He walked out of the bathroom into the dimly lit hallway that morning with tears in his eyes. I grabbed him out of instinct to protect and held him close. “What is it?” I said, thinking he was sick or hurt. I felt his body begin to shake and then heard the sobs. “I don’t want to go to school mama, I’m going to miss being with you and Daddy. I had so much time off from school, I just don’t want to go.” He pleaded. It was so unlike him, he loves school. He loves any environment where he can be social. He has never volunteered or asked to stay home. Always he has sprang out of bed with a bright optimism that i don’t know I’ve ever possessed in my life. If he were an adult it would be utterly annoying but because he’s a 7 year old he can pull it off as charming. He is truly the happiest kid I have ever known. To see him wanting to avoid school was concerning. “It’s okay bub, it’s okay. It is hard to go back after a long break, everybody feels that way.” I tried to reassure him but the sobs kept coming.
I felt his heart aching as I led him into our bedroom where my husband was still asleep. Lifting him on to the bed I tucked him in under the covers, close to my husband who awoke to the crying. “What’s wrong buddy” my husband whispered. “People are mean at school. I don’t have any friends there. Everybody laughs at me.” My son choked through the words as his face flooded with silent tears. We both gave reassuring words to our son. We told him to keep pushing on. We encouraged. We asked him to do what we ourselves are struggling with on an everyday basis. Living life while existing with the unkind epidemic of humanity.
I soothed my son with my words and with my hands, caressing his hair. I leaned in close to him and gave him hugs that I hoped would give him a sense of security and safety. I couldn’t tell him he was wrong, or being silly, or that it didn’t matter what other kids think. Rationally it doesn’t matter, but logic doesn’t help when you’re in a situation that is meant to make you feel small and insignificant. All I could do was hold him so that he could feel my love.
The dreaded anticipation of facing unkindness in my own life has become a regular source of angst and I wouldn’t mind crying in some loving arms myself. However, where I once found myself shrinking and hiding, I now find myself silently gritting my teeth with my hands wadded in fists and my mind bluntly saying “bring it on.” The fight in me is finally emerged. For decades I would move into freeze or flight mode. I find myself speaking up, speaking out, staring these individuals in the face. Life is too short to live it by a bully’s standard for code of conduct. I’m decisive and vigilant about not letting a single one of them permeate me with their pathetic behavior. I have bigger fish to fry and an entire lifetime to keep living out my dreams. I have an entire lifetime to nurture and empower my children to cultivate their passions and to live by their values.
I am done giving bullies compassion and sympathy. We have all been hurt in life but as far as I’m concerned it is never a pass to step into someone’s life and crush them into a small pathetic nothing so that your precious feelings can be tended to. As a psychotherapist I know all the reasons that lead up to this behavior. I know that it’s often unconscious on the part of the bully, I know that it’s trauma, and blah blah blah…. Enough! Enough of this hand holding and soothing of people who use their past hurt as excuses to make another person question their worth.
As a parent what is in my power is to teach my son how unacceptable and intolerable this behavior is. My job is to instill in him a better standard of expectation from humanity. When he doesn’t get it, he gets to choose to move on to people who will meet those standards. I don’t speak to him about the reasons for their unkindness. There are no reasons good enough to allow despicable behavior. I encourage and teach him to recognize abuse when it’s directed at him and others. I give him full permission to firmly shun them. Above all, he needs to know that what is being directed at him is not his and that he is being told lies about himself.
I will not allow my children to be molded into a version of themselves that is small and hidden so that the bullies of the world can feel powerful. I will not allow myself to be molded into their sadistic version of who they need me to be. Those days are over, and as far as I’m concerned, they will never begin for my children.