When my son stepped off the bus in tears last Thursday all I could think was that we didn’t even make it through week one.
I was fully prepared for him to start telling me how it wasn’t his fault, how the teacher was mean, or that he didn’t remember what got him in trouble. I knew he’d want to run in and hide his folder from me so I couldn’t see the note from the teacher. We went through all this last year.
It’s not that he’s a bad kid. It’s that he’s a six-year-old boy.
Sitting is a hard enough task for him to accomplish, but asking him to do it quietly for hours is nigh on impossible. I try to be understanding of that. I try to remember that he and his sister are two very different children and that I can’t compare them.
I was all ready to give him the it’s-alright-let’s-just-talk speech, when he hugged me. I mean, wrapped both arms as far around my rather large pregnant belly as he could and just held on like a tornado was coming and I was that pipe they always grab onto in the movies.
“I didn’t pee myself,” he mumbled into my shirt.
“What?” I asked. I tried to push him back to get him to look at me. Did he just say ‘pee’?!
Suddenly he exploded and that mile-a-minute mouth I recognized was relaying all the horrible things from his bus ride home.
I looked over his head at his older sister and I could see she was worked up. She’s pretty excitable anyway, and she was not-so-patiently waiting to tell me what had happened.
He told me that an older boy had sat in his seat with him and started tickling him. The boy wouldn’t stop and told my son he was going to keep tickling him until he peed himself. When it didn’t work, he turned and told all the other kids that my son had peed himself. He started shoving his head around, banging it into the seat and window.
When he got off, another boy took his place and started the whole thing all over again. They wouldn’t let him out of his seat.
They wouldn’t stop.
“Is that how it happened?” I asked my daughter.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she cried.
Within moments, both of my kids were crying, my blood was boiling, and somewhere I could hear my cell phone chirping off the ringtone that means my husband is calling. I grabbed the phone and left the kids inside and out of earshot.
“Where are you?” I practically yelled into the phone.
“On my way home,” he started. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m going to beat the shit out of some punk ass kids.”
Now you can judge me all you want, but right then and there, if someone had pulled that bus back up in front of me I’d have gone on there like Madea and slapped some sense into all of them.
They hurt my son.
They hurt my son.
I told my husband everything and we talked to the kids for awhile (when I’d finally settled down enough for proper conversation). We talked to them about how to help each other, to get help from an adult, and not to sit by quietly while things like that happen. We talked with them about standing up for themselves, but we kept coming back to getting help from an adult.
The last resort, we told them, was to fight back.
That wasn’t how my husband wanted to handle it at first. He wanted to tell our son to go on that bus the next day and punch those boys in the face. But we both paused at that. We stopped and talked and feared.
Because when we went to school the hallways would clog up for a few moments while two boys slugged it out. The teachers would come running out and push through the circle of kids to separate them.
They’d get suspended for a few days and all would go back to normal.
Except this isn’t when my husband and I were in school.
This is a time when I get advertisements sent to me for bulletproof book bags.
This is a time when during the first week of school I read three different articles about kids coming to class with knives.
There have been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook.
74 in eighteen months.
I can’t tell my children to defend themselves physically anymore.
I’m not worried that they’ll get suspended.
I’m not worried that they’ll be labeled troublemakers.
I’m worried that they won’t come home.