Last week, for the first very first time, Anders was teased at school to the point of tears. When I arrived to pick him up I found him red-faced and weeping in a corner. Usually, one of my favorite parts of the day is watching him play with his classmates for a few minutes before he notices I’m there, but on this day I didn’t get that chance. Instead I rushed over to him and wrapped my arms around him.
“He’s been crying off and on all day,” his teacher said. “He won’t say why.”
Later, alone in our car, it took me the entire drive home and a bribe to convince him to share with me what made his day so tear-filled. As it turns out, a boy in his class taunted him all day about his name. I’m still unclear on what about his name gave the bully ammunition, but Anders is sensitive and it could have been something as simple as saying it in that sing-song way children do when tormenting one another.
I talked to him for as long as he would listen about how to handle situations like that one. I told him that he should talk to the teacher about anything that makes him or his friends uncomfortable, that he shouldn’t engage the person being cruel to him. It was one of our very first conversations about rude playmates, but I know it won’t be our last.
In less than two weeks Anders will begin kindergarten. I can’t help but recall how trying those years were for me as a child. I know I have very little control over what type of experience Anders will have and the helplessness is maddening. I desire nothing more than the ability to protect him. Instead I must settle for teaching him to cope, to fight back in the right ways, and to confide in me if he encounters a problem he can’t tackle on his own.
Has your child had an encounter with a classroom bully yet? How did you handle it?