that whole mama bear instinct? yeah. totally true.
I distinctly remember the first time I was bullied as a child. I was seven and in first grade. School had dismissed for the day, and I had three blocks to walk from the elementary building to my house. I was at the crosswalk, the dividing line between "school rules" and "let freedom ring," trailing behind a small pack of third and fourth grade boys who were laughing about whatever it was boys laughed about after school, when one of them turned his attention toward me. The next thing I heard was the boy's Evil Knievel lunch box slicing the air just before it crashed into the right side of my face. Still today I have a small dent on my forehead, just at the hairline, where the corner of the lunchbox broke the skin.
I remember crying, in pain and shock, while the boys laughed uproariously at the antics of their leader. I was forced to listen to them the entire, and suddenly incredibly long, walk home because the boy who had hit me? He was my neighbor, and while we'd never shared so much as two words, we shared the space of one yard separating our houses. When I reached mine, I didn't tell my mother what had happened, too afraid of the paybacks that might be doled out the next day if the neighbor boy got in trouble with his own mother. Of course, staying quiet meant the bullying continued. I never provoked whatever was paid to me, and I never fought back. Instead, I wondered what I'd done to attract such attention. I also seethed and worried..
Flash forward several years, and I'm now the mother of a seven year old boy who is in first grade. Two weeks ago, I learned he's been the victim of bullying for nearly two months, and that same seething and worrying I did when I was a child is back, only it seems massive and even more intense because now it's my child.
You don't know my youngest son, but I imagine he's just like any of your children. If that's the case, you already know how awesome, lovable, caring, and sweet he is. He is charming. The comedic foil, and full of love. He wants to be your friend, and if making funny faces with you, reading you stories, telling you jokes, and pondering the world's mysteries while riding in the backseat of the car is how that gets you, believe me, you've got a great friend. I imagine the parents of the boy who has been bullying my son for the past couple of months think he's everything I think my son is, too, but I'll admit that good thoughts about the child weren't the first to fill my mind when my son finally, through body-quaking tears, told me what this child had been doing to him.
That Monday, all I could think of was how I wanted to climb aboard the school bus, get in the face of this other boy and unleash upon him. To bully the bully. For two months, my son hid the fact he was being repeatedly hit by this older child. Hid it from his bus driver, his teacher, and his parents. He's stressed himself out and wondered what it was he's been doing wrong, and, though we hadn't clearly realized until now, his personality has changed, so much so that it provoked his teacher to call me one afternoon to ask if there's been changes going on at home. Last month, he twice came home from school immediately after arrival, claiming to be sick. I brought him home and then gently lectured him on how he couldn't possibly be sick when he'd been healthy an hour prior. The first time it happened, I took it with a grain of salt. The second time in two weeks, I told him this silliness had to stop. I again spoke with his teacher, and learned he'd sometimes come up to her desk and start to cry, but even then, he'd not share with anyone what was going on, and honestly, neither one of us even once considered bullying as a cause.
Then came the Monday two weeks ago when he finally shared with me what had been happening, and all the times I had to encourage him to catch up with me as we walked to the bus, all the mornings my once chatty son refused to engage me in conversation, made sense. Minutes before we had to walk out the door, I found my son hiding in the bathroom, crying. Without question, I felt horrible that I'd not even considered this as an issue. I've gone through six years of school with my oldest son and we've never had to address bullying. It just wasn't a blip on our radar in this situation.
By the time I got his tears stopped, mine started. I was so livid and so sad, I had to ask my husband to call the bus company and let them know what was happening and find out how it was going to be dealt with. I called my son's teacher, and she immediately made the other boy's teacher aware. Changes have taken place, but there's been a few bumps in the road as we've tried to fix this problem. Following a very brief reprieve, the boy again targeted my son, who this time spoke up immediately, and I've since learned that the building principal and guidance counselor have each spoken to the other child.
Every day, I assure him nothing will happen to him, but I know I can't guarantee it, and that sucks. This remains difficult on him. Every morning for the last two weeks, he's been crying. Every night before bed, he curls up next to me, then sleeps fitfully through the night once he's in bed. In the morning, he again crawls up into my lap and wraps his arms around my neck again, and I whisper in his ear that it'll be OK.
And I know it will be, but right now? Right now, I'm still seething and I'm still worried.