Last week, I brought my boys with me to work. I’m not really sure why I thought it was a good idea but I really just wanted to give my parents a break from watching them two nights a week. It was picture week and I thought it was going to be fairly easy, but long story short, it wasn’t. For the first hour or so, it was pretty chaotic trying to figure this that and the other out. Gav was playing in an empty studio, no big deal. Ro was strapped to me in the Tula, also, no big deal. Well, there was so much back and forth that I had to call my mom for help. She said she’d be on standby if I needed her and thank goodness she did!
After they had been gone for another hour or so, I got a text from my mom saying that Gav had told her that two boys, he described them as a boy in a red shirt and a boy with longer hair, had told him they were going to kill him and steal his stuff. As I read those words, I was mortified. I felt my body get hot and anxiety started to rush through me. Then the next words crushed me. “He’s scared.”
My sweet boy had been bullied. He had been threatened. He’s only four, how is this happening now? Why was I not there? The thought of him being scared and me not being there to comfort him broke my heart.
Based on his description, I knew exactly who these boys were. They are at least 3-4 years older than Gav and, of course, bigger than him. Cue mama bear! I could feel it coming on like watching Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk. If this were a Marvel movie, this would be the close up of my arms getting all hairy, my claws and teeth coming out, and then that awesome close up of my eyes as they flash with natural instinct. (Yeah…a bit dramatic but it’s how I felt.)
One of the young boys had already left by this time but the other was still there and so was his mother. I knew where she was and I headed back to inform her of what had happened so that it could be dealt with. But this is where the mama bear in me clashes with the “flee far away from conflict” side of me. I don’t like confrontation or conflict. I avoid it at all costs, in every aspect of my life. I also can’t be around others in a confrontation, even if it doesn’t involve me. A lot of it may have to do with my perfectionist personality, or my incessant need to people please, but whatever the reason, confrontation causes me serious anxiety. So as I walked to the back where the other mother was helping someone else’s child, I was waging an internal war with myself. As the anxiety began to rise at the thought of telling other mother that their child had done something wrong, something that had hurt and scared my child, mama bear was telling that little voice to buck up because my son is way more important than my little insecurities. As I was breathing faster and trying to push the fear out of my gut, I was telling my self that I must protect my baby. As I was rounding the corner, mama bear was in a slight lead and I walked up to mama number 2.
I quietly (ok let’s be honest, it was probably pretty timid.) asked the mom if I could speak to her for a moment. She looked surprised and, I assume she judged the tone of my voice, concerned. She could tell that this wasn’t going to be a pleasant moment of conversation. I explained to her the situation, how my son described the boys, and added to it that I didn’t know if it was true but that I felt she should know.
Now let’s pause for a sec here and discuss that. I know my son didn’t make it up. HE’S FOUR! He watches PBS kids and Paw Patrol. Occasionally he’ll watch the Ninja Turtles (the cartoons, not the “live action” ones) but that’s not where he would get that kind language. If anything, it would cause him to kick or fight, which he doesn’t do. He also doesn’t play video games. But I added that it for good measure and maybe a little out of fear of back lash. Please forgive me…
She looked at me with stunned eyes, said ok, and asked her daughter to go get her son. I assumed she was going to talk to him about it. So I went back up to the front desk, feeling the anxiety wave crash over me, and sat down. Now it was a waiting game, to see who the mom handled it, how the kid handled it, if he would own up to it. As with any confrontation, after it’s over, I stew in it. I began to breathe heavy breathes and felt like I was going to throw up. Sadly, I never spoke to that mother again that night. She left without saying a word.
Eventually my mom was able to bring the boys back and we ate some dinner, I finished up pictures with my kids and we headed home. While driving, I told Gav how proud of him I was that he knew to tell a grown up. He said thank you and told me that he was proud of himself too. As well he should be! I asked him what he did when they told him those things and he said that he asked them to please stop and, when they didn’t stop, he walked away. I was so amazed by how he handled himself. I asked him if he knew who was with him when he was scared. Without missing a beat, he said “God!” That’s right buddy.
Then we began to have a talk about bullies. Sitting on the couch, I told him that those boys were bullies, a word he told me he knew from TMNT. (See! He knows those guys are bad!) We talked about how what they said was wrong and that you should never say those words to someone and he, of course, agreed. This was obviously becoming a teachable moment now that he wasn’t scared anymore and I asked him what he thought he should do if he ever saw someone else being bullied.
“Run the other way!” (I had to hide a little giggle because it just struck me funny.) I suggested that maybe he should help that person. Here’s his response:
“Yeah, because two is better than one.”
Surprised by his answer, I told him that he was right. “I learned that in church.” He said. Instead of guilt and sadness for my child, I began to fill up with such pride. But it didn’t stop there. He started telling me more about his exchange with the two boys and how they told him that he was little.
“But you know what I told them?” He asked me.
“I might be little, but I’m stronger than you.”
“You said that?”
He’s four. FOUR! The pride that had been slowly rising may as well have trust out of the top of my head like a cartoon character. This “little” boy had courage to stand up for himself, to not give those boys the upper hand, and knew to tell a grown up.
I had no idea I would be dealing with this type of situation so soon in my mom career. To most moms, I’m still a rookie! I didn’t know that I would have to prepare him for this type of behavior at this point in his life. Maybe a kid not wanting to play with him or sticking their tongue out but not this. Not bullying and threats. But I forgot that he could be around bigger kids. Kids who, nowadays, see too much and hear too much. These kids use words without thinking, they repeat things they hear without know what they mean or the impact they can have. Words that can frighten and, these days, can’t be taken lightly. But the way that my son handled the situation is beyond what I could have ever imagined. More than I could have imagined for kid, let alone a four year old. I have never been more proud of my son.
And don’t you worry, I’ll be talking to the other mama just as soon as I can. Confrontation or not!