A few weeks ago my 5th grader was the butt of a class joke.
It was a typical Wednesday when I picked Boy Wonder up from school. As he walked out of the gate I spotted a look on his face I hadn’t seen before, a rare combination of defeat and aggression. I immediately asked if he was OK and received a quiet “yeah” in exchange for my concern.
We slowly made our way out of the crowd of parents, students, and roller backpacks when a girl raced up to him and kicked his roller backpack hard. I can only assume she didn’t know I was his mother, brazen little missy.
His face changed from defeat to fury as he proceeded to kick the living daylights out of her roller backpack before I could stop him. “Stop!” I screamed. The girl looked at me, breathed a heavy sigh of disgust and disappeared into the crowd.
“What was that all about?” I asked. He said nothing. We walked home in awkward silence.
Upon arriving home he sat down at the kitchen table to start his homework. I sat beside him and put my hand on his back, “Do you want to tell me what that was all about?” I asked. With tears in his eyes he looked up and said, “I just had a bad day. Everyone in my class was kicking my backpack all day long and laughing at me. I tried telling them all to stop but when it happened again after school I was just so mad, Mom!”
I understood his anger and I was angry too, wondering what could have possibly instigated a backpack beating. Maybe he was chosen at random. Maybe one kid had an axe to grind and the others followed. Whatever the cause, kicking someone’s backpack was wrong. It was personal property and Boy Wonder carried his glasses in the very front pocket everyone spent the day kicking the crap out of.
We talked about who did the kicking and tried to speculate about possible reasons why, but in the end it all came down to what Boy Wonder was going to do about it.
Sure, I could have talked to his teacher myself but I wanted to give him the first opportunity to handle this problem without my intervention. I believed it was his responsibility to tell his teacher what happened, who did the kicking, and admit he kicked back. After a great deal of personal deliberation, Boy Wonder begrudgingly agreed.
At the risk of being dubbed a tattle-tale, he told the teacher about the situation. She addressed the issue with the class without naming names and the kicking stopped. We later learned that the backpack kicking thing had happened to several other students who hadn’t chosen to speak up.
In the greater scheme of things, kids kicking roller backpacks is hardly newsworthy. And while the incident didn’t cause personal injury, it did cause unnecessary intimidation and frustration. While it will always pain me to witness my son hurting, I’m grateful in a sense for his mild introduction to senseless wrongdoing.
My son didn’t have to get punched in the face or have his lunch money stolen to wade through the emotions of mustering up the courage to speak up in a time of injustice. His backpack will take a far worse beating than a good class kicking by time he’s through with it, but perhaps because of this experience his spirit won’t have to.
Has your kid ever been bullied? Did you get involved?
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