The principal at my son’s school and I are on a first name basis and it’s not because I am the president of the PTA. No, it’s because my son is a bully. I wonder whether other parents — parents of non-bullies — have ever given much thought to my position.
I choose to bravely volunteer at the school, hoping I won’t run into my son sitting in the office, waiting to see the principal. For now it is an unwritten rule that I not help in his class or drive on his field trips. That only makes things worse. But I still volunteer at school. Maybe a part of me being there is to quell any rumors that I don’t care, that I’m not trying.
Last year, after a volunteer shift, I saw another fourth grade parent in the parking lot. Recently his children had received some of my son’s negative attention.
“Hey Bill…I’m Timmy’s Mom.”
“I know who you are…”
Maybe I should have taken the verbal cue and retreated, but running away or ignoring a circumstance offers no solutions.
“I…I wanted to let you know that I was aware of the situation…that my son has been giving your kids a bad time. I…”
“I should hope you’re aware of the situation. Your son shouldn’t be allowed at this school! My kids don’t want to come to school because of him! You need to get him some help! Something needs to be done.”
My son is an equal opportunity offender. I, too, have been kicked, spit on. I, too, have been his target. More than once, he’s wished me dead and said he wouldn’t cry or go to my funeral. But what this parent had just done with his words hurt, too. I quietly gasped for strength and composure, feeling my face flush red as hot tears began their rise from that pool of endless frustration that is always simmering.
When he paused, I spoke fast. “Well, parent to parent, I wanted to apologize. Timmy makes bad choices and I’m sorry he’s picked on your kids. I wanted to let you know that we are working on things.”
I tried to keep my brave face on, not bumble or get defensive. He stood well-groomed, in a business shirt and slacks, shoes that would hold polish. I wanted to run, get the hell out of there. There are days I don’t want to come to school because of my son. This was one of them. How many times have I felt humiliated, attacked, shamed and judged, by my son’s behaviors?
He softened, “My wife, she… she says you’re okay. I guess it takes a lot of…a lot of nerve on your part to approach me and bring this up. You know, I was bullied when I was a kid and maybe I’m embarrassed that I’ve let it go on so long with my own children. It’s not easy being bullied.”
“I can assure you it’s not easy being the Mom of a bully either…” my voice cracked and I avoided eye contact. “I…I’m going to go.”
He wished his children weren’t picked on. And I’ve wished equally hard, if not more, that my son were not a bully, not a challenging kid.