IN THE LION’S DEN

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I was going to post about something completely different today, but then something happened this morning that has completely distracted me.

As I was dropping Brae and Sienna off at their little school, another parent mother approached me. She pulled me aside. I’ve got Sienna propped on my hip, cold wind blowing against us, and Brae sitting in his car seat.

“I need to tell you something,” she begins. “I think Brae may be getting picked on at school. By my son, and by this other boy.”

“Ok,” I said, as a lump wells in my throat. “What makes you think that?”

“Just some things my son is saying, like he doesn’t want to play with Brae because he’s not potty trained.”

“Well that doesn’t make sense,” I respond, “Brae is potty trained.”

“I don’t know,” she continues. “This may just be 3-year-old squalor, but my son said he doesn’t want to invite Brae for a playdate. I told him that if he’s going to invite his other friend, he has to invite Brae.”

“Ok,” I stammer, still trying to process all of this in my head, hoping that Brae isn’t overhearing any of this. “Thanks for letting me know,” I manage, as I readjust Sienna on my hip and start gathering her things out of the car.

I walked to the front door of the school kind of in a daze. Was any of this true? Does bullying really start this young? I’d always been afraid that Brae would BE the bully, not the victim. Why am I so bothered by this? Was it appropriate for this mother to tell me all of this?

I dropped Sienna off, and on my way out the door to go get Brae, I ran into the headmistress of the school. I inquired about whether she’d seen any bullying-type activities from these two boys toward Brae. She seemed shocked, which was comforting to me. “No,” she insisted. “And if we do, we put a stop to it. But you know, one day, these kids are friends, one day they aren’t. Somebody hears that somebody else had a birthday party that they weren’t invited to, so they aren’t friends for a week.”

As I walked toward the car to get Brae, I knew that the headmaster was right. I remember how those school years can be. But why am I still so bothered by this? I don’t even know if it’s true.

As I unstrapped Brae from his carseat, I asked him, “So, are James and Max your friends?” He looked at me surprised and then said, “Mommy! I don’t want to go to school!” and started a little temper tantrum. (You have to keep in mind that Brae has been throwing a temper tantrum just about every morning since Sienna was born when I drop him off at school. He doesn’t seem like he ever wants to go, and yet, he’s never ready to leave when I pick him up in the afternoon. So I try not to read too much into this).

As I was driving away from the school, I could not get all of this out of my head.

We’ve tried so hard to make Brae not an “obvious” target of bullying. He doesn’t have a strange haircut. He wears “cool” clothes. He’s a confident kid. He’s a joker. He’s potty-trained (phew!). He’s learning his manners. He’s a smart kid.

And that’s where it hit me. I can do everything in my power to prepare him to enter this world, but I can do nothing about how other people act. I’m not responsible for the actions of others. My job as Brae’s Mommy is to equip him for this world. And, there are bullies in this world. Heck, there are bullies at my work. But that doesn’t mean I don’t go to work. If I were to teach Brae that every time he’s faced with an obstacle, he quits and turns around, I would be doing Brae a great disservice.

At the same time, no child should be subjected to bullying. School should be a safe place.

The problem with this situation is that I don’t really know what has happened, if anything. And this other mother doesn’t know either. We’re at the mercy of the finite vocabulary and infinite imagination of our sons.

At this moment, I plan to probe a little deeper with some of the other teachers at the school to see if they notice anything. I also plan on asking some non-leading questions of Brae tonight to see if I can elicit anything further.

There is another mother-friend at the school who is planning to take her son out. He’s a little bit older, and a very shy, reserved boy. She believes, based on things he has told her, that perhaps he’s not having the best time at school. He’s an artsy kid and she wants to find a school that may fit her son a little more.

I definitely do not feel at the same place she is. I love this school. It’s a full Spanish immersion school. It’s quaint, organic, a real neighborhood feel. During the summer, I’m able to walk the kids to and from school. I want Brae to stay in this school. But that desire pales in comparison to wanting the best for my son.

In this situation, it’s just so hard to know what that is.

I’m taking suggestions.

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