Brennan is attending a new summer camp this year with more activities and less money than his daycare. We decided on this camp because we liked the philosophy, price and of course the staff that run the camp. Brennan is not alone because he has his god brother, Reilly, who attends the camp with him. Reilly is a year older and this is his second year at the camp. While I knew that change is always difficult and frustrating for Brennan, he has immersed himself into camp with a confident spirit. For that I am happy.
However, that happiness was short lived. Last week he experienced his first bullying episode. Brennan said, “Mommy, some kids at camp are saying I’m pregnant.” He lifted up his shirt and said, “But mommy I’m not pregnant. Look there is no baby in my belly”. I had to catch myself from “going off” out of anger. I was sitting here in agony over the fact that my baby boy was experiencing his first bullying episode and I wasn’t ready. I know that violence begets violence and bullying should be handled through non-violent means, but wasn’t he too young to be going through this? I could feel my son’s concern over their words in my spirit and I knew he was hurting.
So, I told him to scream at them in their face at the top of his lungs. I told him to scream: “That is not nice and you have bad manners!” and let the teachers know when they say something like that to him. I promised him that I would handle it. The next day I talked to the camp’s Director with Brennan and he was understandably concerned and promised to address it directly with the children immediately. I explained to him that I understand that children would get teased, but this is ridiculous and questioned whether I should I have to teach my six year old how to “joan” on the other kids? (Joaning is when you make fun of someone. It’s an urban term similar to playing the dozens).
But, how do you teach a six year old how to play the dozens or to joan on someone to try and hurt their feelings and embarrass them? Was I perpetuating the cycle of creating a bully while disguising it under teaching him how to fight back with words instead of his fists? This was both puzzling and perplexing to me. Brennan’s dad and I differed on how bullying would be handled, but I wasn’t ready to teach my son bad habits that could in effect change his life. I have always had a plan on how Brennan would defend himself, but I never thought I would need to do it this soon. My plan has always been to put him in martial arts and allow him to take boxing at the age of 9. I want him to understand that violence is never the answer unless there are no more options, but am I wrong? The Director replied, “No” and assured me that he would handle it.
I started to seek advice of men who had boys to gauge their thoughts around bullying and one parent told me, “I have resounded myself to the fact that I will have to stay home a few days because I told my son to fight back if someone puts their hands on him.” I teach him that “you punch the bully in his face and even if he beats you up, he won’t punch you in the face anymore.” He told me that, “You have to address aggression with aggression sometimes to avoid further conflict. That is why wars work sometimes.” He further went on to say that “I learned that you can be nice but you also have to have a mean streak because there are mean people in the world so you tell him to say that they are mean, but he can’t cry. He can’t whimper.” He was the one to tell me that Brennan may have to learn how to joan on people to keep them off of him. That piece of advice moved me into thinking maybe I need to teach my son how to adapt in the community in which he is a part of. Survival of the fittest and such.
But, I can honestly say that I am lost. I don’t know what to do. I wake up every day kissing my son telling him that he needs to rise and shine and give God the glory. I tickle him, kiss him and tell him I am proud of who he is just because he opened his eyes. I struggle with this bullying epidemic that has affected our society. It breaks my heart to hear stories of children who are committing suicide because they are being bullied and it broke my heart to hear the story of the child that killed his bully a couple of weeks ago because he was tired of being a victim. I don’t want my son in either of those situations. I just pray that we get serious with ways to combat and avert this bullying crisis and not just tell kids to toughen up or say that kids will be kids.