he had to stop throwing tantrums. He had to stop making up stories. Lisa wasn't going to crumble in front of the teacher or the other parents helping out.
Lisa stood up, looked at the teacher and asked, "Do you happen to have the number for the pizza place?"
Some things will never change.