My son M came to me the other day with the conclusion that one of his classmates is a bully. He proceeded to tell me that this boy was picking on his friend, something to the effect of the boy calling something that his friend liked was stupid. M told the boy to back off.
The boy told everyone that M liked to “get in everyone’s business”.
M went on to say that the boy was telling everyone that the reason why two male classmates were taking so long in the bathroom is because they were having S-E-X. This reminded M of when the boy called him gay earlier this year.
Now mind you, I have not and cannot go to this boy’s mother. She is not the easiest person to talk to and I suspect may be in denial about what her son might be doing in school. Besides, I have seen on a number of occasions her ass out in the neighborhood yelling at other parents.
M asked me if him sticking up for his friend was the right thing to do. In true, teacher fashion I answered him in the form of a question: What do you think is the right thing to do?
My son is no angel. I know that. I told M to just ignore him and that he should just stay out of his way.
Last night this boy’s mother called me. She was very emotional and on the verge of tears. She was entering rehab the following morning for thirty days. She was worried about her youngest son and knew that her son looked up to M and would I please make sure that her son would be okay while she was gone? It would only be his father and his two older brothers.
I mean, I suspected something was going on. Obviously nothing that would put him in danger, otherwise I would have brought this up to the proper authorities. This could have been a problem for his entire life.
Last night it was a mother reaching out to another mother for help.
This boy’s behavior is notorious, problematic, and sometimes downright hateful. But he is not at fault.
Nor is his mother. Addiction knows no bounds and will take everyone down in its path.
I took a deep breath and stepped back from the situation. The only conclusion I came to was this: Years from now, even weeks and months from now, as we watch our children grow up, I do not want to look back and think, “Wow, I wish I could have done something for this boy.”
M is ten years old and let me tell you, he is good at it. So good I had to consult Barnes & Noble for proper reading on the subject matter of raising boys. With my newfound knowledge, I had to set some boundaries. I told M that it’s okay for him to feel mad and angry with me (and/or his sisters and/or whatever else sets him off) sometimes but it’s never okay to be disrespectful no matter how mad he is. It was okay to let me know he needed a few minutes to cool off by himself but that he needed to return when he was ready (that last point was crucial). But the most important thing for him to remember was that I would always love him even if he was mad. He gets that. (I’ve even had to tell the middle daugher this! She’s… um, a bit emotional like me. She constantly needs to hear the part that I will love her no matter what, even if she’s not making the best choices right now.)
I sat him down by himself and while I did not reveal what exactly was going on in the boy’s house, I told him that he is going through a lot of very hard times. I pointed out that bullying is never okay but there are reasons why this boy is acting the way he does. I wished in that moment there was some sort of parallel friendship discussion, similar to the one I’ve had with my older two, where you could tell your friends:
“Look, you’re a punk sometimes and right now is one of them. Please be nicer or I will have to ignore you until you start using nicer words. I’m still your friend but get it together!”
This morning I called two other mothers who have expressed similar frustration for this boy and his behavior. I asked for their discretion in this matter and not to share this information with anyone. I asked for their help to reach out to this boy.
Despite previous issues amongst our children, we are going to gently prod our kids to reach out to him. I myself will tell my children since we are studying in church how we as Catholics need not to preach the Bible but to live it through our actions. (Sorry, that got pretty heavy very quickly.) I am admittedly ignorant when it comes to other religions and aetheism and hope I am not being presumptuous in assuming that the Golden Rule transcends all religions and faiths. We should treat each other the way we want to be treated.
Forgiveness. Kindness. Tolerance. Patience. All of these virtues are to be bestowed upon on others not because we would feel guilty if we didn’t but because we truly believe that this is how we should live.
I didn’t watch the Presidential debates last night. I did not get on social media to see who had a better argument, who’s argument was more sound, who’s stance will benefit the entire nation. True, a vote can have a significant impact in our lives but too many times, myself included, we don’t give enough credence to our everyday behavior. Perhaps if all of us were more mindful of this, our nation would fix itself.