Not sure when I became the kind of blogger that only writes when I have something specific to say. Remember the good old days when I just blogged all the time about every random thing that caught my attention? I have a daily microblog thing going on on Instagram. You know what I have found? It’s the photos. I LOVE photos. They tell stories. So when I write here, I can knock out a post in a few hours, but then I have to take or choose photos… which can literally take me days (I wrote this 2 weeks ago). I have drafts, full articles, that have never been published because I just never got to finding the right photos. So yes, Instagram kind of forces me to select a photo from the day (there is at least one photo every day since Charly was born), and then share a bit about the day that was. Oh, yes… back to the topic! Do you remember how bad it was to be called a tattletale? I do. It causes that internal flinch in a goodytwoshoes like myself. From bullies on the playground to grown ups – teachers, parents, aunts and uncles; being called a tattletale was about the worst thing you could be called.
For those who may not be familiar with the term tattletale, it is when a child “tells on” or reports rule breaking or bad behaviour to somebody in charge. You might recognise the adult versions of “snitch”, “rat”, “nark”, “canary”, or one of the endless variations. The words themselves strongly suggest that this is a bad thing; but look again at the definition – a child who reports bad behaviour to somebody in charge.
In a world where stats in South Africa alone say 1 in 3 children is abused. When South African children as young as 10 commit suicide out of desperation. Where bullying leads to suicide or murder or permanent anxiety and depression. HOW can raising a tattletale be a BAD thing?? See something, say something, they say…
Of course we need to teach children not to tell untrue stories. As parents we need to teach our children to stand up for what they believe in, but also to not turn everything into gossip. They need to learn to work with other people and not have us swoop in and take over. BUT! I won’t ever punish my child for being a tattletale.
Children shouldn’t be taught to keep secrets from the grown ups they trust to protect them. They certainly shouldn’t be belittled and chastised for being a tattletale when it comes to another child – or adult – pushing them around or making them feel afraid or unsafe.
Bullies and abusers and tired or lazy adults are always going to say things to get children to not “run to mommy for every little thing”. In today’s world, in this world we are living in, I want my child to run to me with every little thing. I am exhausted and busy and grumpy, but I recognise a tone in Charly’s voice when she has something important to say and I stop whatever I am doing and I listen.
And I am THAT mom. I WILL phone the school or another parent or anybody else to find out what the other side of the story is. I will not let things lie, or let my daughter believe for one second that she doesn’t have the full mommy army at her disposal. I will “tattletale” on your kid if they are being a bully. And heaven help your soul if I find out my child has been abused in any way by any person. I will go full blown viral-mommy-blogger-tribe public on anybody who threatens my child’s safety or tries to hide something that endangers other children or people.
To be clear, I’m not stupid. I KNOW kids can make up stories or exaggerate things in one way or another. I also know that children go through stages, generally right around the age that Charly is now, where they are prone to “telling stories”. My child is terrifyingly smart and she is creative in ways that would blindside many. But she’s MY child. In her elaborate stories, there is always a kernel of truth. I talk to her and ask her genuinely interested questions until I get to that truth.
I am teaching my child right from wrong. I’m also teaching her wrong from stupid. And while I still want her to tell me if somebody is doing something stupid around her, she doesn’t need to tell anybody else until we have talked about it.
The trigger for this post, was Charly telling Brett that one of her school friends told her and their little group that his daddy had been shot dead by a bad guy. This was on a Monday, after she had been particularly clingy all weekend and hadn’t said anything about why. We were naturally a little worried, that poor child had lost his daddy and he was back at school? He was obviously struggling to process it. What about the kids he was telling? Surely they would need some kind of therapy to talk them through the emotions it brings up? I phoned the school immediately, relayed the story to the secretary and asked her to get the teacher to contact me so we could talk about the situation.
The teacher called me and said last week she had spoken to the class about how playing guns or “shooting” at people was not allowed. This conversation had come up because Charly had gone to the teacher visibly upset and said there was a group of boys that were chasing her and her friends around the playground “shooting” at them. It seems like it was after this talk that the little boy had told the other kids that his daddy had been shot dead by bad guys.
(To clear it up, though it is unrelated to the story – The teacher immediately followed up with the parents, as there was no indication anything had happened. It was just a story. How a 4 year old came up with that story is another conversation all together. This was the week of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in America, so he might have overheard conversations around that. Or he may have heard something on the news or his parents might have lost someone they knew or he may have seen Batman or Spiderman or any of the dozens of movies or series his family may have been watching. It doesn’t make him a bad kid, it makes him a kid trying to process something he doesn’t understand.)
Charly’s teacher said that Charly is very pro-rules and will tell other children and even adults if they are breaking those rules. I adore that teacher, we clicked within a few minutes of meeting when Charly started at the school and I have been happily waiting to “be in” her class. She is a mommy to a little girl as well. There was a moment when she mentioned the pro-rules thing, where I instantly felt defensive, where I waited for the “tattletale” tag to be added. I have no idea if she thought it or would actually have said it, but I jumped into defensiveness and very proudly declared that I was so relieved to hear she trusted her enough to go to her and not keep things secret in the current climate. She absolutely agreed at that point.
My girl is a tattletale in the very best sense of the word. I am so freaking proud that she went to the teacher when she was feeling afraid and uncomfortable in a situation. If every little girl and boy was taught to be a tattletale, to not only overtly remove themselves from situations that made them feel uncomfortable, but to TELL someone about it… If we, as adults, listened to our children, to the underlying fears and concerns, instead of writing it off as “telling tales”… Maybe we wouldn’t be living in a world where child abuse, school shootings and #MeToo were terms that even children recognise.
Do you think I am overreaching?
Sending you all the love xxx