Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chicken Pics, Duck Lips, and Kid Tips

The good news: Kamen continues to mend. Under her wing, feathers are sprouting like mad. Even the open wound, where we could see right into her chest cavity, has sealed and looks no worse than a kid's healing skinned knee. She is still skinny, and she limps, and gets the shakes. But she can jump high, and flap her wings, and she enjoys her dust baths... and what more could a chicken ask of life than that?

She follows me. In the morning I set her cage in the garden, and give her reign to forage beneath the guava shrubs. Lately though, rather than scratch for worms or spread out in the sun, she follows me back into the garage, down the hall, into the next room, her feet skidding around on the wood floors. I turn around and she halts, looks up at me, and murmurs softly in her clucky-chatty way. Last night she flew up to the back of the chair, looking over Suki's shoulder, inquiring about the paintings, the weather, winter formal. She enjoys sitting with me, while Maria reads. She settles in, ready for a good story, pictures.

Last night, I asked her to make duck lips with me.
But chickens don't have lips, so all we got was this picture of me looking ridiculous. But, she's still my friend. She doesn't let my silliness hamper our friendship.

So. That's it for chicken pictures, and duck lips, and now I need some tips about seven year old children and their friends. I am stumped. And though I am not sure there is a solution to the issues I am going to raise, I am hoping somebody can give me insight, constructive feedback, a miracle, sympathy, something.

Maria does not want to go to school. This started back in November. She is distressed and fretful. She gets anxious. She chants, and rants: "I don't want to go to school." And the thing is, she likes school. She likes homework, and class time, and yoga in the morning, and hot lunch, and science, and bringing home library books, and her teacher... and, and, and. But she doesn't want to go any more.

So. Geoff and I figured that she's simply picked up on the usual, public school rallying cry against school; a cultural-school rite of passage. But one thing that she did elaborate on has us more concerned: she says, "I can't play with friends, because the children don't want to just play. If someone makes a mistake, and says 'sorry' the other kid say, 'you did it on purpose, and you're not my friend.'"

I will spare you the lengthy descriptions of who is not friends with whom, but Maria goes to great lengths to describe these politics, and to explain that she is trying really hard to bring one outsider girl into the friendship circle, but that the repercussions have been more than she can bear. At least once a day, Maria explains that recess is no fun any more, that she wants to play, but spends all of her time trying to deflect all the he said-she said drama and intrigue.

I know. Playgrounds and first grade relations are volatile, and there is no need to jump in and rescue her. She needs to negotiate and navigate some of this for herself. It's life, right?

Maybe. I have strong views on what we consider "natural" in the world and what we create and foster in our culture. But let me get to the issue I am most concerned about...

This morning, after waking uttering the phrase I don't want to go to school and declaring it again, and again, and again, I said, "Maria, you don't want to go to school. I hear you. Maybe you can let your friends know that you want to play. That you do not want to bicker, and pick sides." And she started crying. In the car, walking onto campus, in front of her classroom. She looked defeated and sad, and desperate. She looked resigned to a really uncomfortable day, life. She said, I can't help _______ any more, because it makes everyone say mean things, and ________ is mad at me if I don't play with her, and everyone else is mad if I do play with her... and then she was crying too much to really be intelligible, but I got the message.

I have experience, and I know that this will quite possibly get worse before it gets better get easier, that people get better at hiding their insecurities and pettiness mature. I can leave this issue to time, teachers, and the toughening rites of passages that forge our little tikes into independent troopers, but she does not want to go to school and I think this is a problem. She is distressed, and distracted. She is feeling disengaged from a place that, by the hours, is like her second home, and at this young and impressionable age, I really, really want to preserve her comfort and love of school, of learning.

What can I do?

How do I maintain Maria's healthy interest in being at school and feeling good about her day? Without being an over worried-meddlesome-hover mother, what can I do to redirect some of the stress, because however minor or "normal" this may appear, I know for Maria the suffering is genuine and significant, and she really wants help. Are there skills, affirmations, vitamins, defensive maneuvers we can offer her?

Friendships are important, and feeling comfortable matters. Even Kamen knows this; rejected in friendship by her zombie paranoid chica family, she has found her way into my friendship circle, and it seems to make her very happy. I mean just look at her happy face, cutting-up with me. She's feeling good, and life is better this way.


Amira Moment said...

I know one friend of Maria's, me!I love her! Give her my love!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Amira, Maria is going to love seeing this message from you. Thank you. You are one of those smart and dear people who appreciate playing and friendship, and it makes me glad to know you.

Alison said...

Ouch. What to do with a problem like Maria's? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

The only advice I can offer is to touch base with Maria's teacher and describe to her/him what you're hearing. If the teacher doesn't have any immediate insights, just ask him/her to be aware and let you know if there is any bullying or utterly abnormal behavior. You might even tell Maria, "I'm going to tell Mrs. Crabapple that you're worried about _______, so she can keep an eye out and you don't have to worry about _______ all by yourself."

I think that was really smart of you to tell Maria outright that you heard her concern. It's too bad she's decided to take this on her shoulders; she must be a very caring, nuturing type.

Kara said...

Duck face. I totally, totally love it. And what a miracle chicken!

When I was little, I sometimes HATED going to school. I would refuse to get out of the car, and I remember my mom telling me: "If you don't get out of this car, I'm going to get the principal, and HE will get you out of this car!" That usually got me out, probably in tears.

The funny thing is, while I remember that, and remember REALLY not wanting to go, I liked school just fine. I liked my teachers, I did well academically, I didn't have major problems with friends, and honestly have no recollection of why I was so freaked out about it. But, man, I did NOT want to go.

Not that that's a solution, just a "me, too." And I like to think I turned out okay. :)

Good luck getting through the rough patch.....

nikkipolani said...

Oh, Natalie -- I'm sorry Maria is so distressed. I haven't any advice or ideas... just hugs.

judy in ky said...

I've never heard of a lap-chicken before, but it sounds like Kamen wants to be one. It sounds like you are her hero for saving her.

I feel bad for Maria. It sounds like something has changed at school. I would want to get to the bottom of it, too. Talking to the teacher might be a place to start; I hope the teacher is sympathetic.

Melody said...

I am new here, having just found your blog through Posie Gets Cozy. I love your chicken-ness; our own little chicky birds are freezing in our NE IL winter. Anywho, your post about your daughter is very touching. Good on you for talking to her about it, and not minimizing her tears by saying, as parents did many years ago, "Toughen up. Don't annoy the Queen Bees. Fit in." but I did not deal with it well when that happened here. When that happened here...I pulled my kids out of school and homeschooled them. They grew up firm in their convictions of right and wrong. They don't always have confidence in themselves, as they sometimes see themselves as "too different" from being homeschooled. But I knew they weren't afraid of school and that they were learning what they needed to learn in a supportive environment. Probably not much help, but another perspective.

CarrieMarie said...

a little late to the comment party on maria's problem, and i'm sure whatever solutions you come/came up with will be the right ones.

i like the comment about going to the teacher & letting maria know that the burden of playground politics isn't all on her shoulders. also, something i tell my nieces & nephews which may or may not be helpful in this situation...

you can't always control things that happen to/around you, but you CAN control your reaction to those things. sometimes the right thing is hard to do, but makes you feel much better than choosing the wrong one.

good luck, natalie!

oh, and also, my first volunteering opportunity for FIRST was AWESOME! : )

Doodiepansts said...

I put up a whole gallery of girls with huge over done duck lips. Too much Collagen.....really sad. But shockingly hillarious. http://doodiepants.com/2012/03/03/collagen-lip-injections-duck-face-botox/