Pk takes semi-private swim lessons. We used to go to group classes at the big pool and we never heard a word and she didn't learn anything. The instructors were 16 and silly and it was a waste of time and money. We stumbled across a private salt-water pool that's 15 minutes from home. The lessons are expensive (hence why we don't do private lessons) but the instructors are really good and with only two kids, no child falls through the cracks.
When we went for our first lesson of this session, there was Pk and another girl. The other girl had come with her father who drove a big, VERY expensive SUV and was the opposite of friendly. For the first lesson, the other girl seemed to do a pretty good job and Pk loved her lesson, as she almost always does. The next week, it was a complete change - this other child, R, screamed and screamed and refused to get into the water. Her father stood back, not doing anything, other than dragging her off to sit in time out when she wouldn't cooperate and wouldn't get into the pool. I will be honest, I was a bit ticked - we were paying a lot of money for the lesson and the instructor was having to spend a lot of time on this kid, meaning that Pk wasn't getting much out of the lesson. It was obvious that the father had money and could afford a private lesson... I considered whether to complain to management about paying for the lesson and not getting attention but decided that I needed to have some compassion for the other kid.
Pk has come home talking about how R had to go to time out (in that tattletale kind of voice, you know the one). She was pretty judgmental of R and talked about how R wouldn't do what the teacher asked. This situation has continued and each week, R cries, Dad does nothing to help and while the instructor tries her best, you KNOW this is a half-hour that she would happily eliminate from her week. I felt for the kid - if Dad is anything to judge by, there isn't much sympathy in the way the child is dealt with and she is obviously bothered by something.
I decided to make this a lesson for Pk. We have talked a lot about how R must be very sad or very scared and that God wants us to take care of people who are hurting. We have talked about what we could do to help R feel better and we had a plan that this week, Pk would go out of her way to make R feel better. I was proud of Pk - she seemed to genuinely want to help and to make "her friend R" feel better.
This afternoon, when I arrived at the pool, an Audi shot by me and almost ran us over. The driver was a woman who looked very annoyed at our existence and she brusquely shepherded her child from the car. It was R. There were no smiles, no affection, no sense of gentleness between them at all. It made me feel for little R.
We got into the dressing room first. Pk started to change and when R came into the room, Pk immediately spoke up. "Hi, R! I'm so glad to see you!" There was no response. The mother just started to get R changed as if Pk was invisible. Again, "R, I hope you want to swim today. We can have so much fun." Again, the child (and mother) ignored Pk as if she were a fly on the wall. I could see that Pk was confused. She wanted to be friendly, she wanted to make a friend and the other child was treating her like dirt. She tried one last time (with me wondering what to do - my heart wanted to smack the woman upside the head and ask her to teach her child some manners and my logical mind knew that there really wasn't much I could do aside from loudly telling Pk that some people just have no manners and to ignore people like that).
Ultimately, I did nothing other that get Pk to the pool and then go and brood about mean people. Pk is very friendly with other kids and, I think, opens herself up to rejection a bit because she doesn't wait to be invited to interact, she just walks up to people and starts talking. She usually gets a pretty warm response - she's cute, she's funny and she has a real zest and enthusiasm that other children seem to like (Pk's sitter says that "it ain't a party until Pk has arrived"). On the other hand, at times, she meets a brick wall and you can see that she is confused and, in some cases, a bit hurt. It is like a knife through me. I hate to see her vulnerable and I hate to see her hurt. It brings out all the "mama bear" in me.
I don't think there is any easy answer, other than that I need to see these as growth situations and that she and I will both have to learn to cope with challenges. As someone told me, you can't protect them from the bumps and the scary things of life, all you can do is to help them get up and dust themselves off and let know that, no matter what, you will love them and have a hug and a word of encouragement. It makes my heart ache, though. I know that we need these lessons to shape us and that without struggle, we can't learn and grow but, frankly, it hurts.
And I wish I could kick those parents!