In Defense Of The Kid That Bullies My Son

So, I had a joke all set to go for this morning, but, as life does sometimes; a curveball was thrown my way and I no longer feel compelled to tell a joke. Instead, I want talk about something I witnessed this morning – a thing I have witnessed many mornings over the years our son has been at his preschool.

This morning I was solo parenting again as the Wife is with another client awaiting the arrival of their baby. No matter how many times I do this multiple kid dance, I will never get it all down pat, and my respect for single parents and stay-at-home parents grows every time I attempt it.

This morning was a rough one on me. It felt like I was literally balancing a million spinning plates – catching each one as it began its wobble; indicating the inevitable crash was coming. But somehow I kept them all spinning, and the morning progressed all the way to dropping my son off at school – the last plate.

As we pulled in, other parents arrived to deliver their last spinning plate as well, and one happened to be a little kid whose favorite pastime as of late, revolves around picking on my son. Clearly, I don’t like this kid, and every day I hear the same from my son as he recounts the daily rounds of being picked on, or called a crybaby, or told he is stupid by this kid. But, leave it to my son, to unknowingly, annoyingly, and sweetly embrace the philosophy of “New Day, New You”, because every time he sees this mini jerk-kid (including this morning), he can’t wait to say hi and greet him. I blame that big annoying, sweet heart of his.

This morning’s greeting was extra over-the-top as my son was excited to show off his Friday show-and-share (a toy he has literally brought a hundred times before) to jerk-kid. My son’s excitement was greeted with a response neither of us saw coming…an absolute breakdown of jerk-kid, and tears for days. Jerk-kid forgot it was Friday, and thus forgot his own show-and-share.

I’m not proud to admit this, but a piece of me…somewhere deep in my soul; a place I rarely ever visit, because it’s not a nice place – I laughed. I laughed at this kid’s tears. I called this kid a crybaby, and every other name he has called my son.

But, all that came to an end when I heard jerk-kid’s dad tell him it was time to stop crying so much. As I held the door for my son, another kid and parent combo, and finally jerk-kid; his dad started to walk past me (never saying thank you btw), and he commented to me, as if I was going to dude-bro with him in agreeance, “Geez, you’d think the world was coming to an end. Like, grow up kid…right?!?” I simply stood there silently, but wanted to yell, “Cut the fucking kid some slack – he’s 5 for fuck sake!!”

Damn you, jerk-dad!! Now I feel sorry for you jerk-kid. Moreover, I know he’s not a jerk-kid…he’s a kid, just like my kid. But the difference is, one of our kids doesn’t have the reaction to his confusing emotions of bullying other, milder, sweeter kids. Kids who he knows he can make feel like others…like you, make him feel.

Despite my tone here, I’m not judging this guy. Yes, I call him a jerk-dad, but something tells me he’s a jerk in many other facets of his life too. Parenting is one of the absolute hardest things anyone can do. We will never get it right 100% of the time. Shit, I shoot for 50%, as that average in most aspects of life are hall-of-fame type stats. I know there will be plenty I look back on someday and wish I had handled things differently. But, I know one thing I will always be confident in is that I have always, and will always let my son know his emotions have value, and while there are times that over-the-top reactions need to come to an end, I will recognize that he feels those feelings, and not judge him for them.

I made sure to give my son an extra little squeeze this morning as he attempted to run off into his world of youthful ignorance, only focused on playing with the kids in his class; oblivious to what was happening to his tormentor down the hall.

I left drop off, to the sounds of the kid still crying, now in the bathroom, calling for his mom, and being told to…(cringe)…grow up and stop crying by his dad.

I have many other examples of this over the last few years – parents passing on their own insecurities to the smaller, weaker, more impressionable versions of themselves. And every time I feel the same way…I feel like I’m that kid again, being yelled at, told to grow up, left wanting nothing more than a hug and calming words of understanding. I wish I could give that to them. I wish I could give that to the parents in that moment; a hug, and the ability to meet their smaller selves where they are, and to truly see them in that moment.

Hey, kid…I’m sorry you’re upset. I know, it sucks to feel left out. It sucks even more to be told your tears and sadness are signs of weakness, because they’re not…you’re just sad, and that’s ok. Sadly, my son will probably pay for this morning’s episode. You’ll probably take out your frustration by picking on him because he’s nice, or making fun of him if he whines about something, and that will hurt him a lot. The difference though, is that when you both go to your homes tonight, that tension you thought was gone after you released on him, the hole you thought was filled with your mean-spirited actions, the tears you thought you emptied by causing someone else to cry; those will all still be there for you. My son however; sure, he’ll cry, and wonder why you are so mean to him, and he’ll talk about it probably more than needs to be talked about. But all his grief will be heard. All his questions will be answered, and all his emotions will be recognized. His tears will be shed, then wiped away as the two people who love him most tell him what a great person he is, and how unfortunate it is that you and other boys treat him the way you do. I’ll even suggest he doesn’t talk or play with you anymore, because people like that, don’t deserve his friendship…

But, he will still say hi to you when he sees you, and offer you his friendship, because my son is (at least right now) a much more forgiving person than I am. And I hope he stays that way forever.

I hope you get a chance to become that way…because you deserve it too.

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6 thoughts on “In Defense Of The Kid That Bullies My Son

  1. This one touched me today Mike. My son, in first grade, has really struggled this year with a few kids in class. These kids have special needs due to their behaviors and possibly diagnosis of which I am not privy to nor should be. These behaviors have caused the school to have two extra paras in the classroom. The things they do to my son, who like yours, shows acceptance to them every day, is frustrating to him and heartbreaking to me. However; I don’t like to say that they are bullies. They are little kids who are trying to figure out how to be social beings – sometimes without the help and guidance of an adult. This leads them to make poor choices about how to treat people simply because they have not consistently been show how to behave in a social environment. This is when I try to create teaching moments for my kids on empathy and patience with those they get frustrated with because we don’t know what is going on in that child’s life. Skip to my daughter who is in third grade. To say she is an extremely confident leader is an understatement. Sadly, this is not admired in young girls so she has been called a bully (do you see the misogyny here). My sweet, tender-hearted girl with her strong leadership skills doesn’t always know how to respond appropriately in certain situations because she is a child who is learning. Kids lack impulse control and sometimes act before they think things through. I feel like, in this day, when understanding and preventing bullying is so important, we are also quick to label kids as bullies. Especially at the really young ages. Now, don’t get me wrong here – I am not saying that you are calling this little kid a bully and meaning it in every sense of the word. Quite the opposite, I love how you were able to see, and write about, the realization that there is quite possibly a very good reason for him acting the way he does in that he is feeling invalidated and possibly has role models for some of the behaviors at home. It’s this lesson that you will teach to your children that will create compassionate and patient adults. Something that is very much needed in this world right now.

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your story with me. I totally see the misogyny in that example. Girls need to be able to be strong and outspoken too. I hope she hangs on to this traits. We need all the kick ass women we can get. Absolutely…I in no way really think that kid is a through and through bully. Just a 5yo who picks on my kid…but sadly, now I see why.

  2. Thanks, Mike. I had a moment like jerk-dad this morning but I like to think I was able to make up for it after I realized how I was acting. And, hopefully, my son understands to find the rouge finger puppet penguin, you need to pick up the pillow and look under it!

  3. I am so proud of your parenting. You work at it, not just ‘half ass’ do it. When I read your words, I wanted to invite this kid to my house to play and see what being nice is like. Sadly, so many of these jerk-dads (and moms) raise jerk-kids who bully for freaking EVER. The kids my eldest went to K with continued to bully him til he graduated. He had to take extra classes to learn to deal with bullies. After graduation and Army Basic, he went back to his HS in his fatigues. He was shocked at how many of those bullies still in school changed their tunes when they saw what he was doing.

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