Saturday, January 30, 2010

The boy who cried wolf, or something akin to that

Recently Gabriel has suffered the consequences of being reliably disrespectful or naughty.  Twice now, he has not been believed when he was not responsible for a negative situation, and has been "found guilty" before full evidence could be reviewed.  It makes me sad, but on the other hand, I'm glad that he's learning this now, and not 10 years from now.  Perhaps there is hope that he will discover that he must BE trustworthy in order to be trusted.

Two weeks ago as we played at a park, a crying child was escorted to her parent by another child, and the other child explained to the parent that "the boy in the red shirt pushed her and stepped on her because she wouldn't get out of the way."  The crying child was small, 4ish.  Gabe was wearing a red shirt...he's nearly 7.  I really didn't want to believe that he at nearly 7 he would have the lack of self-control and audacity to push and step on a smaller child over whether that child would move or not.  It surprised me to think that he would even be interested in playing near a child that young.  Nonetheless, at that point, he was the only child in the area that I was aware of that was wearing a red shirt.  I yanked him out of the playground, sat him down next to me and began reading him the riot act, as he angrily tried to correct my understanding of the situation (for which he was then told -angrily- do NOT talk back to me!)  Then I looked over my shoulder to find a 4ish aged boy in a RED shirt pushing and kicking his way through the playground equipment.  I felt so bad for not believing my son.  But based on past behavior, it was not out of the realm of possibility that he would have done such a thing, and I jumped to what seemed a logical conclusion.  Of course I apologized profusely to my son, and all became well again.

But this week, something else has happened, and its just so disappointing, and frustrating.

As I was folding laundry yesterday afternoon, I realized that a shirt in Gabe's laundry did not belong to him.  It was a school uniform shirt, but it was from a store we don't usually shop at, and it was in a size much larger than we have yet purchased for him.  Normally, the only way he would come home from school in a different shirt than he left in would be if he had made a trip to the nurse's office for one reason or another, or had spilled something like paint all over himself.

I decided to assume he'd been to the nurse's office and asked him "how'd you end up in the nurse's office last week?"  He grunted and said "I don't wanna talk about it."
"Why, what happened?"
"I already told enough people."
"What did you already tell enough people"
"How I ended up in the nurses office"
"Will you please tell me?"
"Fine...three girls kicked me and punched me and through wood chips at me so I had to get a clean shirt."
"Why would three girls do that to you?"
"I don't KNOW!~ They just kept yelling YOU SUCK"
"Were you playing something else first?"
"I already talked about it!"
"You're not in trouble right now, I'm just trying to understand how three girls were kicking and punching and throwing wood chips at you."
"That's all I know."
Well.....daddy was more successful at getting information about the event and as it turns out, a game of tag turned nasty and Gabe ended up in the nurses office asking for an ice pack for his eye, his nose (which he did come home with a skinned nose on Wednesday) and his knee, and then got a clean shirt.
No note or phone call came home this week about any of this, (and we KNOW he had been at the nurse's office because that's the only place to get a clean shirt, which means at least ONE adult knew about this, and Gabe claims that at least 4 adults were told) and we were completely unaware of the situation until I did the laundry and found the shirt not belonging to him. What I find frustrating is that Gabe claims that when he told the adults he told, they all asked the girls what happened, the girls lied about it and then walked away with no consequence.  And realistically, it is once again, not out of the realm of possibility that Gabe would have been playing something obnoxious and have stirred up his own trouble and tried to blame it on somebody else.  But the fact that (according to him) the episode was brushed off and the girls who clearly injured him (his nose was skinned, it clearly bled) suffered no consequence, because Gabe's reputation is such that the adult's didn't believe his side of the story, is SO FRUSTRATING!

We know Gabe is not perfect, but his behavior has improved so greatly at school this year that I really had believed he had started to build up some trust.  We believe his side of the story (to the extent to which he told us everything...and we are certain he omitted as much as possible.)  His behavior at home on Wednesday points towards something having happened at school that day.  It had actually crossed my mind Wednesday afternoon to ask whether he had been bullied that day, because he was so unusually sullen and deflated.  But I didn't ask.  And I regret that.

I guess the point is that it makes me sad that my son who is working very hard both at home and at school to prove to those around him that he can and does make good decisions, is still so damaged by his past decisions that its an instant reaction by adults to discount his side of the story.  But like I said earlier, I hope that since he is young this will be corrected soon, and that he will be given a chance as he grows older to show himself FIRST to be trustworthy.  Because he truly is becoming trustworthy.  But I'll admit, it feels like a gigantic leap of faith to extend to him the trust which he was worked so hard to earn.


Kristina P. said...

I think it's such a tough balance. I have to admit, after working with juvenile deliquents for 10 years, I tend not to believe them because so many are such great liars. It's hard to know who's being truthful and who's not, especially given a history with them.

The Wixom Zoo said...

Amen, friend. My daughter suffers from the same prejudice. She's been known in the past to be less than honest and it causes her some pain now.

Juracan Family said...

All I can think of when I read this is...Thank goodness I have a mom who has allowed me to screw up and given me second, third, fourth, etc...chances. We all need a chance to be different and everyone has the ability to change. The fact that you are able to even consider that he truly is trying and has changed his behaviors is HUGE. I find that just knowing that someone believes that I am capable of changing makes all the difference. We all need someone in our corner. And when it's your Mom...that feels even better. No one knows that kid like you do. :-) You are a good mom, Lisa. Thanks for sharing that.