He gets off the bus looking defeated. And some days the tears stream down his face before he is off the first step.
My heart breaks.
“Mom why are they so mean to me?” Hayden cries his face buried in my neck. “I don’t eat trash off the floor, I don’t!”
His little body just sobs in my arms as the bus pulls away, “God! I hate the bus.” I say under my breath.
Hayden wears his heart on his sleeve, wants to please everyone and can be overbearing at times. But really all he wants is someone to be his friend.
Isn’t that all any of us want?
He doesn’t understand someone not letting him sit with them. He would never say no to a person. He doesn’t get the fun in calling someone names.
Last year, we dealt with a girl who pushed Hayden around and made him do things that were far too mature for a 5 year old. This year, there is a 5th grader who verbally taunts and teases him.
As a parent, I really struggle with what to do.
My first instinct is to swoop in and save him. I want to pull Hayden off that bus and sometimes even out of school but is that the right choice… teaching him to run from his problems?
I want Hayden to learn to stand up for himself, to be strong and not take any-one’s shit. I don’t want him to think, “Oh mom will deal with my problems for me.”
Jeff and I have instructed Hayden that when someone is not being nice to him, physically or with words, he needs to ask them to stop. If they don’t stop then he needs to go and find an adult to help him. If they still don’t stop and the adult doesn’t help, then Hayden is to fight back.
Hayden doesn’t have a competitive or confrontational bone in his body so it is the fighting back part that he struggles with.
Unfortunately, Hayden’s bus driver thinks that he is just a little tattle tale. I have watched her roll her eyes at his issues with this older boys and tell him that she is sure, “they didn’t mean it”. The one adult on that bus who is supposed to protect my child is not doing anything.
Hold me back, I will rip her face off.
But can I really blame her? She is in charge of driving a bus full of sometimes 20 or more children. If she takes her eyes off the road to deal with every child’s complaint how can that be safe?
I have an internal battle in my head. One side says that I should run to the school and scream and yell that my son is being mistreated. Someone needs to do something about this. The other said says, again what is that teaching Hayden in the long run? So far, this is nothing more than some kid telling Hayden he can’t sit with him and that he eats trash.
But is that how is starts for those kids who end up taking their lives because the pain and suffering of bullying is so bad?
Hayden doesn’t know the name of this kid so I have not talked to the school. I have talked with the bus driver and she will “watch the situation more carefully.” What he decided to do was to give Hayden a break from the bus for a couple of weeks and in that time, Jeff and I have started to teach our son the art of comebacks and sarcasm.
“Hayden, if that boy says that you eat trash,” I begin with Jeff looking on, “instead of insisting that you don’t, you need to think of a comeback.”
Hayden looks at me confused.
“You need say something like… ‘oh yeah, you like to lick money butts’” Jeff says.
“Or say, ‘you smell like monkey farts’” I add.
Hayden giggles some more.
“See, those are comebacks.” Jeff explains, “They are not true of this boy but they are silly things that you can say that will hopefully make him and others laugh so that what he is saying about you not so funny any more. Do you think you can do that?”
I give him a big hug and suggest that we practice.
Soon Hayden Jeff and I are all laughing about monkey farts and I smile in Hayden’s laughter. This is how he should always be.
We tell him good night and in my heart, I say a prayer that this is the right thing to do.
A few days later, I get my answer.
Hayden runs up to me. ”Mom. Mom. Mom.” he says with a huge grin on his face as he hugs me.
“What?” I look at him with excited anticipation.
“I got to use my comebacks today,” he says with a huge smile, “And you know that they worked. I told that boy his butt smelled like monkey farts and everyone laughed and he stopped being mean to me. I did it mom!”
I pulled my son into my arms and hugs him like I was trying to pull him back into me. At that moment, my heart was so full of his joy it could have burst.
“Mom, you’re hurting me.” Hayden said as he wiggled out of my embrace.
And even though ever fiber of my being didn’t want to, I let him go.