** Updated 8 Apr 2013: Dandelion App was selected by Apple as one of the 'Best of 2012 iTunes'
** Updated 18 Jul 2012: Dandelion App will now be available in Asia iTunes store from mid-August
When Rockstar was about 3, I made a mistake that has been a lesson til this day. It was the first time he attended an older child's birthday party - a.k.a. the first time I did.
Most of the kids, except a few babies, were significantly older/ bigger - and rowdy. As always on outings, we'd attended sans helper. Eyeing with some nervousness all the bigger kids just flying about at full volume, I was escorting Rockstar about as he gingerly navigated the bouncing castle when I realized there weren't any other mums doing that at this party - they were all busy chatting amongst themselves (either having older kids who could take care of themselves or having delegated to helpers.)
Because I wanted to be accepted by a bunch of mummies I would decide I never wanted to see again anyway, I let it get to me when some of them, seated elegantly and untroubled by such things as little kiddie fights, started saying things like, "You're going to follow him around like that?" and "Let your boy be a big boy." (It's easier to say calmly when your child is either one of the older/ larger ones, or you've brought your helper to do the heavy-lifting a.k.a. parenting while you discuss exclusive international school entrance interviews.)
I let Rockstar navigate the jungle alone. You have no idea how much I regret it - these were women whose opinion shouldn't have counted to me. And yet as they sat there passing judgments they had no business passing over my parenting, in that instant I let it affect my own choices.
Through the throng, Rockstar was delivered to me, bawling each time, by the mums (I suppose when there was trouble the helpers ran to call them) of the rowdiest and significantly biggest children twice, and it never clicked - they would look me in the eye nonchalantly and shrug "Don't know why he's crying." A.k.a. Problem Is Your Child, Not Mine - and btw has anyone noticed that say, in Cantonese the way of describing a child who cries a lot is that the child is "naughty?" I mean we all know that a child who cries isn't necessarily naughty, yet the response is still to say "Aiya, yai-yai ah..." That's Cantonese for "naughty" right? I always thought it implied a certain difference in viewpoint because I'm not sure I've ever heard an equivalent in English, tantrums aside.
(At home, Rockstar would eventually quietly tell me he'd been "pushed (about) hard". He went back to the Kindy he'd just started at extremely sensitive about being pushed, for some time.)
And then Rockstar moved to the station with building bricks. While trying to maintain a "proper" conversation with some mum, I watched from afar as my son watched his own pile diminish, other kids pulling bricks out to build up their own towers. He made a grab when the last brick was taken - it was wrenched out of his hands and my otherwise normally very stoic son burst into tears.
I will never, ever make that mistake again - allow strangers' "Aiya, let your son grow up lah. Wah you protect your son so much one ah?" get in the way of my parenting. Because there is a balance - yes, overprotecting is not good for your child. But this was different - Rockstar was significantly younger, smaller, and these mums were not well-meaning in their criticism. They were just...... flapping their gums. In fact, there were much older, bigger kids who were undisciplined - but because they didn't cry (obviously)........
I should make t-shirts with a set of flapping gums on the front and a line going through it. Next time, my response will be "I wouldn't have to "protect my son so much one" if you had disciplined your older, much bigger child so you can just sod off."
Interestingly, at subsequent parties, that's never happened since. After I'd checked my own attitude and Rockstar learned to open his mouth more. Bullies of all ages know who to pick on - and who to leave alone.
I'll look for any way to talk to Rockstar about dealing with bullying. Because even as an adult, I didn't deal with it very well when I was unprepared. Bullies, like cockroaches, can smell a lack of confidence. Fear. (Ever notice how the wretched creature runs straight at you the more you scream?)
That's really what Dandelion is all about - it's a simple children's story book by author Galvin Scott Davis, which nonetheless effectively broaches the subject of bullying in a way a child can relate to, thereby giving you an opportunity to talk to your child about it. And it acknowledges how scary the bullying can look from a child's point of view. I find the illustrations effective in conveying how big a "thing" the bullying is for the child. No "Aiya, not that bad."
It is bad. But you can still overcome it.
I also like that it doesn't pretend bullies disappear - there will always be bullies around us our entire lives, and they will always pick on the people who let them. But it suggests in a way a child can understand, that you can make yourself less of a target if you overcome your fear of said bullies - and you can use your imagination to help you do that. In this case, Benjamin Brewster imagines up "magic" Dandelions.
Dandelion is a children's book about a boy who is bullied each day at school. Benjamin counts the 972 steps to school each day, and uses Dandelions to dispel his fears - along with a puff.
"With all my might, you'll all take flight....."
It's not about running up to a bunch of disputing children clucking, "No no cannot like that, stop pushing my precious rockstaaaar!" You can't possibly be on the playground with your child forever and you're just asking for your child to be picked on even more when you aren't around (though you could say something like, "Isn't pushing for the little kids who haven't learnt better yet? Isn't sharing a developmental stage older kids learn?" I suppose)
I can't protect The Rockstars forever. Unless say, we build a dungeon. Maybe the downstairs neighbor whose apartment we flooded several posts ago will let it go cheap. (<small voice> Please don't tell them I actually made a joke about that, we're in enough trouble as is - there's apparently a lot of water damage and the homeowners have to check their insurance.)
"If I could but wish for better things.....
You'd all disperse and grow your wings."
But hey, I can make them better prepared at facing the big, bad world.
Ps: I did not receive anything personally for writing this post. You can currently only get this book via Kickstarter (payment through Amazon.com) which effectively means USD 100 in a pledge towards the project developing an app for it (you get a bunch of other stuff when you pledge, like rubber bracelets, PDF, signed prints etc but to me it's a hundred bucks for a hard cover book :P). But it's a meaningful gift idea for someone near and dear - the book isn't really available yet. According to Kickstarter, you are only charged if funding succeeds. I suppose that also means you wouldn't get to "buy" the book there otherwise too.
OR, you can send me an email by midnight HK/Sing/Malaysia time 23 Jul indicating you would like a book and if more than one person emails me (:D) Rockstar will draw lots - Protein One has one hard cover autographed book to give away. If the Kickstart project is successful I will have a second signed hard cover to give away as well, in September. Or you can just email me to share your bullying experience - I hate bullies. They're the cheap people with the low self esteem who can only feel good about themselves by tearing someone else down.
The App may not be available in Asia for some time (so you'd get the PDF, per Kickstarter website) - but I pledged anyway. I was after the book, to sit and talk with Rockstar about. Bullying's an important conversation, and btw I went to pledge after I read the PDF copy the company sent me. I don't suppose kids care if it's hard cover or autographed or etc, but I once spent a day wrapping my uglier book covers in white and black paper because I wanted a "functional art" bookshelf to showcase my special books (I have some really old childhood ones, including a vintage Ferdinand - I then ordered a reprint of the vintage for Rockstar through his Kindy).
Well I just had a baby, I don't have the time to go searching everywhere for another conversation starter about bullying with Rockstar who will start at a new school as easily one of the youngest and possibly THE tiniest.
Pps: It's not like you buy a book and bullying goes away, you have to talk to your child... But everyone already knows that, why'm I even typing it 😛