That day, for an instant, my world stood still.
It was a day like any other, as I stopped to pick my son up from his after-school program, until it wasn’t. My husband makes light of my super mom ability to simply look at either of our kids and know when something is “off”, but that power is totally real, so fellas, don’t question it! This day was no different, as I could almost sense something wasn’t quite right, before my son even made it to the room where I was waiting. Given he always barrels me over with hugs at the end of the day, and it took calling for him three different times over the radio, I knew it was a day like none other.
In case there was ever any question about it, let me clear up the fact that, I LOVE my children. It is likely, over time, you get annoyed at how much I talk about my children, and repeatedly say how much I truly love them, but what can I say… I just can’t help myself! If you think I say it in my writing a lot, you should try being one of my kids, and hearing it ALL of the time!
As a parent, I truly believe in my heart, and to my core that raising my children is not only an honor but a privilege in life. Note that I did not say I was a perfect mom, nor do I strive to be, because I certainly have plenty of faults in this department! There have been many occasions where I feel like I could have certainly done something far better than I had chosen, but that day, as a mother, I felt like a complete failure.
You see, as my son slowly walked towards me, as I was crying out to him and asking, “Son, what’s wrong”, repeatedly without response, my eyes began to well up anticipating the worst. Two of his classmates at the same time I reached out for him, came running up, exclaiming to me what had happened. It was in this moment, I felt for the first time in my sons amazingly short seven years that I let him down. With my son’s face cupped in my hands, and while staring at him, asked his classmate what was wrong. To which, one of them replied, “another boy just choked him, and threw him to the floor”. Words cannot express the agony I felt inside when my son dropped his hand down to his side and said, “Mommy, my throat hurts”, while exposing the fresh handprint marks surrounding his tiny neck.
My mind is screaming, yelling at the top of its unheard voice, reverberating throughout my body an angry “no” followed by a tearful and anguished “why”, all while gazing at my son with a look of peace, and the sound of my voice lovingly telling him, “Mommy is here”, followed by a strong embrace.
Amid all the commotion once the after school camp director had been informed, the mother of the “bully” child by chance walked in, and shockingly, rather than ask what the commotion was about, piped in with a pretty sharp and snarky, “That’s my son’s name, why are you talking about my son”! Before any explanation was given, she was whisked away as if a member of a witness protection program.
While looking for answers, I was only left in disappointment, and sent on my merry way without explanation or any sense of resolution.
That day, as I walked out of the school with my son, I was full of emotion, a grave lack of trust, and uncertainty of what was to follow. As I sat in the car trying to clear my mind before driving the rest of the way home, I caught the gaze of the “bully” child’s mother as they exit the school, and it was in this moment what I had only five minutes earlier been uncertain about, now found clarity.
On the way home, my son said, “Mommy, I love you”. It was all I needed to hear to get me to the point I am now in even talking about and sharing this story. Those simple, but yet powerful words, which I use so often reminded me that, I am that little boy’s hero. He looks up to me like non other, and above all, the best thing I could possibly show him in times like this is simply more love than ever before. For me this comes pretty easy, but it was easier when I made the following clear in my mind:
- In no world is anything like this EVER appropriate!
- I am this little boy’s mother, ergo, I am his HERO!
- I did not fail him!
- I DID NOT fail him!
- I will always be his HERO!
Now that those things are straight, I wanted to share a few thoughts worth noting for God forbid the day you ever experience any such torment of your own. Nothing terribly earth shattering, but honestly wish I had someone to remind me of these things, so I could be more emotionally grounded far sooner than I was after this terrible incident.
POINT 1: No matter how much you feel or believe your job in life is to protect your children, fact remains you cannot be there 100% of the time. I punished myself initially, believing I had let my son down by not being there to protect him, or even show him how to protect himself should something like this ever occur. Point here is, there are, and will always be times which are simply out of your control, and the occurrence of what will be is inevitable.
POINT 2: Does a child at this age know right from wrong, absolutely!
POINT 3: Should they be disciplined for their behavior, yes!
POINT 4: Can you be angry at the child who hurt yours, yes and yes!
POINT 5: Should you take aggression out on the child who hurt yours, (should go without being said, but) absolutely not, even though everyone and their brother seems to think saying it will make you feel better!
POINT 6: Is it okay to fall out, and be a nut case, and cry, after something like this happens to your child? UMMM… yes – I only caution in doing much of this in front of your child. I do believe it’s okay to show some to your child who was the target of bullying, however there is a fine balance, as you want them to know your care and concern for them, while also seeing you are strong and can provide them the support they need. After all, they will mirror your behaviors when given the opportunity.
POINT 7: Should you confront the parents of the other child? Chances are this is a pretty BAD idea. After all, statistics demonstrate that most children bullies learn the behavior from witnessing similar behavioral tendencies at home. Whether it be through the relationships they observe in their home, surrounding relatives or family members, or even the programming they are exposed to at home through digital media. Either way, confronting the parents is generally not wise, and could lead to more altercation and harm.
POINT 8: Report it, report it, report it! If you’re anything like I was in the moment, I somewhat froze. As I said, the world kind of stood still for a period of time for me, however… Once the fog clears, don’t cower. Just because the word “Bullying” is so prevalent and in some cases seen as being over used, don’t worry about someone looking at you and going, “on no, not another bully complaint”. You need to report it, and report it now! e.g. teachers, principal, and even local police (oh yes you can) if you feel it’s appropriate (it always is).
POINT 9: Trust me, it does not matter if your closest friends are going through their own “muck”, confide in them! You need to share your feelings about this with others that know, love, and care about you! When your child is bullied, it not only happens to your child, but it happens to the whole family!
POINT 10: Keep Fighting! There is no other person better equipped and willing to fight for your child than you are. If you feel satisfied by the answer you’ve been given, don’t be!
Several weeks out from this incident, I am still reeling over what I should or could have done differently for my son. Although I followed up with the school and the after-school program, and am proud to report swift action was taken by all parties, I still felt as though something was missing. The answer, continued advocacy.
What I learned after this experience was how incredibly important it was that I remain in constant dialogue with my son. While fighting through tears to talk to him while staring at the marks around his neck to days after having what felt to be very mature conversations with a mere seven-year-old, listening for changes in his response was critical for me to determine what his mental state truly was.
He first started with fear, followed by hurt and sadness, followed by a slight bit of irritation, to then, remorse. I was stunned the day my son told me how bad he felt in what had happened, but then quickly told me the reason he felt bad was out of concern he could no longer be the other boy’s friend.
Bullying doesn’t solve anything, love does.~ Unknown
My best friend, several years ago told me, “no one else will fight for your kids like you will, you have to be their voice and fight for them”. At the time, my son was just a baby, and his sister wasn’t even born, so I assuredly was pretty naive in my thinking that something so egregious would ever happen to one of my kids. I am learning every day from this experience, and although having been bullied myself in life, am saddened it took my own child going through something so terrible for me to snap myself into the reality that exists for our children in today’s world.
I cannot be certain something like this, or some variation of it won’t happen again, but one thing I am sure of…. I’ll be listening, I’ll be watching, and I’ll be “fighting” for our children. I will be a voice, I will be an advocate, and I will stand in the fight against the bullies like the one who attacked my son, the ones yet to be born, and those who’ve been at it for a lifetime, like the ones I’ve encountered personally. If you’ve got a child, no matter the age that has been the target of a bully, know someone else who has been on the receiving end of a bullies wrath, or maybe even you have been bullied, I encourage you to say the following; “I love you, and I’ll fight for you”
Do not stand for, or allow these moments to be what defines them, or you!
In the words of a wise friend, “be their voice, and fight”! A good place to start, begins very basically in first understanding that YOU ARE NOT ALONE, followed by the gathering of information, and becoming educated for greater awareness.
The topic of bullying has been a buzzing item for several decades, so there is a plethora of information and resources to support parents, family members, targets of bullying, and educators, but a few of my favorite bodies of work to gather resources can be found by visiting Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, The Committee for Children, Edutopia, Stomp Out Bullying, and The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
“Any good movement begins with feet marching in the same direction”N. Ouellette
My purpose, and why I take a stand is HERE, now what is yours?
Special thanks to my loving husband who helped me maintain perspective throughout this family trauma. To my dear friend Elisa for reminding me to always be the voice, and for also serving as a voice. Lastly, many thanks to the countless others out there who have engaged with me to share stories, tears, and motivation to be the change that our youth desperately need us to be!
Do you, or someone you know need help managing through a bully obstacle? Do you want to drive positive change in the lives of others and how we look at, deal with, and support those who have been a target of bullying? Do you know someone with bully tendencies, and want to find ways to support them through improved behaviors while finding the best version of themselves? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, I’d encourage you to not go it alone…. I’d love to hear from you, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , on Twitter @nancymouellette and Facebook @OwnYourPurpose, or via my site on the Contact page!
Credit where it’s due!
Tucker, S. (n.d.). Stop Bullying [Little boy with hands held up]. Retrieved June 11, 2020, from https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/stop-bullying-108383702