When you hold your beautiful little baby in your arms, you want the world for them. They are the epitome of perfection and you look forward to all that life has to offer their sweet little soul. No new mother ever looks at her newborn miracle and thinks that anyone will ever dislike them. Or, God forbid, treat them unkindly. And when it happens, a mother’s heart is broken. Trust me, I know.
My son has been bullied since he was 10 years old. It began because he is smart. He knew the answers and always raised his hand. Sometimes he talked a little too much and put all of the attention on himself. Teachers loved him, but kids thought he was a nerd. It started with a little name calling and making crass sounds when he walked by. But as he got older, it got worse.
Teachers got involved. They brought all of the boys in the class together and told them to leave him alone. If they didn’t, the next step would be a meeting with the students and their parents. It was an idle threat. And besides, it wouldn’t have made any difference. These boys’ parents felt that their children were little angels. That was proven time and again. If their children misbehaved, it was because they were provoked. One of the boys kicked a girl in the shins, hard, and when her mom confronted the other mom, she said it wasn’t his fault; her daughter must have started it. What the actual fuck? What happened to you never put your hands on someone else? I guess that goes out the window when you’re the child of someone who sees no wrong in you.
We moved at the end of the school year and I was really glad to have that chapter of my life behind me. School ended in March and he hadn’t seen these kids in a year until one night, the phone rang. He saw who it was, a group Face Time call, and he ignored it. They proceeded to call another 28 times before he finally answered. At first, it seemed like it was going to be a pleasant conversation. One boy said he was sorry for treating him so badly in the past. My son was genuinely appreciative of the apology. And then, the kids started laughing. Not with him; they were laughing at him. They started calling him names and trying to make him angry, calling him a nickname that he positively hated. He yelled at them to “Fuck off!” I normally don’t condone that kind of language from a kid, but that night, I wanted to yell it myself.
He looked at me with tears and implored, “Why are they so mean to me? I hate them!” And I had no answer. He is my baby and that is what these kids don’t get. He has a mom and dad and siblings and grandparents and a slew of other people who love him just the way he is. These kids are just plain mean. They weren’t apologizing to him — they were making a fool of him. And he knew it. He may be a nerd or a dork or a geek, but he’s not stupid. And he has feelings. That’s what these kids don’t seem to understand. They are hurting him. And they are hurting me too.
I was so pissed. I just wanted to scream. I told him that I was going to start a group text to let their mothers know what was going on and exactly how I felt. But he begged me not to. “Please, don’t! That will just make it worse. I just want to pretend it didn’t happen.”
But it did happen. And he isn’t going to forget it. Neither am I. The next time that I see their mothers at the grocery store I am going to have to play nice. I’ll have to ask how they have been and if they have plans for the summer. I’ll have to ask about their children, even though I don’t give a shit. So many things will be on the tip of my tongue, but I’ll keep quiet, because my mother taught me not to intentionally hurt other people. Somehow, these kids aren’t getting the same message.
I want their parents to feel the pain that I am feeling. Perhaps then, they would be able to teach their own children a little empathy. I would love to know how they would feel if their child went to sit down at a table in the cafeteria and the kids at the table got up so they wouldn’t have to sit next to him. I wonder what they would say if someone relentlessly made fun of their child for being short, something that he has absolutely no control over. Wouldn’t it be fun to be in the car when their child got in the backseat in tears because someone dumped his backpack on the ground? How would they like to be standing on the outside of their child’s bedroom listening to him yell at kids to leave him alone and stop calling him, all while they cackle right back at him? Honestly, I don’t really want to see any of that. Because deep down, no parent should have to feel that kind of pain.
A parent’s love for their child is more than unconditional. It transcends every other kind of love. And when someone hurts that child, it cuts a parent to their core. When your child looks at you and just wants you to fix it, but you know that you can’t, it’s devastating.
So what do I do? I listen. I love. I think proactively. I do my best to set him up for success. I am not going to allow him to feel badly about himself because of a few asshole kids. He is good. He is smart. And he is worthy. He is worthy of friends and happiness and self-confidence. No one can steal that from him.
As a mom, my heart aches. But I will do my best to teach my children to be better. I want them to know that kindness matters. Above all else, they need to be kind to everyone. You never know what type of a day another kid is having. They may have just had a terrible encounter, but a smile and a kind word can make all of the difference. And I will teach them to be nice to other people, even when they are not nice to them.
Undoubtedly, people who are unkind will be there all through life. There will always be people who are not kind to them — coworkers, bosses, or a waiter in a restaurant. People will not like them and they will dislike other people. And that is OK. But what is not OK is to steal someone’s joy. Everyone has a light and no one should dim that light. My son will continue to shine bright, that I assure you.
We will not let a few mean kids win. He deserves better than that.