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Be Careful with The "B" Word

I’m talking about calling another child a “bully”.

There is always two sides to a story; here is mine…

It was really late on a Tuesday night. I just got our baby to sleep when I casually browsed through Facebook before kissing our older two boys goodnight. A post grabbed my attention and even tugged at my heart. It was a post made on our neighborhood ladies page by a mom asking for help as her 5th grade son was getting picked on at school. I clicked on her profile picture to show the image to my 5th grade son. I asked him to look out for this kid because he had a rough day at school Monday. This is something I always do when I’ve heard or read about a child having a hard time. I explain to our boys that it’s not their responsibility to take care of anybody else, but I’d like them to be aware of kids that are struggling. We moved to this neighborhood just a little over a year ago, so they freshly remember what it’s like to be the odd man out.

When I showed my son the picture, instead of nodding his head and closing his eyes to sleep like he usually does, his eyes widened like a deer in headlights. “What’s the matter?” I asked. Frightened, he said, “I think this might have to do with me!”

He then proceeded to tell me his side of the story which was a far stretch from "bullying". I explained to him that sticking up for himself it not bullying, but to be careful with his words. After all, words are very powerful; they can build someone up just as easily as they can tear someone down. I gave my worried boy a kiss on the head goodnight and went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. My stomach was in knots. I couldn’t understand why a mom would take to social media for a classroom subject matter such as this. I wondered if what this mom was saying was so bad in her imagination, why hadn’t their teacher reached out me yet. So, naturally, I sent an email to the teacher and texted my mom-friends with children in the same class. I needed to seek out my resources to find out if there was more to the story.

Just as I finished sending the messages, my son came in the room. “I can’t sleep”, he said with trembling lips. “Neither can I, babe,” I told him as we walked back to his room. We spent the next two hours talking and praying. If you haven’t ever experienced anything like this before, I can tell you it is incredibly painful to be accused as something as serious as “bullying”. We both struggled with a whirlwind of emotions from fear, anger, hurt, and loneliness. We felt flagged, judged, isolated and mislabeled. Our prayer that night was and continues to be that this child finds friends that are like-minded and up-lifting. We pray that he is self-confident and self-assured and becomes everything God plans for him to be.

The following day, I heard back from the parents whose children are in the class and the story that my son told me was confirmed to be correct. It went something like this: the class was broken into small group lessons involving a race. My son won the race in his group and just like all of his buddies would, he bragged, “YES! I WON! Oh yeah!!!” The other child was not in this particular working group, yet he lashed out to my son, “Shut up! God, you are so annoying! Shut up, shut up, just SHUT UP!” In shock, my son retaliated with, “I don’t even know why you’re looking at me right now. You’re not even my friend!” I may not be quoting them perfectly, but this is what I’ve gathered from 3 different students that were there including my son. Yes, what my son said wasn’t nice and I can imagine very hurtful, but so is being called “annoying” and told to “shut up” repeatedly. Bullying? … well, now that’s laughable.

[I explained the full story so you can use your own best judgement on what happened.]

In this mom's post she explained how she could “see that he’s an easy target” or “didn’t have anyone to play with at recess”. An “easy target”? Maybe she thinks so, but in my opinion, I don’t see how he was ever targeted. Secondly, according to all of my sources, her son plays with mine at recess every single day. It’s now February which means for the last 6 months he’s had someone to play with. I’m not going to break down every sentence in her post, but I had to address those very misleading details.

The teacher and I spoke the day following my email to her. She put my racing mind at ease. She apologized to me that something so minor was put on social media and that I have a great kid. She also told me that my child waited for all the students to leave before coming up to her desk to ask, “I’m confused… am I a bully?” Yea, I fell into an ugly cry and am near there again as I type. No son, you’re not a bully. Not only are you not a bully, you’re an exceptional child and mommy is very proud of you for sticking up for yourself.

This is not a post seeking reassurance or praise. This post is for the mom that, like me, feels like her child is flagged for false accusation. You are not alone, Mom. You’re doing a great job and I promise this will all get better with time.

If something similar has ever happened to you, I would love to hear your story and so would many other hurting moms. Please privately message me HERE. I'd also love any piece of advice you might have found to work for your family.

-HiL

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