I check in with Grady every night as we're doing his bedtime routine. We talk about his day. What he did at school. Who he played with. What he ate. What he'd like to eat tomorrow. It's mostly small-talk but I want him to be in the habit of talking to me so when he's faced with bigger stuff down the line he'll know I'm always ready to listen.
Last week he was giving me the rundown of his day (liked the cheese sandwich in his lunchbox, did not like the crackers I gave him for recess, read a couple books at school, tooted about 20 times,) and he told me that a kid on the playground told him he couldn't play with him.
I saw red.
Grady wasn't even upset, he was just relaying the information like all the other tidbits he'd already delivered. I kept my cool in front of him but after he was asleep, I was livid. I was crafting emails to the teacher in my head. I was ranting on Twitter. I was full on mama bear.
And then I took a breath. I decided that if Grady wasn't upset, I wasn't upset. I'd keep an eye on the situation and continue to check in with Grady, but I wouldn't make it a thing.
And it wasn't a thing. It was one random comment from one random kid on the playground.
Yesterday I dropped Grady off at school. He lined up with his class. He waved to a couple friends. And then a classmate said good morning to him. Grady looked him straight in the eye and said, "you're not my buddy."
My heart sunk but the bell rang and the kids filed into the school before I could do anything.
I stewed all day. I asked friends for help. I asked Twitter for book recommendations on friendship and kindness. I carefully thought out what I would say to Grady and how I would approach the situation. He doesn't have to be friends with every kid at school but he does have to be kind. I'm not interested in forcing him to be friends with anyone he doesn't want to be friends with but I will drill kindness into him every day until I die.
Last night I casually asked why he had told that boy he wasn't his buddy. I was expecting tears and defensive stories about rude behaviour (the biggest transgression you can make in Grady's eyes). Grady nonchalantly answered, "because I don't know his name."
The kid isn't Grady's buddy because Grady doesn't know his name. There was no malice in his comment, just pure 5-year-old logic.
Our conversation turned out to be completely different than the one I was expecting to have with him. Which is a good thing. Keeps me on my toes. (And reminds me to stop jumping to conclusions.)
And now Grady knows how to introduce himself to kids he doesn't know. And I now know that I need to take a step back from schoolyard politics before I get an ulcer.