I may get a lot of flack for this blurb but having been on both sides of the fence and knowing my son was also a recipient of this abhorrent behavior I have to voice some concerns. I’m talking about bullying.
Within the past week, an incident occurred involving a friend’s daughter. As she and her friends sat around a table working on their projects, 3 boys asked to sit at the table as well. They weren’t working on anything in particular but the girls didn’t object. After a few minutes, one of the boys, stated matter-of-factly, “Mary, (not her real name) you’re going to have ten children when you grow up.” I know….benign and silly. Her response was, “Oh yea, well you’re going to hang around Justin Beiber when you grow up.” Did I mention these were third graders? Secretly, I thought the entire thread funny. No name calling, no sticking out of tongues and no hurtful jabs. Personally, my teenage son thought the idea of hanging out with Justin Beiber pretty cool. I mean, sportscars, pretty girls, bodyguards…every teenage boy’s secret dream, right? The matter should have died right there or at least, that’s my opinion. Unfortunately it didn’t.
The next day, as this young girl entered the school, the boy grinned and told her, “My mom called the principal. You’re going to get it.” Sure enough, the principal called her into his office for a serious lecture.Unfortunately the boy had altered the phrase slightly. Let’s be honest here. Third graders have the attention span of a goldfish. The risk of “lost in translation” is almost a given for elementary school children. The phrase he accused Mary of saying was, “Oh yea, well you’re going to marry Justin Beiber when you grow up.” Slightly alters the implication. The principal proceeded to chide her for her statement. Am I wrong to feel this is a little over the top? The sad result of this altercation is the boy has now been able to pester Mary secretly and has, completely secure in the knowledge he has the upper hand. So what was accomplished here? Not a helluva a lot.
The sad fact of the matter is, most parents cannot conceive their child being the active antagonist which was personally confirmed to me when my son was in second grade. At a routine school gathering. I found myself nervously approaching the father of a boy who had been picking on my son. He listened to me attentively before calling his son over and asking him directly, “Is it true you have been doing these things to her son?” Under such scrutiny, the boy confessed he had. After two weeks of grounding, the two boys became best friends soon after. However what floored me was his statement afterward. “I’m glad you came to speak with me about this. I have to warn you, however. There aren’t too many parents with whom you can have this discussion. I have found most of the parents here think their child can do no wrong.” Sadly, he was correct.
Now, I’m pretty sure all of us said things along this vein to a classmate growing up. I’m sure I received as often as I gave but, seriously I don’t remember. I certainly don’t remember this being such as issue in elementary school. Back then, spats like these disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared. Like storm clouds on the horizon, they blew in, caused a little havoc then disappeared just as rapidly, to be forgotten in the excitement of kickball during recess. What I find most annoying, most irritating and most irresponsible is a parent making a huge deal out of a situation which was an opportune teachable moment. In my humble opinion, and it is humble, a better course of action would have been for the boy’s mother to have a serious sit down with her son and grill for all the details of the chain of events. She might have uncovered a few details lacking in the original story. Perhaps a polite invitation for a cup of coffee to the girl’s mother might have been a positive alternative. I know my son was no angel. He was and is a great kid but in situations such as above, he invariably confessed to pertinent details under interrogation that were lacking in the original transcript.
Bullying is a real problem not to be taken lightly. But as parents, as adults who may or may not have experienced it growing up, shouldn’t we realistically stop and consider the possibility there are two sides to every situation? My father always said, “There are two sides to every divorce.” I’m sure that holds true in these particular situations as well, no matter the age of the participants. Before parents call in the troops, the Calvary and the FBI, shouldn’t cooler heads prevail? Shouldn’t we as parents examine the situation with rationality and stop with the knee jerk reactions? If parents simply take everything their little angel says at face value, they are doing a disservice to their children. As in the case of “Mary” and the boy who now thinks he “won” I see the possibility of a real bully in the making further down the road. I pray I’m wrong.