My tender-hearted son, bullies and my helplessness
Having a tender-hearted son is one of the hardest parts of parenting for me. This beautiful image was found on http://www.theocentric.com.
One of the most difficult parts of motherhood has been trying to parent a child who is completely my emotional opposite. I’m not exactly hard-hearted Hannah, but I come close. By nature, I don’t put a lot of stock in what people I don’t know think about me. Seriously. I know my flaws and short comings better than anyone. The Hubs and my kids think I am pretty fabulous, and to me, that’s all that matters. And I think I’ve been like that most of my life. Fairly secure in my personhood.
Only now, I have this precious 6-year-old son. And he is perfect to me, in every way. He is smart and funny, curious and sweet. He also has BIG, deep feelings and he thinks too much. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and it is giant and tender and full of so much love. But big, unguarded hearts get hurt so easily.
My baby now has a bully at school and a bully on the bus. At first we thought he was saying he has a “buoy” at school. Are they studying marine life? The Hubs heard something about a “boy” at school. But as he opened up a little more, we realized he was saying “bully.” Now, in my defense, Little Son has lost his top two front teeth and heck if I know what he is saying anymore!
“My face is different than everybody else’s,” he told me.
“Because it is so good-looking?” I asked, flippant and confident.
“No. That’s not what I mean.”
“Well, God made everyone different, so of course your face isn’t like anyone else’s,” Less flippant.
“No. That’s not what I mean either.”
“What do you mean? Because you’re white, you have blue-green eyes, brown hair, full lips, freckles? What? How is it different?”
Sad sigh from the back seat. “Because it’s creepy. There is a kid at school who keeps telling me my face is creepy.”
And because I go from 1 to 10 on the anger scale instantly, I tell him the next time he sees that kid he should tell him, “thanks for the compliment, and kiss my creepy butt.”
This only makes Little Son more panicky. A big fan of rule following, he does not want to get in trouble for using ugly words. I suggested hiney instead, but that was still an emphatic no.
Bodacious is sitting next to him in the back seat. She is enraged, demanding to know the name of the person who said her brudder was creepy. Apparently, repeated assurances from his sister and mother about his good looks don’t count though. He gets out of the car defeated.
I talk to the Hubs about it later while the kids are at church. You know I blame him for Little Son’s sweet streak. He was a sensitive child and he needs to FIX this before I kick someone. So the Hubs called in the big guns – his little sister, Rachel. Aunt Rachel has three gorgeous, brilliant boys who are very different from one another. They have different strengths, interests and talents, but she really “gets” each of them. Open communication between them is important and she stays committed to it.
She gave us some really good advice about teasing, and even wrote Little Son the sweetest letter! These words were especially important for me to hear – be careful about the way you react to your child’s problem. Kids look to us to see how they should respond, and our reactions can feed their feelings. Two, remind your child that they are not alone, we all get picked on at some time or another. Just because someone says it, does not make it true. Three, we don’t know what is going on with the bully. She may be hurting as well and doesn’t know how to cope. Four, tell someone when it happens, a friend, a parent, a teacher. Five, don’t be afraid to just walk away.
That night, the Hubs spent storytime talking to the kids about things people have said about him and how it made him feel. They talked about things that have been said to their cousins, and even to their Aunt Rachel. Bodacious didn’t understand how anyone could ever say anything mean about her Aunt Rachel though. Stroking the sides of her face she said, “No. Aunt Rachel is pretty, like me!” Well, I guess I won’t have to worry about this kid.
I asked for advice on Facebook, hoping other parents had some wise words because I just know there are more sensitive kiddos out there. The responses and suggestions I got were amazing and heartbreaking, uplifting and full of kindness. Apparently there are a lot of us struggling to keep our momma bear instincts in check. If I were more sensitive, I probably would have cried after reading and re-reading them, and then reading them some more today. Thank you, all. I feel very grateful for your wisdom and virtual hugs, and it is good to know we are not alone in this.
In the words of my dear momma friend Paige Sumner and the Hands Free Momma movement, choose kindness, speak only love today and remember to breathe.
If you have advice about parenting a sensitive child, please, share!