Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Like Melons

     Not too long ago, Gabriel was having trouble with a kid at school (whom I shall refer to as Johnny.)  Johnny was repeatedly saying mean things to Gabe so that Gabe would feel bad in front of his peers.  For a few days, Gabe didn't mention it to me.  This wasn't the first time he's had trouble with this kid, and he probably suspected I would say what I always say, "If he's not being nice to you, then just ignore him and walk away."
     Finally, though, he'd had enough.  The kids and I were at Panera eating.  Gabe opened the conversation.
     "'s happening again."
     I could tell by the tone of his voice exactly what and whom he was talking about.
     "Have you asked your teacher for help?" I asked him.
     "No, and I don't want to," he said.  "Johnny only does it when we're all hanging out.  He doesn't like it when I get attention.  If I tell, my friends will know I'm a tattle-tail.  I really want to handle it myself, but I don't know how."
     "Have you tried to talk to him when you're getting along instead of when you're mad at him?"  I asked.
     "No," Gabe admitted.  "I could try that I guess."
     "I have an idea!" Taylor interjected.
     "What?" Gabe asked, willing to consider all possibilities.
     "Say something mean to me," Taylor instructed Gabe to role-play.
     "Taylor, you smell!  I wish you would brush your teeth!" Gabe dramatized.
     Taylor smiled with content, as though what Gabe had just said delighted her.  Then she breathed a deep sigh of relief and fondly declared, "Ahhhh...I like melons!"
     The table fell quiet.  Taylor continued to smile.  My mind raced to catch up with hers.  I shot Gabe a raised-eyebrow look of confusion.  He reciprocated the lack of understanding.  Taylor started to giggle.  That's when we got it: Taylor diverted our mean focus by thinking happy thoughts.
     The whole dynamic of our conversation changed.  Heavy became light-hearted, and we all laughed until our bellies hurt.  Her tactic was genius, and we all knew it.
     Gabe looked forward to the next run-in with Johnny.  He couldn't wait to use his little sister's off-the-wall strategy to see if it worked.  But something unexpected happened: Johnny didn't do it again.  Maybe it was coincidental.  Or maybe Gabe returned to school that day with a renewed sense of confidence.  Maybe he appeared stronger to Johnny, and Johnny chose not to mess with him.
     If it does happen again, Gabriel is armed with a tactic that will make him smile instead of frown.  Even if the diversion doesn't work, we'll have something relatable to talk about over dinner.  A dinner in which we will welcome the advice of his little sisters.  Because they see the world differently through their innocent little eyes.  And when I listen close enough, even I am able shed my jaded lens.

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