Upsetting conversation

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Malika, Jun 7, 2011.

  1. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member


    Feeling somewhat upset and uncertain just now after a difficult conversation with my immediate neighbours - who have never been as outwardly warm and welcoming as the other people in my village. To make a long story short, the relationship is made difficult because of contention over parking space and the very bad (non-existent) soundproofing which means that we hear all that goes on in our respective houses - and these are people who do not talk but shout and scream... But that isn't the issue here. During a rather fraught conversation that I had today with the man of the couple about the fact that he never leaves space for me to park, he said all sorts of things about J - that "everyone" in the village complains about him (I know that this is an exaggeration but still...), that I am not educating him, that I don't monitor him, that he has heard all these stories about terrible things he has done at school. What stories? Why have the teacher and assistants never told me about this if it is true?? He said I make excuses for him because he is hyperactive but that he has a hyperactive nephew and his parents make sure he behaves... This is the nature of villages. And this village is no exception - people talk all the time and a lot of it is misinformation, idle gossip that has got twisted... A lot of the things I have heard are complete nonsense!
    I am of course taking this with something of a pinch of salt but it still hits home. And fears and hesitations and doubts arise...
    The main one of these questions is whether I have done the right thing in taking J away from Morocco and his family there, and my ex-husband. I feel he really does need a father, a male influence - is there something in this notion that he is "going off the rails" because I am not strong enough to contain him or simply because a woman alone cannot do that? When we were married, my ex-husband often behaved dreadfully and was a terrible example for any child. He seems to have changed somewhat - for many months now he talks to me in a civilised, respectful way, seems concerned and loving about J. He has little or no understanding about hyperactivity but has said J needs a father.
    I feel disturbed by all this. I know J behaves in ways in public that I don't like, that are not acceptable (he has kicked my neighbour's car when he told him off, for example) and that he is just wilder than French kids who are highly disciplined and well behaved. The French think English kids are very badly brought up, for example, because we generally allow them much more leeway and are more casual in our approach. So we were kind of onto a losing ticket from the beginning... Also I have had a lot of trouble keeping him near the house - the top of the village where we live is safe in that there are no cars that come here and other children do roam around to some extent playing (but they are more well behaved) and he has got used to the run of the place. He is so difficult to keep in - like a teenager wanting to run off and do his own thing. And he is only four! But he is so self-confident in this way, so independent...
    He really is seen as a difficult child by people at large... Those who know him better see all his sweet, affectionate, endearing side but generally he is already experiencing a lot of rejection. I do not want this to continue for him. I don't want him to become an excluded outsider because of his behaviour. Does he need a father? What to do for the best??
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2011
  2. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    You are analyzing so many levels of concern that I gather the conversation was not the trigger for you rethinking your choice. Does your son visit with his Dad and family? What type of ongoing contact do they have? That's the first question that popped in my mind.

    I'm sure not qualified to offer any advice. In the past I have known a few (and I do mean a few) couples who were able to share custody for the benefit of the children in a positive way. in my humble opinion that can have huge benefits for the children...but...I know I wasn't able to make that happen. Parenting methods and ideas vary even in married couples.

    Does your son get along normally at school? Does he get along with the other children in the neighborhood? If he is experiencing rejection and his impulsivity is significant perhaps you should move on to trying medication. I remember how difficult a choice that is. If he has plenty of time outside and being active and still "darts" it could be dangerous. My youngest daughter (GFGmom) would take off frequently even after dark. That, too, I remember vividly as it caused so much fear.

    You certainly seem to be caring and loving Mom. I'm sure your choice will be the best you can make and I wish you the very best. DDD
  3. rejectedmom

    rejectedmom New Member

    I think your neighbor attacked you to put you off the issue at hand. Next time just calmly say "I came over here to ask you if you would kindly leave me a space to park. My son and his upbringing and difficulties are not up for discussion at this time. If you have a specific complaint, such as my son destroyed your property, I will hear your complaint but if you are repeating gossip and conjecture I will have none of it."

    My other concern is possibly one of cultural differences but quite honestly I would never let a 4 year old to run the neighborhood unsupervised. I especially would not leave a 4 year old with ADHD out and about unsupervised. I know how hard this is because I have been in your shoes with my difficult child. However I did not give in to him and the difficulty of keeping him supervised at all times. He did "escape" on a few occassions and it led to no good. I ended up installing an alarm so I could go to the bathroom without him seizing the moment to run out the door.

    If you cannot supervise him by yourself (and I admit it can be exhausting), I suggest you hire an older child who is responsible and caring to shadow him while he is out playing and report back to you any bad behaviors. These behaviors should be met with consistent consequences.

    If you are going to raise this child, either with or without help and support, you have a responsibility to teach him appropriate behaviors for the culture in which he resides. Otherwise he will never be treated well and that will be devastating for him. -RM
  4. april1974

    april1974 New Member

    I think your neighbor was WAY out of line...I like the broken record technique...don't let him sidetrack the have a parking space that is yours and he is infringing, keep going back to that topic...your son is none of his business...and I would keep saying "the reason I am talking to you is because xxxxx"

    As for the father scenario, I don't believe in keeping kids from their dads unless they are in danger(molesting/violence/substance abuse) otherwise I think all parents have a right to see their kids even if they aren't "good" parents. There are things a son learns from their dad, and if not their dad then another male role model is important jmho and definately not your neighbor! Why do people have to be so judgemental?????
  5. ThreeShadows

    ThreeShadows Quid me anxia?

    Malika, is this an ancient village in which the same families have lived for generations?
  6. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    3S: Yes, you hit the nail on the head! It is one of those "ancient villages" with generations of people being born and dying here and I have begun to realise that however outwardly friendly people are, we will never "belong", never truly be from here...
    Rejectedmom: I feel you too have hit the nail on the head. The issue in the village IS that I have let J go out by himself for short periods, unsupervised. It's difficult to explain the set up - it's like a little protected maze, alleyways without cars and a church with a village green where the few other children around sometimes play unsupervised. I have fallen into a false sense of complacency because J is always SO insistent about going off like this (as a friend said today, who has a easy child child who when younger behaved very much like a difficult child, other people would not understand how a 4 year old could be so insistent and hard to contain but she does...). Also when I was a child I played out like this (in a quiet residential neighbourhood) from a young age and it doesn't "shock" me. But I think J is annoying people when he is out by himself, maybe doing silly or even dangerous things and unfortunately I just cannot let him by himself any more. I think you make a good and fair point that he needs to adapt to the cultural norms here - perhaps another reason why Morocco would be a more fitted environment for him. We are soon to go to Morocco for the summer, where J will spend a good amount of time with my ex-husband and his family. But I don't know that holiday visits are enough...
    DDD: thanks for your supportive words. Yes, the medication decision is a REALLY tough one. We are not there yet - he is only four and here in Europe it's really rare for kids under 6 to be medicated for ADHD. No-one has suggested it yet. If I felt it would make a big difference to J's social/school life, of course I would consider it... Makes me sad though to contemplate it, if that makes sense! I am sure many people here understand that dilemma.
  7. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    First of all, ((((((((((hugs)))))))))). Words of criticism about our children always hurt far more than criticism about ourselves. As moms we wrap so much of our selves into our mothering that those words cut like the sharpest of daggers. Men derive the majority of their self definition from their jobs, while mothers derive it from our children.

    Your son will NOT grow up to be a twisted, out of control monster simply because you are a single parent and there is no father in the regular picture right now. It simply won't happen. you could blame his problems on your being a single working mom, but it won't be reality. Yes, a male role model is a good thing to have when raising a child. Boys do need strong, healthy male role models, but fathers are not always that for them. It sounds like when you and your ex are some distance from each other you can treat each other with some amount of respect. But proximity does NOT increase this in many divorced or never married couples as they work to co-parent a child. You may find that there is a gentleman in the village, the father of a friend of your son's, a friend or significant other of your own, an older man who could be an adopted grandpa to him, or a mentor to help him with that male influence. in my opinion age four is a bit young to think that his problems are because there is no father in the daily picture.

    Before you get all upset about what this man says and thinks, consider the source. Is this a man who lives the kind of life you want your son to have? Does he have healthy, loving relationships with his family - those that live in the home and the extended family also?

    Your son is four. Exactly what education is he supposed to have at that age? In the US we do have pre-kindergarten classes but this is in response to having the majority of the homes with all adults working full time jobs. Daycare is expensive and many who couldn't afford it had kids in settings that were unsafe or were barely supervised, like older siblings home to care for them in the summers. Some states require all children to start kindergarten by age 6, others require school to start in first grade at age 6 or 7. The US also has a growing number of people who choose to educate their children at home instead of sending them to schools. Each state has rules about this and has lots of parents who feel it is far better than sending them to underfunded schools.

    As the mom of a child who has problems, you will have to develop a tough skin because there will always be those who think his problems are because you are doing it wrong. The "it" will vary from person to person and they will each see a different set of ways you should handle it. We call it wearing your rhino skin armor - to keep all those verbal darts and jabs from making you bleed emotionally.

    Your son is not going to do what other kids do at the age they do it at. He will be way ahead in some things and way behind in others. Kids iwth adhd and other problems are often much younger emotionally than they are in years - about 30% younger is usually right. so what he will do at age 6 is what other kids will do around age 4. They just take longer to develop in some areas. Expecting him to do what all the kids his age are doing is setting him up for huge failure. Not to say he cannot be challenged, but that his needs and problems will mean he takes longer to reach many things, esp social ones.

    I am not sure a 4yo should be out running around with-o an adult. In your yard probably but only for a few minutes. As for running to other peoples houses or community areas, well, most 4 year olds are just not old enough to handle that responsibility. They need constant superivision when out among the community simply because they are so impulsive and unable to understand all the dangers of what they are doing. It may be that you need to make some new rules so that he can go and play but you are there to watch him. This iwll protect you both from accusations that he did this or that or messed up the other etc and will also keep him from being bullied or gotten to do something that is wrong because another child told him it was okay to do it.

    I do not know what is expected of kids in France. But i sure would NOT take the word of some gossipy, inconsiderate neighbor as far as what is right and wrong iwth my child. I would look at what we are doing and evaluate it to see if it is working for my child in the area we live in and then adjust what you think needs to be adjusted.

    Many people choose to believe that adhd and other things our kids deal with are not real, or are excuses or are because we did not do something or other right with them. Until they have a difficult child of their own to raise they simply will not be able to comprehend your reality.

    So when this guy starts harping on you to get away from comments on his own inconsiderate behavior (like taking your parking place or blocking you in), see his words as him woofing to prove his dominance (he isn't, but he thinks he should be for some imaginary reason in his tiny brain) and to distract you from your polite and reasonable request that he be a polite, reasonable and considerate neighbor. If you REALLY want to confuse him, next time you bake cookies or something, have difficult child take him some with a great big smile and have difficult child tell him to have a wonderful day. As my Daddy always says, "Love thy neighbor. Drives 'em nuts." Seriously - he raised us on that phrase.

    If that doesn't work, put some dog poo right by his car door so he has to step in or around it to get in. (not really, but imagine it in your head and giggle).
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Malika, you've gotten some great responses here, and I concur ... it's an ancient village and things will not change with-the neighbors next door. Plus, he seems so disagreeable and judgmental, I wouldn't want to be friends with-him anyway. Keep the topic to parking with-him.
    Having said that, is there a small, safe area where your difficult child is likely to wander off by himself, where you can go on ahead and meet the people, knock on their doors, and tell them he is out on his own and to get back with-you with-their observations? People love to be included in plans and simple responsibilities, and you're giving them "permission" to talk about your child in a supervised way. It will also show them that you are concerned about him.
    My son was always out on his own and I was constantly going door-to-door to look for him. I have no idea if the neighbors thought I was stupid, that I had no control, that I was incompetent or what, but it was clear that I was concerned because I was always looking for him. He was always one step ahead of me. I mean, I couldn't even use the bathroom with-o having him get into something or get out of the house. (I even had a babysitter at one point, while I was at home, and neither one of us knew where he was! I fired her. But that's another story.)
    None of us here doubts that you are a loving mother and doing your best. Don't let a cranky neighbor put doubts in your mind. We see a different side of you. We have a very protective online village of our own here. ;)
  9. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hey, guys, some really supportive comments - thank you :) Yes, "disagreeable and judgemental" about sums my neighbour up. He is also something of a bully...
    The universe has a sense of humour sometimes. When I picked J up froms school, I told the assistant what had happened and asked her whether things were going on at school that I didn't know about. She seemed surprised: "No, no," she said. "J has fitted in really well, he's a part of our school community, he's made good progress," etc. So far, so good. She also went on to say that village gossip, especially in this region, is in her experience idle and nasty. As we were talking, however, there was an incident and another little boy began crying, his tooth bleeding. I didn't see what happened but seems J and he had been playing, J had pushed the other boy too roughly and he had fallen against a table. Luckily, the tooth was okay. Just then another parent came to collect his child, who went up to him excitedly saying "J has hurt M! He pushed him on the table! There's blood!" You can just imagine the juicy bit of gossip that might emerge out of THAT...
    I know it seems surprising and strange that J runs around by himself. It's hard to explain, as I say - while in some ways I am sure he is "behind" developmentally, in other ways he is ahead. He just seems so streetwise and smart, and does have some sense of danger and things he should and should not do. But I must be realistic; he IS just four and it IS better that I stay with him. Maybe (if we stay here!!) he will be old enough and trustworthy enough to go out by himself like this in a year or so. It's his initiative I should point out - sounds like you really understand, Terry! - because if he were not so insistent on his "independence", I would not let him go out like this...
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2011
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    To be honest, if the village people have that sort of ugly mindset, I would be tempted to move to a friendlier place.

    I was laughing when you wrote about how the French are intolerant of "rowdy" British children. They should see American children...lolol.

    Is there any chance you can move to a more tolerant place? Maybe live near his father so he can visit more often?
  11. keista

    keista New Member

    This statement REALLY reminded me of my son when he was even younger. So I do get what you are saying. You know your child best. "Concerned" neighbors always gave me their 2 cents, but once I explained my logic and observations, they did back off - good neighbors.

    Ex. We had a HUGE front yard, and I would let him play in the yard, and I would sit on the porch and watch him. He would walk to the very edge where the grass met the street, but NEVER in the street. The first few times, that I got up to go get him, he's look at me and act as if he was going to go in the street, but when I didn't move, he didn't move, and then he would just continue his walk on the edge. Yes, there was always the concern of a car coming by erratically and coming on the lawn, but that's still a valid concern even if you're playing in the middle of the lawn - can't live your life totally paranoid. If I let him be, he stayed within HIS predetermined boundaries which were fine by me. The other thing was the bycicle. It was upside down, and he spent HOURS truning the pedal and watching the tire spin, and gently using his hands fingers to stop it. He was remarkably cautious for a 3 1/2 y/o NEVER hurt himself doing it. Told the neighbor expressing concern about that that if I ever had to go to the ER about it, I would more than graciously accept a slice of 'humble pie' when I got back. Still don't know what the pie tastes like :)

    by the way these events happened before he had any diagnosis and before I even thought there was even the slightest thing "wrong" with him.
  12. Ktllc

    Ktllc New Member

    The French siciety is very "close" and full of invisible but very real walls. The code of behavior is highly regulated and complicated. No one will teach it to you but doors will certainly close if you don't follow it. On top of it, you live in a small village! I think you understand your situation very good: you will always be the outsider. It is something you have to think about and either accept it or move on. I know it is harsh, but I would not advise fighting against windmills... Your plate is full enough as it is. You really mention 3 issues: adhd, village life and a father for your son. Maybe, it would help to prioritize them (you might want to add money). Try to list them seperatly and then link them. To give you an example of what I mean: we don't really like where we live right now but that is where we make our livelyhood. Moving is simply not an option for us right now. And whatever you come up with, don't let one idiot neighbor influence you. Look at the whole picture (the good and the bad).
  13. ThreeShadows

    ThreeShadows Quid me anxia?

    Those ancient villages have alleys that are too small for the passage of cars, since they were built in the days of horses and carts. It is not at all unusual to see little children play outside without an adult. I used to disappear for hours and only resurface when my grand-maman would shout "lunch!". There are still adult eyes in this house or that.

    We got the same type of comments when we lived in small town Maine. The head of the small school which the boys attended told us that "everyone in town knew about 3s's sons' wild behavior". We didn't take them out much as we lived on 5 acres and they spent most of their Summer time naked, up a tree, building things. I don't know how that rumor got started. husband always said that the town natives reminded him of the type of people who stayed back in Europe and never ventured out to find a better life. They need to be in their comfort zone.

    You have shifted their comfort zone (I think), you are British, une étrangère, and have a North African son. I was always surprised by the attitude of the French toward "les English". They were angrier at them than at the Germans who devastated their country! It's as if they never forgave Lord Nelson for winning at Trafalgar.
  14. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    First off, what does a parking space have to do with your kid? Nada. He got defensive and threw at you what he knew would push your buttons and throw you off-track.
    Secondly, just because an entire village says something is so doesn't mean it's not a village full of idiots. Especially when they don't breed much with outsiders to get some fresh water in the gene pool.
  15. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

  16. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all your comments and insights. I know what you mean about the French towards the English, 3S! In fact, I think in this case that it isn't really that - or a priori the fact that J is Moroccan or (even!) the fact that I am on my own. The villagers are largely open and welcoming - on the surface, it doesn't go very deep, but that is typical of French society in that they are not as open to "outsiders" as some other cultures. And when we first came here they were genuinely welcoming, also of J. Everyone gossips here. I think people have doubtless been disapproving and judgemental of some of J's behaviour because it is so outside their cultural norms - he talks to adults as if they are children of his age, for example, which makes some people laugh as they think it is sweet - and others, I am sure, critical and bemused. So I am sure there are judgements flying around. What is slightly different about my neighbours is that they are not well-intentioned towards me/us, for reasons of their own (they had the space up here all to themselves for years and then we moved in) and I am pretty sure, they are stirring up gossip against J, going here and there spreading bits of half-truth, exaggerations, etc. What really struck me in the conversation with the man yesterday was that his total assumption was that I have to do what they want, fit in with them, but they are not to make any compromises or moves towards me... because they are "from here" (in fact only he is) and I am not, being the unspoken premise, presumably. When I said that the noise they make is very disturbing and they make no effort to contain it, he said "So you should just move".... ! As I said, destiny had it that we were put next to people who are basically boorish, who have little manners or education themselves (sounds snooty, I mean a deeper kind of education than comes from going to college) - most other people here are much more gracious and polite. And it does make our existence here say the least. I just don't want to "run away" though... set up some pattern for J that when things get difficult we move. I'd like to see through one more year here if possible!!
    Various themes were mixed up in my original post - the thing about fathers was to do with my continuing uncertainty about whether a father's influence and authority would make a difference to J. I myself of course do not like or "approve of" the way he sometimes speaks to people, which is aggressive and rude - albeit in a kind of cute way. But I think before too long it is going to stop being so cute... Of course I tell him it is not appropriate but it doesn't seem to make any difference. Sometimes he just does not listen to me - I ask him to do something or not to do something and he ignores me. Usuallly he will listen if I find some alternative method, some "Explosive Child" negotiating strategy, etc, but who is able to do that ALL the time? These things do concern me. It's what make people look at J and think he is a bad lot - and he totally isn't. He's got a lot of empathy, a tender heart, is very affectionate and sensitive - but it is all underneath this unappealing behaviour he sometimes displays...
    Maybe I'm just describing what people call ADHD and ODD... maybe all of this comes from funny things going on in his brain that we can't see or analyse... But since I am on my own, I am bound to wonder whether he would be "better" if he had a male influence more constantly in his life. Trouble is the male influence he does have is my ex-husband, who seems to have changed for the better but is still far from a mature, wise soul... We must deal with things as they are, of course, and not how I would like them to be.
    It ain't easy, is it?!
  17. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    He's four. That's normal. Wait til 14 when he listens even less.

    As for talking to adults like they're his age, I don't get how kids talk to other kids differently than they talk to adults. Do you specifically mean things like "Sir" "Ma'am" and titles instead of first names? That's the only real difference I can think of, but outside of teachers and the like I knew most adults in my life by first name.
  18. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    I know, HaoZi - but the extraodinary thing is that here it is NOT normal. Here children are expected to obey when their parents ask/tell them to do something.
    About the speaking to adults as if they were children, it's not to do with names but a tone of voice, a way of speaking. Usually when kids speak to adults there is a certain difference in their tone of voice, that might be called respect, for want of a better word J doesn't talk like that - he might go up to an adult, for example, and saying something like "Hey, what are you doing?" Other children here would not speak like that. Also in French there are two ways of saying "you" - tu and vous. Tu being the intimate form used for children, animals (!), your nearest and dearest and close friends... Children would always use "vous" to adults outside the family circle but J hasn't even cottoned on to this difference. None of this fazes me very much - but if it continued like that, in a few years' time it would faze people here...
    Just for the record, I talked this morning to the other classroom assistant from J's school, who lives in the village. She was very nice and sympathetic and repeated what the other assistant had said - J is turbulent and noisy but he never hits other children on purpose, is good in class and very affectionate. "He's a nice boy," she said. And also that they have had boys in the past more turbulent than he... She also said that her own family were on chilly terms with my neighbours because of their unreasonable behaviour. The guy is a bully behaving like the lord of the manor... Another opportunity for practising the assertiveness that I sometimes find difficult!!
  19. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Guess I should add that now husband and I are "certified old people" we truthfully are less tolerant of loud noises and children who are nearby too long. :sigh: Since we've raised eight kids you would think we would be used to it but....peace and quiet has become more valuable. Doesn't sound nice, I know, but it is just a fact of life (or at least our life). NO we don't confront anyone but we look forward to the peace and quiet returning asap. DDD
  20. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Yes, 3D, silence is golden... :) Not that I want to involve you in my neighbour dispute but with the shouting-screaming couple next door, I'm afraid peace is not to be had even among the adults sometimes....