Will you sit by me?

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Sad boy I did my time yesterday. Lunch duty. I was in the hall with about 150 kids and trays and trays of fish and chips.

After pouring 100 glasses of water (half-full, so the little ones don't spill) I looked out upon the sea of children. The floor was slightly damp from the rain and the greasy smell of chips permeated the air. Groups of friends were talking. The buzz loud, but comforting. I saw my youngest (nearly 5!) with rosy cheeks, laughing with her "boy" friend. She was surrounded by a table of other 4 and 5 year-olds. She looked happy.

My eyes wandered a couple tables over and stopped on a boy with dirty blond hair and big blue eyes. He was the only one on the table. I didn't recognise him but I guessed he was probably about six. I looked closer and could see tears the size of raindrops forming in the corner of his eyes. These were not the "he hit me" kind of tears, but much deeper. Sadder. His eyes pleaded. Got wider. I went right over.

What's wrong darling?

He said something in a low voice, but the hall was loud and I couldn't quite make it out. Seeing my blank look, he whispered again and this time the words nearly knocked me over.

Will you sit by me?

My heart sank. Even though I didn't know this child I wanted to scoop him up. Hug him. Give him my daughter's smile. Of course you can't do that at school, there are strict rules. I looked across the table, two boys were contemplating sitting down. They were deep in conversation no doubt discussing their how lucky they were to get a big fat piece of chocolate cake with whipped cream for pudding. I knew one of the boys, he lives across he road..

James — would you sit here? And I turned my head toward the little boy.

James looked at me. He didn't say anything but I could tell he didn't want to. James is a nice boy. Surely he'll have a heart and sit by this poor chap.

James?  I nodded again with my head.

The two boys, avoiding my eyes, hesitated and then sat down at another table.

So I sat down for a few seconds and asked what class he was in. I couldn't quite place his accent. Then I had to get up and pour more water, clear the trays and sort the silverware.

Children can be so mean.

Photo credit: swiss roli

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59 Comments

  1. 07/03/2010 / 02:51

    This is one of the reasons why every day I ask my son (he’s 5 in Kindergarten) “who did you play with today?” If I notice one child from his class not being mentioned for a few days then I make it very clear to him that I expect him to play with that child the next day.
    We’re fortunate that despite him sometimes being impuslive and over-friendly, his classmates think he’s lots of fun and view him as a bit of a leader. Even though he often hates school, he loves the social side of it. I don’t think he’s too young to learn that with social acceptance and popularity comes a responsibility to “share the love.”
    My heart just broke reading this post. I remember those days of sitting alone at the table. He’s too young to be experiencing that! One thing I like about my son’s school is that the class sits together in assigned seats at lunch and there’s always a teacher or parent volunteer at the table with them.

  2. 15/02/2010 / 21:27

    I am still crying reading that, you could be talking about my son. He is 6 and is becoming a loner, and it breaks our hearts. He is a funny, caring little boy with a massive heart, however he also has ADHD and mild aspergers which makes social interaction difficult for him. His ADHD is the inattentive and impulsive kind, not hyperactive which everyone associates with ADHD so he doesnt climb bookcases or curtains, the aspergers is very mild, but he cant sit next to you, has to touch clothes or hair, although this is getting better. he wants to have friends but simply doesnt know how, he plays then gets over excited and hurts someone. The other kids have realised this and tell him to go and kick someone for them and he just goes and does it, but then he gets blamed. Thankfully the teachers were the ones who realised this, but the other kids dont tell their parents this, so the parents think he is just a little s.o.d, we have also been called in about underlying bullying, other kids have been heard saying lets go and get Isaac into trouble, lets say isaac did it, andhe gets blamed for things when he is not even in the room. This school year he was invited to 1 party and I stayed and ended up in tears, all the boys were charging round chasing and 2 crashed into each other, 5 mins later Isaac crashed into one of these boys, and the other boy was crying Isaac hurt me, but it was no different. He says he does PE on his own mat so he doesnt have to wait his turn, he sometimes eats lunch on his own table so he can concentrate on it more, when the other kids are doing something in the school hall he is allowed to play on the computer to keep him occupied, he is never going to learn to interact like this. Sorry I have gone off on one there, your post has broken my heart in 2, as my own little man is segregated and the other kids dont want to play with him, and you feel so helpless to know what to do,

  3. 01/02/2010 / 11:17

    My daughter came home in floods of tears last week and said she was never going back to school again because they had ‘all’ been so horrible and nasty to her. She does tend to be dramatic, but clearly she had been told she couldn’t sit with her ‘friends’ at lunch, and had later been excluded from a game of ‘tag’. As usually happens, everything was fine and dandy again the next day, but I felt her pain (and more) that night, and the idea of that little boy sitting on his own is just painfully sad. Hope he makes friends soon. Kids can be absolutely foul to eachother, but usually they have short memories and move on.Hope so in his case, too.

  4. 01/02/2010 / 09:17

    Poor little boy – absolutely heartbreaking. But some great ideas with Linda’s bench and the sunshine friends. Gawd, I am SO glad I am not still at school ….

  5. 31/01/2010 / 18:31

    Really sad story. Did you manage to speak to James to find out what the problem was – subtly of course? Seems quite odd too. But honestly, almost heart-breaking.

  6. 30/01/2010 / 21:44

    ohh my heart bleeds for that little lad. I pray he finds a nice friend.

  7. 30/01/2010 / 20:07

    At my eldest boys’ school, they have set tables that mix the years i.e. groups of 8 that rotate during the term. It does seem to work well. I’ll never forget the day eldest came home and said he didn’t have anyone to play with at break-time. It was all I could do to not hide in the bushes the next day and blast the boys who had left him out. But that would be childish. x

  8. 29/01/2010 / 18:31

    Was wondering what I’d have done. Hopefully the teacher will be aware of it, but you can’t exactly force children to integrate and be friendly, any more than you can force adults. Poor little guy. We have a friendship bench too, but I’ve always worried that someone might sit on it and not get scooped up by someone.

  9. 29/01/2010 / 18:29

    Gosh, that is a tear jerker :o(

  10. 29/01/2010 / 15:49

    There is a system where older children are assigned to look after the younger ones … but this is more for the playground and not the hall. I have lunch duty again in a couple so will report back…

  11. 29/01/2010 / 14:56

    I can only agree with the others , how terribly sad.
    Does the teachers not do anything about it? I know at the school my daughters will go to and that my niece already attends will assign “buddies” (normally older kids) if a child is alone both at lunch times and play times.

  12. 29/01/2010 / 13:06

    A really sad story. I’ve just started helping in school every other week and have been hoping not to see something similar that will pull at my heart strings and make me worry about Son. The school that my siblings and I went to was right at the end of our garden and my mum spent every lunchtime for 6 years watching my eldest brother standing alone in the playground… how she bore it I don’t know.

  13. 29/01/2010 / 09:58

    This is very sad. We have a buddy system at our school, the p6’s are buddies with nursery children so that when they are p1’s they basically have someone in the top year keeping an eye out for them. I love the idea that the youngest children of the school have a connection with the eldest and I guess the hope is that the eldest are expected to set a good example too. Good for all I think.

  14. Sarah Walters
    29/01/2010 / 08:20

    THis is so sad – tears in my eyes too. Adults can be mean too – so let’s help these children before they become resentful and learn how lovely a true friendship can be.
    After 36 years of ‘longing’ for a true friend – I’ve found one – and boy have I missed out. Making up for it now….she’s the best!!!
    xxx

  15. 29/01/2010 / 06:37

    Sorry for making everyone so sad! Next post will be a happy one.

  16. 29/01/2010 / 03:04

    I have found (having older and younger kids and being a mum for eons) that getting the kids together works wonders. They suddenly realise the qualities in each other and – Bwala – a friendship!

  17. 28/01/2010 / 23:25

    I actually cried reading that. Poor baby.
    šŸ™

  18. 28/01/2010 / 22:57

    Just sad sad sad! I like the bench idea and any child who sits on it must be very strong or very sad. I hope his parents know and that his sadness and alienation isn’t starting from home.
    I’ll wonder about this boy all day now.
    Good on you for trying to help.

  19. 28/01/2010 / 22:39

    That’s heartbreaking, poor little thing šŸ™

  20. 28/01/2010 / 20:48

    That made me so sad. The poor poor thing. Children are so cruel sometimes. I really hope this little man finds some friends x

  21. 28/01/2010 / 19:26

    Sunshine friends is another really good idea… thanks!

  22. 28/01/2010 / 16:44

    Oh, that’s so sad. The friendship bench is a great idea. Ella’s school have designated ‘sunshine friends’ who will come and play with you at break times if you stand in a certain place. They rotate the sunshine friends and it fosters a really friendly, inclusive ethic in the school.

  23. 28/01/2010 / 15:48

    oops, bench, obviously, not bend. Sorry.

  24. 28/01/2010 / 15:47

    That is heartbreaking and horrifying. I do like the friendship bend idea a lot. I also realize that this is one reason in my school growing up, each class had to sit together in the cafeteria, and many teachers insisted on alphabetical order seating at the table (a bad idea, since virtually no one sat with a friend that way). But still. I don’t know how you didn’t cry.

  25. 28/01/2010 / 15:45

    That’s awful…poor little lad. I wonder if his parents know what’s going on? Think the friendship bench idea is great.

  26. 28/01/2010 / 15:06

    There are some mean children, but also some lovely ones too, as you discovered in that little boy. Sometimes they just want love from a friend. Unfortunately, some children don’t know what it is.
    CJ xx

  27. 28/01/2010 / 14:56

    Iota — am going to sugest that today
    Maria — It’s hard for the teachers … 30 children …

  28. 28/01/2010 / 14:40

    That’s so sad! It’s terrible that something like this happens, shouldn’t teachers make sure children are not emarginated even during lunch hours?

  29. 28/01/2010 / 14:16

    That’s so sad. I think the friendship bench is a good idea.

  30. 28/01/2010 / 14:01

    Linda — there is one the playground — which is seldom used — but not in the hall. That is an EXCELLENT idea and I’ll suggest it.

  31. 28/01/2010 / 13:58

    Do you have a friendship bench or anything like that? they have one at my daughters’ school and anyone feeling a bit lonely can sit on it and someone has to come and sit next to them and help, very simple but apparently it can help. It is heartbreaking but also unfathomable to me, it comes from what children are taught at home and consideration can be bottom of the list unfortunately. I don’t know if you can “teach” emotional intelligence but I sometimes wish we could try! I know a few mums I would start with. xx

  32. 28/01/2010 / 13:48

    Mwa — meaner I’d say, because they should be aware of their actions.
    Lisa — My next post will be happy, I promise!

  33. 28/01/2010 / 13:48

    Poor little one. He is much too young to have to be so alone.

  34. 28/01/2010 / 13:45

    I too now have those little tears rolling down my cheeks after reading that. I’m so pleased that the twins will always have each other when they reach school age.

  35. 28/01/2010 / 13:38

    That’s so sad.
    Adults can be just as mean, though.

  36. 28/01/2010 / 11:59

    Ouch. No that is just so sad. I could never ever work in a school; I’d be too busy trying to help all the waifs and strays

  37. 28/01/2010 / 11:44

    Kids. can’t stop worrying about any of the ones that we come into contact with can we!

  38. 28/01/2010 / 11:34

    I think you hit the nail on the head. We all know what it is like, and want to protect our children from the hurt. Damn these cliques!

  39. 28/01/2010 / 11:29

    That made me cry. This was what I feared for Maxi as he started school. Not the work, the meeting other childre, going to the loo. No it was the lunch hall, the getting the food and water, carrying it to the table and the social cliques.
    I never fitted in, I do not conform. I didnt mind, but I didnt want this for my boy. I want him to be happy. This was my greatest fear. So this made me cry

  40. 28/01/2010 / 11:11

    oh that is so so sad! Makes me scared for when BB goes to school in 3 years time!!! Poor little boy, bless him.

  41. 28/01/2010 / 10:43

    That’s so bloody awful. How did you manage not to cry, too?

  42. 28/01/2010 / 10:12

    Poor thing, I feel so bad for him.

  43. 28/01/2010 / 10:03

    My heart goes out out out to that little boy. Is he able, I wonder, to go home and tell his parents about it? Lucky me that my son told me (after days of ‘what’s wrong, you can tell me)so I was able to work with him. Shame the strict rules in school mean you couldn’t give that boy a hug, but going over to him was a symbolic hug and great that you did alert the other boys even if they ignored you. Are there mentors in the school? At my son’s there are, and together with his teacher at the time, did a great job of pulling my son out of his isolation. Although awful at the time, the experience has helped not only him, but also the other children involved.
    Thank you for what you did and for this, yes heartbreaking, but also important post.

  44. 28/01/2010 / 10:02

    Blimey, that’s just made me cry. How awful.

  45. 28/01/2010 / 09:57

    So sorry, Susanna. I can understand your feelings and also the kid’s. From my experience as a mother (and as a child as well) I know very well how mean children can be, how much they distain “anormality” and how much they can hurt their peers. It’s up to us, THE adults, to teach them that there’s nothing wrong in being different and someone else being different. Both my children went through a phase in which being half-Italian was not that good and I bet they sat on their own more than once. But they are stronger now and proud of what they are and being part of the “crowd” (although they are now) is not that important anymore, because they can function on their own as well. Hope that little kid will get over this soon and be considered part of the school community. Great of you for trying to help. Ciao. A.

  46. 28/01/2010 / 09:31

    That brought a lump to my throat, so sad.

  47. 28/01/2010 / 09:12

    that really is heart breaking, My son goes to a tiny school but even there he went through a phase where two boys (his supposed friends) kept excluding him and making him sit on his own. It quickly got nipped in the bud, but during that time, it broke my heart seeing how sad he was. And I wanted to throttle the other boys.
    Poor kid

  48. 28/01/2010 / 08:51

    Oh bless him. I hope he finds his place too. It is only when you have been the outsider that you really understand how miserable it is not to be included. But children, when they do get included are so keen to do whatever it takes not to be excluded that they will often forget that lesson. So hard for the little lad. Quite bought tears to my eyes just thinking about him.

  49. 28/01/2010 / 08:13

    Liz — me too! I spoke with his teacher and she was very much aware of the situation.

  50. 28/01/2010 / 08:02

    Bless his heart, that is so sad. Even at that age children are making decisions about who to isolate from the pack. I hope he gets to feel more included soon.

  51. 28/01/2010 / 07:34

    Urban — he is too young to feel that isolation. It’s a hard one with your own kids. I usually say something like “how would you feel if you had no one to talk to”. Problem is they come back with some sort of sarky remark.

  52. 28/01/2010 / 07:29

    I’m sure it is not intentional. I least I hope it is not. Whatever the reason, I don’t like it though. Fine if you are in the “in” crowd — but what if you are not?

  53. 28/01/2010 / 07:27

    oh break my heart! makes me so sad to think ANYONE is feeling lonely, especially a child…that’s too early to feel alone and like you have no one.
    reminds me that if i ever find my kids are the perpetrators, they will be in…trouble. i think that is my biggest no-no for them, making people feel sad, alone, outcasted, etc. and if they are the lonely ones, well, then i’l cry too. the young should not know that feeling!

  54. 28/01/2010 / 07:18

    Thats sad. Children really are mean, you’re right. I keep seeing that with the interactions my daughter describes. She’s 12 now, and more capable of telling people the 12yo equivalent of FO but it still shocks me at how blatantly mean kids are. At what point do we become polite, I wonder? Is it intrinsic in some and other just have to learn? Is is after one too many times of someone being mean to us that we learn? I don’t know. Poor little chap.