I've been working at the Y for a year now. The kids go with me 90% of the time. The younger 3 play in child watch and the older two swim in the pool.
I go in Monday through Friday so the kids are there most days of the week. In the beginning it was new and exciting and the kids loved to go and even asked on my days off if we were going to the Y that day.
Unfortunately the newness has worn off. The other night we were there for a hour and a half. Brennan and Tanner were in the pool and apparently there was an older girl that was bullying Tanner. She was following him around and saying nasty things.
When we left Tanner was really quiet and Brennan began to explain. As an adult it seems obvious she thought Tanner was cute and wanted to be near him. In her adolescent awkwardness, she was obnoxious and rude and Tan just wanted to be away from her. She became more and more aggressive and was even swearing at him.
Over the last few months the kids have starting giving me grief when it's time to head into work. They don't want to go, they ask "how long" will they have to be there.
This is really hard for a couple reasons. The kids are sheltered somewhat due to being homeschooled. They have been exposed to a whole different world/culture through their time at the Y. It has sparked some good conversations and teachable moments that I think are important.
But...As Brennan explained this girl's comments (some were sexual in nature), Tanner sat quietly and cried looking out the window.
How do I balance protecting them and allowing life experience that will grow them?
Tanner finally spoke up and explained that he had tried to witness to this girl and her brother. He asked the brother, "Do you guys go to church?" The boy told him church was a waste of time because all they do is talk and talk. Tanner was shocked and said, "Have you ever been to Sunday School? Because it's awesome!"
They asked him why he was so nice. Even though the girl was being mean Tanner refused to be mean back and it didn't make sense to the siblings. He explained told them, "I'm a preacher's kid. It's my job to love people."
I told the boys that I understand that those kids say things that our boys aren't allowed to say. I told them that they are old enough to know not to repeat them and that just hearing the words isn't wrong. Reusing them is what will get them in trouble. I also explained that being a Christian in this world means loving mean people.
They will spend their lives loving people who don't deserve it and who may not even want it. It's difficult sometimes, but it's the only way we are going to be able to tell people Jesus loves them.
When they ask, "Why are you being nice to me," we can tell them,"Jesus loves you and so do I."