Teaches Mom a Lesson
By Erin Jauert © 2012
It was a typical Thursday morning. Everyone had slept a little later than they should have. Someone had put the peanut butter jar back on the shelf even though it was empty, and a clean pair of matching socks seemed to be as elusive as ever. As I was double-checking my kindergartener’s backpack and stashing his snack into the front zippered pouch, he looked
up at me with his sweet, dimpled face and said, “Mama, there’s something I forgot to tell
you last night.” “Oh yeah?” I said, only half listening as my mind raced through a list of
the day’s events. “There’s a boy on the bus who’s been punching me in the stomach.”
And just like that, my mind went blank. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. This was, after all, what I’d feared most since that crisp
fall morning 5 months ago when I’d sent him off to his first day of school. “What do you mean?” I asked, “Has it happened more than once?” “Yes,” he said, “It happened yesterday and the day before that … and one time last week.” Doing my best to maintain my composure, I calmly asked, “Do you think you could sit in a different seat where you wouldn’t be near him?” Without hesitation, my sweet boy insisted, “No, he’s not supposed to, but he climbs all over the bus while it’s moving … no matter where I go, I know he’ll find me.” My breath caught in the back of my throat and I started to think about how I’d love to teach that little bully a thing or two about messing with my baby. Little did I know that I was the one about to get schooled.
My 6-year-old continued, “I mean, I know his bucket is empty and that’s why he’s doing it … it’s just that I don’t know how to fill it, Mama.”
It’s hard to say if I was more proud of my son for remembering the lesson his dad and I had thoughtfully weaved into so many prior conversations or more embarrassed that in that moment my kindergartener had to be the one to remind me of it. Either way, I felt an instant calm sweep over me. Just as my son had known all along, this wasn’t about him at all. It was about another child, someone else’s baby, who was lacking something, needing something, wanting something. I explained to my son that he was exactly right, that in most cases when someone treats another person badly, it’s because they’re feeling bad about themselves. We brainstormed ideas for ways to fill this little boy’s bucket. “You could give him a compliment,” I said. “Maybe I could take him a treat,” my son suggested. In the end, we agreed that just like everyone else, more than anything, he probably just needed a friend.
Later that morning I watched the clock, noting the kids were probably just getting settled on the bus for the ride home. Even though he seemed confident with the plan we had devised, I couldn’t shake the nerves as I thought about my baby getting punched in the stomach yet again. Thirty minutes later the bus pulled up, slowed to a stop and I watched as my kindergartener bounced down the steps. He didn’t look like a child who had just been punched in the stomach, but I had to hear it for myself. “So … anything happen with the bully on the bus today?” I asked. “Yeah, something happened alright,” he said. “As soon as we got on, I asked him if he wanted to play with me. We played Lion King the whole way home … it was awesome!”
While this experience has come and gone in my son’s mind, it’s something I keep revisiting in my own. I’m sorry that he got punched in the stomach, but grateful that he felt comfortable telling me about it. I’m ashamed of my initial reaction, but amazed by the way my 6-year-old was able to redirect me to the heart of the issue. Above all, this experience serves as an important reminder about how important it is as parents that we talk to our children about things that are happening and about things that aren’t happening, but could. You never know when your kids will encounter a situation where your words will help guide them. Thanks to many prior conversations about this issue, both directly and indirectly, my kindergartener was armed with the confidence he needed to face a bully on the school bus with both courage and compassion