Our Story Begins:
When You Have No Answers
You like to think there are certain parameters, certain things that are constants, certain rules that you follow.
But there is no rule book for parenting. None.
There’s also no guidebook or instruction manual. Sure, you can get onto the information superhighway and look for those answers but the reality is there are so many ideas, rules, thoughts, and just so much crap that if you look up you suddenly realize that rather than a superhighway you’re actually on an information rural road and you’re stuck behind a tractor with a slow moving vehicle sign.
Nothing can prepare you for some instances, though. One of the worst – and I’ve been parenting for 21 years, 17 of those with a partner, one without – is how to deal with your kid being bullied.
I have four very different children with very different personalities. I had to learn that sometimes kids just need you to listen. That was generally what my wife did, I fixed things. You can’t always be a guy and fix things – which is our natural tendency by the way. You have to just listen so they can get it out. Sometimes that’s all they need. One is introverted but outgoing. One is shy but a performer. One is a flirt. Then there’s one of my kids who is introverted, almost scarily shy.
But this . . . this is different.
My kid has faced an entire school year being made fun of, hit, pushed, poked, having his lunch stolen, his water bottle taken, and two sets of PE clothes taken as well. None of that was returned, by the way. Looking at that list alone you’d wonder why I never did anything. But take them weeks apart, one at a time?
There are only a handful of things you can do as a kid:
- Tell the teacher. My child did this. Eventually the bully and/or his cronies find out who did it and reatliate
- Tell the school counselor. See the results above.
- Fight back. My son has done this, particularly when the kid tried to take his brand new Star Wars water bottle. Kid had a bruise on his chin and I told him I would never, ever be mad at him for defending himself. He is never to start a fight but he shouldn’t just take it, either.
Really . . . those are your options. My kid isn’t athletic. He has little desire to do many of the athletics and much of that is because those kids make fun of him when he tries. He wants to play basketball and tennis and football. When the other kids would rather push him down than show him how to do it right what is he supposed to do? Enjoy it?
So when something happened at school where my child was scared, in tears (at the junior high level) and asked what he’s supposed to do . . . I had no answers. It’s the most helpless feeling in the world. You know they have come to you for guidance and help and you have none. They’ve done everything right. They’ve done what they’re supposed to do and you have nothing to give them.
In my case I went above the teachers and the counselor to the administration. My kid would like nothing better than to be left alone, to his own devices, sitting in a corner reading or playing or just let him shoot the basketball and try to get it right. That isn’t pack mentality, though.
Sometimes, without their knowing it, you go to the administration and tell them the only option you see for your kid, if they can’t feel safe, is to wait around a corner with a baseball bat and make sure the bullies know you’re done lying down. You don’t want this . . . but what options are left? My son is certainly creative, silly, funny, and not a mainstream kid. For that he’s ostracized which is a shame because you want to tell people just what an amazing little person they are.
In my kid’s case the school took this very seriously and the kid is supposed to have no contact – no talking, touching, or coming within a long distance of my kid. It’s the school equivalent of a restraining order.
But what next? What if it doesn’t work? I have my son working out with me, learning to defend himself, standing more confident and ready to do more. But knowing what a terrible thing it is to have your confidence torn down day after day I cannot help but worry.
Sometimes you just have to figure out the rules yourself as you go along.