Jacob, like pretty much any other public-school kindergartener I’ve ever heard of, has had a few bumps and potholes along the road, as he acclimates to his new routine. The periodic skinned knee (or face) from a little too much velocity on the sidewalk, a tendency to get distracted when he’s in a crowd of 20 kids on the floor for story time, a habit of forgetting to collect all of his papers and shoes and little-boy detritus before heading home. None of it is particularly problematic or even noteworthy; just the side effects of a brain struggling to make the leap from being home with Mom seven days a week to being out of the house eight hours a day, five days a week.
And, of course, there’s the occasional interpersonal conflict. Jacob is not an instigator; he has always been my Zen guy, able to go with the flow and adjust to the whims of others without much protest. If anything, he errs on the side of following along too much, with a true responsiveness to the moods and acts of others. This is lovely when it means he is sensitive and caring about another’s well-being, and somewhat less so when it means he gets wrapped up in a pushy-shovey sort of thing over who gets the window seat on the bus.
It’s all part of his process of figuring out who he is and how he relates to others. We’re encouraging him to think for himself and to remember that someone else’s bad behavior does not erase the standards for his own behavior. And when that doesn’t work, we’re encouraging him to learn how to apologize.
So, it was without a tremendous amount of surprise when he came home, a while ago, and announced, “I accidentally hit Jared on the bus. Because he hit me first.” (“Accidentally” being Jacob’s code word for, “I know I shouldn’t have, but I did.”) I decided that, since the incident was minimal enough that I didn’t hear a word about it from the bus driver, Jared’s mom, or anyone else over four feet tall, I would just let them work it out between themselves.
Sure enough, the next day, Jacob got off the bus with a smile, and informed me, “I sat with Jared again today. We’re friends now. We wrote it out.” At school, if two students get into any sort of verbal or physical altercation, the teachers have them draw or write about the event and share their efforts before the kids talk about it. I asked if a grown-up had made them “write it out” this time, and he said no, they had just decided to use the crayons and paper that they had in their backpacks and do it on the bus.
So, without any adult intervention, they resolved their issues and are, once again, fast friends. Lovely. Out of curiosity, I asked Jacob if he had the letter Jared wrote him, and it turns out that somehow Jacob ended up with both letters.
Jacob’s was first:
Perhaps not quite the self-referential expression of responsibility that school authorities would prefer, but obviously it worked fine for the boys. (And, just to be clear, Jacob’s “you better be sorry” is, as he explained to me, meant in the sense that saying sorry is the right thing to do because Jared started it; not in a more threatening, “or else” sort of style.)
If only grownups could communicate so successfully.