Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Navigating the Bumps

No. This is not a post about skiing, although that is one sport we all love as a family. The bumps are social ones, and this bump is the size and shape of a mountain.

My 7th grader, who is a big and strong kid, a green belt in karate, is being harassed by a 7th grade girl whom he outweighs and physically outmasters.

But she seems savvy in the ways of social harassment in a way my son will likely never be.

My son reports that this girl verbally accosted him on a sledding hill near the house. When he tried to ignore her and resume sledding, she shoved him and he went down unprepared, fell and hit his head on the ice. He was furious, but understood the 'rules' about retaliation: he went home.

I called the parent, asking her to speak with her daughter about the incident. The mother became incensed on the telephone, rude, swearing at me and ultimately hung up. I called her back. She claims that my son accosted her daughter, both verbally and physically.

Now I know all kids are capable of lying and of making bad choices. But I *do* know my son and he is a lousy lier. He also lacks the social guile to lie to this extent. I also have outside corroboration about this girl's previous aggressive behavior.

My son feels believed and safe within his family. That's no small feat. But he is frustrated, angry, and scared, not knowing why this girl is targeting him or what he will have to do to stay safe the next time.

I can't keep him from experiencing the bewildering array of cruelty in the world. The bumps will happen. And I will not always be there to help him navigate.

I want this girl to understand the hurt my son has experienced--not the physical hurt. That fades. But the emotional hurt that comes from not being able to trust in the 'rules' of social interaction that are supposed to keep him safe. But maybe she already knows--maybe she hopes to inflict that kind of pain. I don't understand it and it makes me doubt my abilities as a parent. How can I help my son when I don't understand the world we have to inhabit?

1 comment:

andrea said...

Wow. I remember being that age (i'm now in university) and being treated that way...and I remember my mother having similar phone calls with irrational parents.

I respect you a lot for how you are going about this... its obvious that you love your son, and he is lucky.

Hope it works out OK and that your son realizes that he is loved enough by his family and friends that this one girl shouldn't get him down... she's obviously lacking in support and needs to put other people down to make herself feel better. Its a shame, really, that she is missing that love in her life.

OK sorry to ramble haha...i just kind of stumbled here by hitting 'next blog' a few times out of boredom, i'm glad i did