Karen Rivers

The First Rule of Spy Club is that You Can't Talk About Spy Club.

Karen Rivers

My son is embroiled in a kindergarten drama.   It's called "Spy Club".  

He doesn't understand it.   I'm not sure that I understand it either, and I am meant to know everything.   He keeps getting knocked down and pushed over by kids who come up to his shoulder.  

He's frustrated and so am I.   I don't want to see him getting hurt, physically, but it's the emotional stuff that's worse.

The confusion.  The sudden realization that your friends are maybe, just maybe, bullying you.

He's my funny, crazy kid.   When he laughs, it's like his whole head is beaming with light.   "UNDERPANTS!" he shouts, and laughs so hard he gets the hiccups.  

But not today.

Today he is crying.

"Why do you let them do it?"  I say.   "You're bigger."  

I don't know the right thing to say.  I don't want him to fight back, but I want him to at least defend himself.   But I'm torn.   I've seen him getting more physical.   Pushier.   Violent, even.   And I don't want him to change from the gentle giant that he his.   My laughing boy.

But these tiny little bullies.   Man.   I don't know.  

He shrugs uncertainly.  "I think it's a game," he says.

"Is it?" I say.

"I don't think it is," he says.   His chin wobbles.   

"Who is in this club?"  I say.  

"I don't know," he says.  "Everyone." 

"Are they your friends?"  I say.

"Yes," he says.   "No."   He names two names, "THEY aren't my friends," he says.  

"But what about the others?" I say.  "Are they your friends?"

"Yes," he says.   He looks as confused as I feel.   

The tears escape.   "Don't tell the teacher," he says.

I hug him close.   He's so big now, I hardly have to bend to hug him.  But sometimes if I sniff his hair, I can still remember the smell of his baby scalp, the sour milk innocence of being born.

I was recently given information from someone close to me about "everyone".    "Everyone" apparently has a certain, very poor opinion of me.    They think my smile is "snarky".   They "never liked me".   

This person was giving me this information so that I could change.   "It's a learning opportunity," he said.

I cried.

I'm not in kindergarten.   If I thought about it at all, I probably would have thought this particular "everyone" liked me, in the way that you think people you see on one social occasion per year "like" you, in the way that you hope people "like" you when you stuff your social anxiety down long enough to interact with them.  

Why did I cry?  

They don't even know me.  


It hurt.   The grade school kind of instant hurt, a humiliating blow of it, the sudden shaking of your foundation, the niggling doubt, the "hey, maybe I'm NOT good enough" tremors of ... what, exactly?  

I don't want to be in Spy Club either.