School started off with a bang this year, and all seemed to be going well until last week, when my 5-year-old son began coming home and reporting that “no one would play with him” and “nobody wanted to be his friend.” My stomach twisted into a knot as I watched him dejectedly kicking the rocks on our way home from the bus stop. Apparently, one little cherub in his class has even been saying things to him like, “I don’t like you. You can’t sit here. I wish you were in another school,” and of course, it happens to be the girl he has his first crush on. The mama bear in me wanted to march down to the school and pull some pony tails, but (with great restraint) I managed to control myself.
But what to do? Another piece of the puzzle here is that I was bullied for a few years in elementary school, and so, as you can imagine, this situation presses all kinds of nasty childhood buttons with me.
This past week, when I talked to my son about what’s going on at school, I tried not to sound like a raving lunatic, but I could hear my voice creeping up to the high, screechy, only-dogs-can-hear-me-now-register as I pumped him for information. “What do you mean they won’t play with you? What did you do when they said that to you? Where was your teacher?”
“Mom, you’re hurting my ears,” Alex finally said, and ran from the room. (Good one, Mom. Nice job.)
I called my friend Jody, who gently suggested I let my husband handle this one. Only, here’s the thing — my husband Joe is Mr. “Let-it-roll-off-your-back” Cool. I am more like Squirrel Nutkin on Espresso. When I was bullied in school, the hardest part was that I didn’t know how to fight back or what to say to the kids who were excluding me. And, horror of horrors, in this respect, it seems my son is just like me.
I tried to do a role play with him the other day, but it just made him more upset. In the mean time, he seems sadder and more discouraged each day he gets off the bus.
Help! Anyone have any suggestions out there?
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.