I’ve been asked before why I value the occasions when we can have dinner at the table. I don’t do it every single night, but most nights when I can get the homework cleaned off the table and the kitchen cleared out we do.
I don’t just value the fact that we’re together. It’s not just that we choose music and have that going rather than the television. It’s not even that we have the people all in the same room when my daughter has a tendency to put her headphones on her ears and disappear into her room. It’s more that we talk about what happened during the day.
Today it was very important. My son, who is shy, a bit off-putting at times and awkward sometimes in social settings was having issues. He’d had some behavioral problems and gotten in trouble in the past. Some of those were his fault. Most of them weren’t.
Today, though, I came to realize that my pushing him to hold off, not react, be as calm as possible, wasn’t always the best method when reacting to others.
The dinner conversation was important today because my son, who takes the bus home every day, was being bullied by four boys who sit behind him every day to bother him. He said something to the driver one day, but that just made them angry. He wasn’t going to say anything to me about it, he wanted to try and just ignore it.
“Tell Dad about today,” his sister informed him as we sat to eat.
“Oh…well, I’m calmer now.”
“You weren’t earlier. Tell him or I will,” his sister said.
For his sister, who is constantly irritated by her brother, to be worried I knew something was up.
“Well…these boys have been trying to get me angry all week. They put their phone on speaker, full blast, and tried to stop me doing my homework first.”
My daughter grew irritated and interrupted him.
“I told him to tell you because it’s not that…it’s that they’re bullying him now. They’re hitting him and doing other things.”
I looked at my son.
“They hit me in the back of the head. They kick me under the bus bench. They band together, so when the driver asks, they all defend each other and it’s my word against theirs.”
I looked at him, calmly. “You know you don’t have to put up with that.”
His eyes got glassy and he said he tried all the things I told him: ignoring them, trying to go away, telling on them at the very end. It just made it all worse.
“Stand up to them,” I told him. “Tell me first and if it continues I’ll go to the school myself. But you don’t have to put up with that, son.”
He looked encouraged.
“Don’t start a fight, I’ll never want that, but you don’t have to put up with it. Yell, shout, embarrass them, whatever. Stand up to them. They’ll back down. if they don’t…I’ll make sure something happens.”
I told him how he’s now years past when he would get in trouble and in a different school. He has no reputation, had no problems, has not hit, scratched or annoyed anyone. He tends to keep to himself and he likes it that way.
“My friend helped me,” he said. “When they kicked my leg she grabbed their leg under the bench and yanked the kid forward off his seat. We both laughed.”
I looked at him, smiled, and his sister put it best:
“I like her. She’s a good friend. You need to keep her!”
“Yep,” my son said, “she’s a good friend.”
By the end of dinner he had stopped worrying about the bus, they bullies, the school or any of it. He knew he could handle it. Talking about it helped. He had my support, which he always knew but was glad to hear it said out loud.
I gave him a hug and his brother looked up and said “if it gets really bad I could just punch them.”
“You probably shouldn’t do that,” I said, not wanting things to escalate. He, instead, was more logical.
“Yeah…guess there is four of them. I don’t think I could take more than two.”
I rolled my eyes. “Glad to see you got the lesson in our conversation there,” I told him. I swatted his behind and sent him off to do the dishes.