QUESTION: Our normally tranquil marriage has taken a turn over parenting. We have an incredible 8-year-old son who will be starting third grade this year and has had health challenges with skin cancer over the past year when three small ones appeared on his scalp. Rather than shave the area of the cancers, we just shaved his head and have kept it shaved, which makes it easier to apply prescribed medication.
Our challenge is the kids at school have been making fun of him calling him “Baldy,” and “Little Old Man.” Obviously it’s hurtful, and makes me want to cry when he tells me about it. We’ve spoken to the principal and teachers at his school and they’ve talked to the kids many times, but there are still a few kids who are giving him a bad time. I think the solution is homeschooling and my husband is dead-set against it. He says socialization is important for our son. I say socialization that causes emotional problems isn’t good, either. We both welcome a voice or voices of reason.
~ Parents at Loggerheads
Dear Parents at Loggerheads,
As I read your letter I see you are wrestling with several issues. One is how to communicate well in your marriage so you can find agreement; you mention how tranquil your marriage has been up to now, so I would guess you have been successful in communicating up to now. So that tells me you have a solid foundation to build on. Marriage between two people means that at one time or another you will have an impasse on some issue or decision. I know this from personal experience! So it is important to really dig down deep to see what it is that is fueling this disagreement, in your case home schooling or socialization. I have a special needs daughter so I am familiar with this choice as well; I have discovered as we make choices I have emotions that trace back to my experiences of childhood.
Another issue is you are trying to do the best for your son, who is going through a health crisis. I am grateful that you are both involved as parents and know this is a very difficult path to travel down. I send blessings to your family for healing and strength.
Lastly is coping with those who make fun of and hurt your son because of his appearance, and his mental wellbeing in the midst of the treatment he is receiving.
For everyone who reads this, I would appeal to us all to confront bullying, by educating others and ourselves about the harm that is caused when we call other names or treat each other less than the precious child of God.
So what can you do? I think you are best suited to make that decision so let me just suggest a few ways that can help you make that decision.
First get support and learn from others. I can imagine there are different cancer support groups for parents that are offered in this area. You can ask your doctor or local hospital for ideas of how to contact them. For my family, talking to parents of other special needs children has been a lifesaver for us through the years. They understand us in ways others do not. I am sure there are those who have faced this same decision you have.
Second, try to be clear as possible about what hopes you have for your son, what will help him thrive and grow, face the trials and tribulations of life with courage?
I understand both the impulse to protect my child from all danger, and my hope that she will learn to navigate through all the ups and downs, the name-calling and the praises she hears. There is no perfect way that does all of this without some work and understanding that what they call you is not who you are.
Third, be sure to do what you need to for one another in your marriage. There are ways to build on the strengths and grow closer together; workshops on communication, marriage enrichment programs, and even counseling have helped others. Sometimes it is as simple as finding a way to get away for an evening or an overnight to reconnect. I want for you to grow in your relationship so you can be there for one another no matter what the future holds.
Lastly, you are not alone; many have traveled this road and have wisdom to share. I pray you find the answer you are seeking.
Pastor Steve Marshall
Crescenta Valaley United Methodist Church
Dear Parents at Loggerheads,
I’m very sorry your son has to deal with cancer at such a young age. I hope he has a speedy and full recovery. You are living under circumstances that would shake any relationship. I commend you both for considering all the aspects of this issue and reaching out when you don’t agree.
There is so much to consider here. How does your son feel about home schooling? You note you feel like crying when he talks about the bullying at school but how does he react? Does he cry or seem angry? If he is just letting you know how his day went and is venting, he may be handling the difficult situation well. Does he get called names daily or only once in a while? Does he have some good friends to stick up for him when the unfortunate name-callers show up? What do the teachers and principal recommend? They are able to witness the entire school day and may be able to let you know the extent of the bad behavior. I wonder about the families of the children doing the bullying.
What a shame the children aren’t learning how to be supportive of someone undergoing medical treatments. Often those who bully are or have been subjected to similar behavior. Each child is unique and you both have good points; socializing in difficult situations is part of growing up. And an 8-year-old needs all his emotional energy to fight cancer and all the usual stresses of modern American childhood. Extra stress should be avoided. Perhaps your school can be flexible with scheduling. For example if your son leaving at noon would avoid contact with the bullies they might allow homeschooling for the afternoon.
I wish you the best as you work what’s best for your son. Meanwhile, I hope he is getting other supportive experiences such as attending Relay For Life events. There’s one planned for Glendale on Saturday, Oct. 24 – Sunday, Oct. 25 at Scholl Canyon baseball field.
Hope your tranquility returns soon.
Atheist/Agnostic/Secular humanist/Free thinker
QUESTION: I work in a very busy office and we often have couriers bringing in documents for our transactions. My challenge is a certain courier who wants to stay and chat about everything and anything for extended periods of time. I don’t really have time for idle chats, but I don’t want to be rude. I’ve often found myself in conversations that are too long. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings nor humiliate them, but I just don’t know how to end a conversation easily.
I’m a Christian, and being kind is important to me.
~ Tired of Listening
Dear Tired of Listening,
First of all, thanks for your sensitivity in not wanting to hurt the courier’s feelings. Here is what I would do, and I first heard this as a seminary student: What if a talkative parishioner wants to talk to you every single day? We ministers-to-be were told to be polite the first time and, if the person called back the next day, say gently but firmly, “If you’d like to set up an appointment, please make one with my secretary.”
You obviously can’t tell Chatty Charlie to make an appointment, but the next time he starts flapping his gums, say something like, “Charlie, it’s always good to see you and I enjoy your stories. But I have a ton of work to do, and I need to get to it. Last time you were here I had to stay and work overtime because I didn’t get done everything that was assigned to me, and part of the reason was that I engaged in too much chitchat that had nothing to do with work. So how about one story or five minutes? As I said, I like your stories and I don’t want to be rude … but I really do need to get back to what I have been assigned to do.”
See if that works or some variation on the theme. My guess is that he’ll take the hint and not be so talkative next time. If he doesn’t take the hint, you may have to be a little more direct (i.e., rude!). And I just thought of something: Does he want to date you and he’s hemming and hawing around, trying to get up the courage to ask you out? Wear a bigger wedding ring, and if you’re not married, find a big engagement-looking ring! Then see what happens!
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
Dear Tired of Listening,
Your challenge with the certain courier is an experience that many are experiencing at their work. It may not be a courier who is dropping off documents but co-workers who share the office, or even a telemarketer who catches you over the phone trying to sell you something. It is difficult to end the conversation in a timely and kindly manner, especially when they are not mindful of your time and your work.
I believe it is important to be kind and respectful to others. It is also important to be respectful to your time for you are an employee of the company you are working for. Honesty works the best. Tell the courier that you have to get back to work. Say, “I really need to get back to what I was doing. Let’s catch up next time. I have a deadline.” Or say, “I need to finish up …” It is not mean or rude to say I have work to do. It is rather rude and unkind to take up working hour to chat personal matters for long time and interrupting your work.
If you want to be really kind to the courier, meet with him/her over the lunch hour to hear him/her out. We live in a country where work ethics are no longer important. As a Christian who is in your situation, I think it is also important, if not more, to be respectful for how your work hours are spent.
I encourage you to be bold but kind, and say, “I gotta work” with a warm smile. Sincerity will show from your heart.
Rev. Elaine H. Cho
La Cañada United Methodist Church