And so it all unfolds that Oliver has recently wrestled with a relationship in his seven-year-old life. The relationship is with a little girl in his class. You know by now that Oliver dislikes girls and more specifically, their attendant girl-hair at the best of times, but for whatever reason he's taken a particular dislike to this little girl. I could speculate endlessly as to why this might be and the speculating might include observations about how both children were home-schooled last year and so perhaps their social skills aren't yet honed to a razor sharp edge and this type of thing. The simple truth might just be that their personalities are just a bit repelled by one one another's. Who knows? As a grown-up myself, I know that sometimes in life I meet up with people that I just don't like very much. I tell myself - and we tell Oliver - that this is normal. We say things like: you don't have to like her, buddy, but you do have to be kind to her. And things like: treat her the way you would want to be treated yourself.
When he's unkind to her, we take away privileges like going to hockey games with his Daddy and the presence of his beloved Seal Family (see more on this, including photo on the entry dated 12/19/10. O if only I knew how to link things up like the really fancy bloggers all seem to.). As trite and cliche as it sounds, we just keep walking in the dark the way we learned how to in the light. We're hoping at some point in the not-too-distant future he'll see that treating people he doesn't like with respect is the right thing to do. And so we plod on.
In another effort to touch his sometimes gruff little heart, we've required that he do an act of kindness for her each school day. We've told him that he has a lot of trust to rebuild with this little girl and so he makes her heart snowflakes and home-grown borax crystals and bakes her cookies. Slowly, she seems to be warming towards him. The mother called recently, just like in a story from Chicken Soup For the Soul. Rarely do things turn out this beautifully wrapped in real life. The mother wanted to apologize for her little girl's contributions to the breakdown of the relationship and said that her daughter had not been raised to behave in this way. I told her - most emphatically - that she was preaching to the choir and that I, too, had been learning the dignity-defying lesson that our children aren't mere extensions of ourselves, doing exactly and only as we'd like, and that they are whole, albeit mini individuals who make icky choices of their own sometimes, despite what we may wish for them.
It's nice, sometimes, to find out that other parents know how this feels. So the mother and I commiserated a while longer on the phone and I felt powerfully lucky to be having this exchange with someone like her who was humble enough to see that her girl wasn't perfect and who was devoted enough to want to work with me on this to help our respective little people grow up to be beautiful adults. And I've no doubt that they will.