On the first day of second grade, as I stood in line in the school yard, my new teacher gazed at me piercingly and asked "Are you related to [blank]?"

The student she mentioned stood out in her mind as a notorious troublemaker whose antics had not faded from memory despite the five years that had elapsed since he had been her student." "Yes", I replied innocently. "He is my brother." "Good grief," she groaned audibly and from that moment on, his shadow was cast over me. Despite how hard I struggled to be good, and remove the stain of our association, it took me years to remove that shadow. Until then, I was guilty by association.

It took years to remove that shadow I grew up; I grew into myself. My brother also grew up. As an adult, I suspected an undiagnosed case of ADHD, or another form of learning disability, had contributed to his early wildness. I held our parents accountable for not pursuing a diagnosis and treatment for the problem that had caused us all grief during those years.

When my son was born, I smugly assumed that I would do better. I assumed that no child of mine would ever be the terror of the playground. However, inexplicably, as my son turned two, his sweet and mellow disposition gave way to an aggressiveness that had not been preceded by any warning signs.

The terrible twos gave way to the horrible threes, and the aggressiveness showed no signs of abating. During his first year at nursery school, he spent as much time in time out as he did as a member of the group. Despite our firm limits, and consistent discipline at home, he maintained a low frustration tolerance and would lash out at anyone nearby when he was triggered.

After suffering one too many outbursts from her younger brother, my husband and I sat down with our older daughter and explained that she was allowed to defend herself. Since my son, despite initiating conflict, would collapse on the floor in tears the minute anyone stood up to him rather than escalating the conflict , we decided that she should retaliate in order to prevent him from hurting her further.

I began to avoid the park. Soon it seemed like my son and I were always alone. Being on our own kept the stress levels down to a manageable level for him, yet I felt isolated and frustrated. Unlike my parents, I refused to accept the idea that he was just a "bad boy" or that he was going through a "wild phase." I sought answers. I pursued a diagnosis and treatment with the aggressiveness of a mother lion protecting her cubs, because I knew too well the pain that ignoring the situation would cause.

I refused to accept that he was just a "bad boy" It was occupational therapy that really brought a breakthrough in my son's behavior. What seemed like innocent games translated into marked improvement in his ability to sit still, accept limits and manage his frustration. The clumsiness that I had assumed was just part of who he is gave way to an athletic prowess that allowed him to become one of the boys. He could now feel comfortable about his ability to hold himself together in a social setting, and this allowed him to make friends and interact appropriately with them.

The day that a boy in my son's class threw a rock at another boy, who then needed to be rushed to the hospital for stitches, stands out in my mind as a day of my own personal transformation as well.

My first thought was for the victim's welfare. My second thought was relief that my son had not thrown the rock. My third thought was compassion for the embarrassment of the mother of the boy who did.

I knew that the rock-throwing boy could easily have been my son, or even my brother. I knew the pain that this mother must have felt when she was called to school to collect her son. I felt her humiliation, and wanted to call her to tell her that we didn't hold her accountable for her son's behavior. It could have been any of our children. It was just that her son had the best aim.

I imagined the scene in my mind: A group of boys all throwing rocks, and one boy whose rock connected with another's forehead; a trickle of blood and a day of horror for two families.

I never called her. Instead I chose to ask my son not to tell me the name of the boy who threw the rock. Instead, we discussed how dangerous rock-throwing could be.

We are once again welcome on the playground These days, we are once again welcome in the playground. My son is starting a new school this year, which includes occupational therapy as part of the curriculum. All of us, including my seven-year-old daughter, can be overheard telling him to "calm down and use your words" when he begins to unravel.

These days, I can even understand the pain and frustration my parents experienced over my brother's antics. They were both teachers themselves, and their shame at being called into school was intense. Yet since they were unable to move past that shame, the entire family suffered. My brother suffered the most intensely, since he bore the heaviest stigma. The taste of it that I got that day in second grade was enough to cast a heavy shadow on me, and my brother carried a mantle much heavier than my own.

In order to become effective as parents, we have to give up the illusion that we somehow make or create our children in the image that we choose. We simply do not have that level of control over them, no matter how professional we are in other areas of our lives. Rather, our children are each born with a unique set of challenges and obstacles, and as their parents it is our job to help them surmount their personal obstacle course with their self-esteem intact and their knowledge of our love for them unblemished.