Yuka Y. (is? was?) Haruka’s best friend since even before she started nursery school. We first met Yuka and her parents when enrolling Haru at her kindergarten just over three years ago. Back then, Yuka was a terribly shy, nervous, emotionally unstable cry baby who literally could not be away from her mother for more than a minute. She was the total opposite of Haru, who was totally looking forward to starting kindergarten and meeting new friends.
Haru immediately befriended Yuka, and helped her through her first days of kindergarten, which seemed to be pretty traumatic for Yuka. Every time she boarded the bus that took them off to kindergarten in the morning, there was always a huge display of emotion from Yuka, while Haru seemed to look forward to and enjoy her new found independence. And on the way to kindergarten, the crying didn’t seem to stop until they arrived at the classroom. The whole show seemed to repeat itself on a daily basis for what seemed to be a very long time -four or five months at least, to the point where Haru asked “is she going to cry every single day forever? Get over it already!” Eventually she did get over it, that is to say she got over the crying before school part, but she still cried every time she left her mother’s side, or over other little insignificant things. Over the years since, Yuka had transformed from being a shy introverted cry baby to a more outgoing and happy child. I can’t say for certain than Haru should be credited for helping Yuka out of her dark times, but I do believe that without Haru, she would have been a different person.
Fast-forward three years, and we see that Yuka has slid back into the shadows once again and has become somewhat introverted and emotionally unstable once again. So what happened to make Yuka revert to her previous self? To answer that question, all we simply have to do is shine the spotlight onto her parents. At surface level, they are not bad people, and seem to mean well on all levels, but you dig a bit deeper and you will see that the root cause of Yuka’s introverted behavior stems from they way treat her. So, having said this, you must be thinking that they must be treating her really poorly, and lock her in a closet for the majority of day only letting her out to go to school and eat. However, it quite the contrary.
Yuka is being raised to be a little angel who could never do any wrong. What? My dear Yuka? NEVER! How dare you accuse her of doing wrong! Yuka wouldn’t think to do anything like that! She is an angel! In reality, Yuka is a two faced little brat. Yeah, I said it! And I mean it too! At least with Haru, we know what he have. I would never be fooled into thinking Haru’s a little angel, because she acts like a complete brat in front of us too, but that gives us full opportunity to try to correct that behavior whenever she acts up. And when other kids or her teacher tell us when she is misbehaving, we know enough not to challenge it too much because we know that Haru can be a brat sometimes. We also know when to challenge accusations that seem to be far fetched too, because we pretty much know how Haru behaves. However, with Yuka, she is always a little darling angel when her parents are watching, but as soon as the parental eyes are off her, the little she devil comes out of hiding to wreak havoc on her friends.
So how did all of this turn Yuka back into a shy emotional wreck again? It all started a few months ago when Haru’s school was having one of their parent-teacher days. Haru and Yuka were playing their usual games as kinds normally do. One of they silly things that they like to do is grab each other’s cheeks (on her face). Yuka’s mother saw Haru grabbing Yuka’s cheeks and became very upset by this and complained to my wife about what had transpired between the two girls. Not fully understanding what happened and only going by what Yuka’s mother’s word, my wife pulled Haru aside and demanded that she apologize to Yuka. Haru seemed to be puzzled of course because she did not know what she had done wrong, since this was just a silly game they played all of the time at school. But being somewhat docile in situations like this, Haru blindly followed the orders of two unnecessarily angry parents glaring down at her and reluctantly apologized to Yuka. Normally, you’d think that someone in Yuka’s position would step in and defend Haru and say, she didn’t do anything wrong, we always do this to each other. It’s just a game we play. But of course, to Yuka this would be like admitting guilt for having done the same thing, something she would never do in her parents’ presence.
Instead, she turned on the waterworks and tearfully accepted Haru’s apology further solidifying Haru’s guilt. What an acting job! And the Academy Award for Best Child Actress goes to…. It was only later that evening that my wife learned what truly happened from Haru, which didn’t please her at all, because this meant that Haru was scolded for no reason at all. My wife then texted Yuka’s mother in an attempt to just explain that the kids were only playing and that there was no intent to do harm to anyone. However, it seemed that Yuka’s mother didn’t fully believe the excuse, and continued to believe that Haru maliciously grabbed Yuka’s face with the intent to hurt her.
A week or two later, the situation with Yuka escalated. Relations between our families began to turn sour pretty quickly. It all started when Haru and a group of neighborhood kids went over to Yuka’s house to play in their yard. The kids were playing as usual, while Yuka’s mother was in the house doing …whatever. At some point, during the midst of their playing, Haru pulled Yuka aside and said something to the effect of I am trying to help you! I am trying to make you better. Because I wasn’t there personally, I don’t know the context of the conversion or what part of Yuka that Haru was trying to make “better”. For all I know, Haru could have been trying to teach Yuka how to do a cartwheel like she does with the other neighborhood kids, and just wanted to help her do it better. I do know that Haru is not sophisticated enough to look down on or belittle anyone. It’s just not in her nature. So if she did indeed say that to Yuka, then it was over something superficial and innocent. Yuka’s mother overheard the conversation between the two kids from inside the house (bionic hearing…every mother has it…I suppose), and wasn’t very pleased…AT ALL. Whatever the reason might have been, this seemed to have ground on Yuka mother’s nerves. She stormed out of the house grabbed Haru, and screamed, HOW DARE YOU BELITTLE YUKA. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU’RE ANY BETTER THAN HER?! Amazingly, Haru didn’t cry. When Haru doesn’t cry, she usually gives a very deep glare back. I could almost image Haru staring Yuka’s mother down as to say, WTF is you’re problem woman? However, this did scare the other children to point where one boy did started crying.
After this incident, all of the kids scurried over to our house to report what had happened to my wife. The little boy who was scared to tears said, Yuka’s mom is scary!! The kids explained what had happened and my wife was pretty much in shock over Yuka’s mother’s behavior. When I heard about it later that day, I must admit that although I was somewhat surprised over the behavior, I kind of expected that something like this would happen sooner or later. My philosophy is that kids will be kids. Even when they hurt each other or get into fights, kids as young as Haru will get over it. Most of the time, they would have forgiven each other and are playing together by the next day. However, parents being adults (well …most parents anyways), tend to hold grudges. When something happens that they are not pleased with, they tend to not forget, or forget temporarily only to be reminded when the next bad thing happens.
Its also my philosophy that just because the kids are friends and get along well, the parents don’t necessarily have to be chummy too. I had explained this to my wife time and time again, and to be careful and not to get too close, but she wouldn’t listen. She would go out to lunch, go shopping, text on the phone, talk on the phone, go to parties, etc etc… with the other parents. Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of this, but then she tried to get me involved and wanted me to give my personal email address and phone number out to the other parents otherwise I would “miss out on all of the picnics and get togethers with the other fathers.” My response to this was “and…?” Not to sound like an unsocial homebody or a snob, but just because my daughter is friends with another child, I should not feel obligated to be friends with the child’s parents. It shouldn’t be an automatic thing. Personally, I am very selective about whom I choose to be friends with. I am not a drinker, and I don’t smoke which seems to be two criterias for comradery in Japan (of course not in all cases, but in a lot of cases), because people like to socialize over drinks or while having a smoke …I don’t. I like to have stimulating, thought provoking, and intellectual conversations, and so far with the exception of one or two of Haru’s friend’s parents, I have not met anyone I could relate to. It would be me listening to some boring superficial conversations between drunk parents in a smokey bar or restaurant, which I have no interest in.
Another reason why I choose not to get too involved with other parents, is precisely because our kids are friends. If anything happens between the kids, I don’t want this to effect the parents friendship or vice-versa, and this is EXACTLY what has happened. Ultimately, my wife did confront Yuka’s mother over her emotional outbursts and the result wasn’t too pretty. Being an over protective parent, she of course came to Yuka’s defense and insisted that Haru has been abusive and condescending towards Yuka. Condescending? Really? Aren’t all six year old kids condescending? My wife asked to give specific examples of when Haru was abusive towards Yuka. She did one better. Yuka’s mother produced a list that was several pages long of what seemed to be every single little incident that Haru did going back several years back to her nursery school days. This was the grudge of all grudges. Every single wrong that Haru had done to Yuka was burning in the back of her mind for YEARS and was finally coming to a point. Of course, there was no mention of all of things Yuka did, because she is an angel who can never ever do anything wrong. It just wasn’t in her nature. In her eyes, Yuka was Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, the second coming Christ -she was the goddess of all good children and the poor victim of Haru’s long term abuse. Of course, there was more holes in her story than there are holes in Swiss cheese. You can ask one simple question that would tear her whole accusation apart and that is, IF Haru was indeed this terrible and destructive child, who was hell bent on making Yuka’s existence miserable, then why does Yuka even hang around Haru? There are plenty of other kids to play with at school, why does she need to be around Haru, if she is so abusive to her? There was a very clear answer to this that Yuka’s mother didn’t know , and when she eventually figures it all out (whenever that may be, she will not be happy.
After this confrontation, the relationship between the mothers went south. Neither are talking to each other, and Haru is no longer allowed to go to Yuka’s house (not our rules -Yuka’s mother’s rules). We are taking the high road in this situation and we have told Yuka that she is welcomed to come over at anytime as long as its okay with her mother. She came over once and never again after that, so we can get an idea of what Yuka’s mother’s decision was.
And as I predicted, the relationship between the kids began to sour as well. At first, it seemed that the feud between the mothers hadn’t effected the kids too much, but recently Haru has been sensing some ill feelings from Yuka. In fact, Haru mentioned that at times Yuka will walk up to Haru during recess at school and shout I HATE YOU to her and anyone whom Haru would be playing with at the time, without provocation or reason. Haru thinks that Yuka’s mother is telling her to say that to her. If this is indeed true, then its really sad for one thing, but it ultimately does no harm to anyone but Yuka. It villainizes her, and the other kids will begin to distance themselves from her because of her hateful attitude. And unfortunately, this is precisely what has begun to happen.
Another incident that took place awhile back when Yuka, Haru and another classmate (a boy) where walking home together. Yuka had grabbed the elastic chin strap of the boy’s hat, pulled it back, and snapped it into his eyes. Haru said that the boy looked to be in a lot of pain and could barely open his eyes afterwards. Haru told Yuka that she should apologize to the boy, but she kind of gave him a unemotional and non-meaningful non-apology, which neither the boy or Haru was happy about. Normally when incidents like this happen, the mothers would text each other so that they can contact the victim’s parents so that they can defuse the situation before it escalates into a “school-related incident”. But since the mothers were feuding, my wife figured that this was a good opportunity for Yuka’s mother to learn more about her daughter’s unsaint-like behavior the hard way. And as predicted, the school had called Yuka’s mother and asked her to come to the school to address a formal complaint made against Yuka. At this point, a normal person may finally realized that perhaps their child is not the innocent child saint that she though she was, but unfortunately it didn’t sink in despite the fact that Yuka now has an incident on her record. Perhaps Yuka’s mother thought that the boy provoked it and that he probably had it coming to him. Whatever the reason is for her continued denial, she will eventually get it , because incidents like this will happen again unless she does something about it.
Haru has a lot of friends at school. She pretty much likes everyone, even including Yuka. Despite her random hateful outbursts, Haru still considers Yuka her friend. But lately, Haru has been opting to hang out with her other friends, and Yuka is often left in the classroom by herself doing her own thing like making origamis. One time, Haru brought home one of Yuka’s origamis that she made during recess. The origami said from Yuka on it, so we assumed that Yuka had given it to her. Actually, Yuka had originally given the origami to another girl in the efforts to become her friend, but that girl handed Yuka’s origami to Haru, and said, Yuka gave this to me but I don’t want it. You can have it. Feeling somewhat sad for Yuka, Haru accepted the origami.
Haru walks home everyday with her new group of friends that I like to refer to in my own mind as the Mini Breakfast Club. The Mini Breakfast Club are group of five of six neighborhood kids whom Haru plays with regularly inside and outside of school. For a while Yuka was a part of the Mini Breakfast Club but lately she has been isolating herself away from them. But because the kids are somewhat required to walk home from school with friends (or at least not by themselves), Yuka quietly follows behind the club often without really interacting with them.
I explained to Haru that despite what is happening between the two mothers, that she can continue to be friends with Yuka (if she wants) and not to alienate her. Knowing Haru, I think she tries her best to keep Yuka as a friend, but since Yuka is not really allowed to play with the Mini Breakfast Club when Haru is around, she continues to become more and more isolated from others.
I really bad for this whole situation. I feel that if this continues to go on as it is, Yuka will become more and more secluded and isolated from others and eventually become completely socially withdrawn like a hermit. Haru even said that Yuka told her that she doesn’t like playing outside any more, stating that there’s too many bugs, but I think that is just her excuse for not being able to associate with the other kids anymore.
Now that Haru’s bedroom remodeling is done and we are almost done putting in all the furnishings, she has been anxious to have a sleep over with her new two new best friends Ai and Momo, the two leaders of the Mini Breakfast Club. Ai and Momo are sisters who live down the street from us. Being in the 5th and 6th grades, they both are significantly older than Haru, but seemed to really like playing with Haru as they come over to our house almost every single day. Every since we had begun remodeling Haru’s room, they have been anxiously asking when they can come over and spend the night, so it look like Haru will be hosting a sleepover next month, and we are already preparing for it. I posed the question of whether or not we should invite Yuka to the sleepover to my wife. As much as we wouldn’t mind having her over, the reality is that her mother is not quite mentally fit to handle it. If ANYTHING were to happen while Yuka was in our care, she would go ballistic. But going on my philosophy to always take the high road, I told Haru to invite her anyway. If she can come, then great. But I seriously doubt that with all of the events that have happened, her mother would allow Yuka to come over.
In the immortal words of the late Rodney King, “Can we all get along?”