I just read a post about a mom ( http://thescooponbalance.com/what-to-do-when-someone-is-mean-to-your-child/ ) confronting a kid she called “a bully.” I don’t like labels, so I don’t use that term, but I know what it means. I also know what it is like to be the mother, who is raising the child, who is mean to other kids sometimes. That blog post inspired this one by triggering a memory. I thought perhaps there are moms out there in a situation similar to mine, who may need this.
I am the mother of homeschoolers. I had a child who just did not fit in the system. When I started teaching my kids at home, we went to many homeschool events, and I never saw kids being mean to other kids. They were always so polite. Their moms were right there. Perhaps that was why. One day, I found myself at a Mother-Son retreat for homeschooled boys and their moms. The moms were very separated from their sons, socializing with each other. I was with them. Then a heart-jerking moment came. A small boy came to his mother, crying loudly about a boy who had hit him, hard, and for no reason.
Immediately, my mother instincts wanted to stop this from happening to others and told me to go find out who it was. I went up to the small boy, with his mother there, leaned down, and asked him calmly to describe the boy. It led to the boy leading me to the boy who had hit him. The boy he led me to, was my son. At this point, I needed advice, or help. What was I to do? I told the boy thank you. I smiled at my son. I left my son there, alone, in a room, sitting on the floor. I went to the mother of the boy, with the son, and told her that my son was the cause of her son’s tears. I apologized to her and told her I was going to go talk to my son now.
I went to my son. I sat down next to him calmly and told him sweetly, that the boy whom he’d just seen had gone crying to his mom that a boy had hit him, that I’d asked the boy to lead me to the boy who’d hurt him. I told him that he’d led me to him, to “you.” My son got a surprised, confused look on his face and said, “I never hit him! It was a different boy. I saw who hit him. He was throwing basketballs at my face!” Oh! The mystery unfolds! I followed my son, who led me around and around and could not locate the boy. Finally, he did. “That’s him!” he said. It was the boy who had claimed, my son had hit him.
Oh, mysteries! One of my own. A real one. I am a detective. I told the mother, that my son, said her son, had hit him. She asked her son if that were true. He said, no. She immediately trusted him and looked at me. She said her child was a very sweet boy, and would never hurt anyone. I felt angry. I did not like this. She was saying my son was lying and that was not fair.
I left. I asked my son, were he sure that was the boy. He repeatedly said he was the boy who’d hit him. I kept talking to my son. Finally, he changed the story. He said a different boy may have been the one, throwing basketballs at him. He led me to the boy. I knew the boy. Oh, dear. Now what? Was I to go and tell the mother, or not?
I opted for the “not,” and instead went to talk to the boy. The boy denied having done what my son said. Oh, my. Now what? I took my son into a room and talked to him. I asked him if it were really true, that that boy had done what he said, and whether he really did hit the other boy. Now a different story unfolded. He said that he had been climbing up the slide, and that boy was the one at the top of it, throwing basketballs down the slide, and the basketballs kept hitting my son in the face. Angry, my son waited for the boy to come down the slide, and he’d hit him, hard. Unfortunately, the basketball-throwing child was not the next one to come down the slide. That is how it came to be that my son, had hit a kid, hard, a kid who had done nothing to deserve it, and how the other boy denied having thrown basketballs at my son’s head–from the top of the tube slide, he had not been aware that they were hitting anyone.
Still, my son had hit that boy, so I told him the boy was hurting and asked whether we should go see how he’s feeling now. We went to the boy and his mom, and my son, of his own volition, told the boy he was sorry. His mother was calm and forgiving, though her extreme declaration earlier, that her son would never hurt anyone, and that she knew her son had not done it, was still in me. I do not like it when parents who were not watching, act as if they know things, as facts.
Then I talked to my son again. He said he had not hit the boy. Today, he still says he never hit anyone that day.
I decided I would have to watch. This woman watched with me a little while (about an hour). Then I was on my own. The boys did not like me. I told them they could not throw basketballs down the slide. I told them they could not hit each other with pillows. Then I started to take away pillows (because they kept hitting others with them). I found out there were 2 teams, and they were warring with each other. I found out 5 of them would grab a kid with great force, put him in a closed area, with guards, and say he was their “prisoner.” The other team had to give a concession to get him back. I did not like this. I said, “No prisoners! No grabbing kids and hurting them and imprisoning them!”
As I went inside the prison to free the inmate, he begged me not to free him. “I want to be in prison. We are just playing. It is fun!” He told me.
That is when I realized that maybe some boys like being grabbed harshly by 5 other boys and put into a fake prison. It was fun.
My attitude changed. Now I would make sure to ask the “victims” whether they were O.K. with it, or not. I stayed there, to make sure they knew someone was watching, but I tried to “stay out of it” as long as none of the boys felt like they were being hurt. The “play” of men and boys is very different from the “play” of women and girls.
Since then, I have re-thought a lot of my first instincts. My kids wrestle on the floor constantly. I don’t get it, but they do. As long as they are O.K. with it, I am.