Lover, not a Fighter: Facing a Bully
I have been reading a lot lately. Maybe even too much since it has made me neglectful of my own writing. The nagging thought, you should be writing, not reading, crept through my mind as I glided chapter by chapter of various books until their completion. I tell myself that reading every chance I get is beneficial to my own writing. However, recently I would realize that all of this reading would help me come to grips with personal difficulties.
A few weeks ago, I was faced with an issue that no parent wants to deal with, my son was being bullied. My Power Ranger enthused, Semi Judo trained, tall baby boy was letting a classmate headbutt him and was silently suffering. It took him a week to let me know that he had been the target of mocking, taunting, and physical abuse.
When I asked him why didn’t he let me know sooner, he responded that he didn’t want me to worry. It was a new school and he was the new boy, so I expected a hard adjustment, but never a bully. My son is quiet, sweet, and just a tad nerdy and I love all of those traits about him. Oh, and that is not just a mother’s one sided attempt to only look at the positive qualities of her kid by the way.
Without thinking, I said “Why didn’t you hit that kid back?” He looked at me with the saddest expression and said, “I don’t like hurting people.” He really didn’t have to tell me that, deep down, I already knew. My mind instantly went back to my 7th grade year and this girl had her targets set on my back for reasons I am still unaware of to this day. I remember thinking, I am not afraid of her, but I am not a fighter, I do not want to fight because, what’s the point in the end? That is not to say that a person may never have to fight if necessary, but at that age I realized that it is not always necessary.
Two weeks before my son let me know about his situation, I was reading Sister Outsider: Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist Response. In a portion of the book, she speaks about her son who came home crying. His bullies made him clean their shoes. When Lorde finds out that the children are the same size as her son, she gets angry and tells him “The next time you come in here crying…,” until she catches her words and realizes that she should not force him to fight if he did not want to.
“The next time you come in here crying…,”
I remember highlighting this part of the text. A smile crept over my face, followed with a chuckle, If any of my children came home talking about a bully, they better stand up for themselves instead of tucking tail, I thought. After that, I closed the book and shook my head unbelievably at Lordes’ final conclusions.
It was not until a few weeks after that I would suffocate on my own thoughts. My son was now looking me in the face and telling me that he did not want to fight. My body hot with anger, I emailed his teacher informing her of the incidents and kindly asked her to please keep an eye on my son, that he was being bullied, but was too shy to let any of the adults at school know about it. She responded quickly, letting me know how great it was to have my son in her class and that she would absolutely take care of the situation and make sure that my son felt comfortable coming to her about anything that happened in the future. I work in a school setting myself and I know how hard it can be to wrangle and wrestle with the thoughts and emotions of several children at once so I was temporarily satisfied with her response.
The next day came, the teacher spoke to the boy, and we have not had anymore issues to date. Surprisingly, they now play together and my son considers him a friend.
So what if he would have hit the boy back? They probably would have had an all out fight, suspension would have followed, and they may not be friends right now. That’s not to say that things can’t go wrong in the future, but for now, I am proud that my son was true to his own nature and did what he thought was best at the time.
I am by no means advocating getting beat to a pulp as you stand defenseless, but I am saying that if there is another way your child wants to handle the situation, hear them out.