I know you’re a good mom. I know your children are the light of your life and that just like most kids, they are great kids most of the time. Mine are too. Here’s the thing though :: they’re not always great kids. They mess up in a multitude of ways – your kids and mine – and recently, your kid messed up.
I want to talk to you about this because we are together in this mess of motherhood. I want to present a united front for our children, a universal coalition of moms who have eyes in the back of their heads. Surely this is how our mothers accomplished their omnipresence! They relied on each other, talked to each other, weren’t afraid to tell each other when the other kid did or said something that was out of line. They had each other’s backs and the entire community benefited from that.
Unfortunately, I tried talking to you about this and you shut me down, more than once. You would not hear it. Could you not hear it? It is okay for our kids to make mistakes. They’re not very skilled at interacting, communicating, and negotiating the tricky social dynamics of youth – and that is okay; they’re learning. The first time my son told me he had been called names and pushed around, my attention piqued but we didn’t make too big a deal of it. When I texted you about it, you said, “My child does not do that.” I was taken aback because I didn’t think the fact of it would be the thing we would talk about; I thought we talk about how we could band together to help them both figure out how to interact better with each other. When it kept happening, I coached my kid on how to respond, how to uphold good boundaries and maintain his self-esteem. I told him, it’s okay to not tolerate being treated poorly, it’s okay to walk away. And that’s what he did. Only then, did you want to talk about it, but this time, to volley accusations while standing in staunch denial of your own child’s involvement.
Mother of my child’s bully, please know that I did not take your accusations lightly, even though I couldn’t communicate that to you. I questioned my child, talked to his teachers and coaches, and parents of other friends. I thoroughly investigated so that IF he had any reciprocal bullying behavior, we could address it. That is what I wish you would have done. How do I know you didn’t? Well, for starters, your child’s behavior continued. I learned, as I suspected, that my kid was not the first target and I’m guessing he won’t be the last. BUT, I want you to know, I’m not sitting here in judgment. Bullying happens all the time. It could have been my kid and still could be at some point in the future. He could be the bully. The statistics show that it happens too often for any of us to sit in denial saying, “my child does not do that.” Instead, we need to acknowledge the possibility and then handle our kids and their victims with open communication and grace.
One mother I heard of, the mother of a bully, approached the other mother by telling her ::
I understand that my child was unkind and I want you to know we are aware and it is not okay with us. We would like to start rebuilding that relationship.
It’s that simple. She could have even said, it doesn’t seem they are compatible as friends but we have talked to him about being kind and respectful anyway… After all, our kids don’t have to be friends but they do need to treat each other respectfully and so do you and I. I get that this is a hard conversation. None of us wants to hear that our kid is the bully, but it is bound to happen to some of us.
You mentioned Jesus and second chances and I want you to know that He is my very good friend too, and we follow His example every day. We are a family of second chances. But Jesus did not let Himself be bullied. He was the example of healthy boundaries and that’s what we aspire to teach our children. In fact, I regularly ask my son, do you want to try to play with your old friend again? The second and third and fourth chances are ready and waiting, but I will not force my son to make himself vulnerable, to take that chance before he’s ready. I am not keeping him away from your son; I am modeling respect of boundaries.
Momma, please know that if and when I ever learn about the next kid your child bullied, or, if and when you are ready to talk about this… I am here to support you. I am here to be the village of mothers where we are all in this together, figuring it out together. Then, when it’s my turn to acknowledge and talk about my kids’ messes, I can come to you and get your support and grace in return. Motherhood is not a competition and neither is our kids’ behavior. Their good or bad actions do not reflect the quality of our mothering.
Mother of my child’s bully, I want you to know that my son and I have already forgiven you and yours months ago. I am sorry this happened but I am glad that it gave me a chance to talk to my son about how it is okay to make mistakes, to be accountable, to deal with the consequences of our actions, and learn from them. I hope this is the first and last time we have to deal with bullying, but even if it is not, I now know there is a way to do so, and emerge better. I only wish the same for you.
YES! We are all in this together, momma! Thank you for the reminder.