Friday, February 15, 2008

The Truth about the World

A few days ago The Kid was running down the walkway after school to wait for me on the corner. I was about ten feet behind him carrying his backpack. He walked up to a second grader, a boy we know by sight, (The Kid actually calls him "that second grader") and the older, taller boy said a coupe of words I could not hear and then punched The Kid in the stomach. The Kid instinctively turned his back on the boy who proceeded to punch him twice more, once in the back and then he reached around and punched him again in the groin. Even now, it physically hurts me to write these words.

My child! He was punching my child. As soon as I realized what was going on I sprinted the few feet between us screaming "Stop!" My scream broke the spell, other people looked to see what was going on. Heads turned. The crossing guards looked up and that second grader took one look at the fury on my face and ran away as fast as he could. I had pulled The Kid up against me and started yelling, "Who is that kid?" And then in a much darker tone, "Where is his mother?"

I checked The Kid and although he was shaking and crying, he was okay. He said the other boy had punched him "medium" and not hard. A mother who witnessed the whole thing came over and told me the other kid's name. She even spelled the last name for me. I went home and called the school. I spent the afternoon bouncing back and forth between cheering up The Kid and pacing around the house muttering bad words under my breath. I called Lefty who was teaching a lab. I asked him to take his phone out into the hall and told him what happened. After we hung up, he walked down the hall, into a bathroom and kicked the wall – hard.

Is there anything worse than someone hurting your child? Is there anything else that enrages a normally somewhat sane person?

Later that night Lefty was talking to The Kid while he was in the tub, and the phone rang. The name on the caller id was the last name of that second grader. I took a deep breath and answered. His mother was so sorry. Her child had not said a thing but another mother who witnessed the whole thing had called to ask her about it. Her child said The Kid pushed him. I told her I was there, ten feet away, and that The Kid had done nothing of the sort. I tried to be nice and sound calm but the whole time this crazy rage felt like it was about to break through the polite conversation.

She said her child wanted to apologize. I said my child was almost certainly going to be afraid of her child and I would prefer if he just kept his distance. I told her I had called the school and that I was sure they would handle it appropriately. I was shaking when I hung up the phone. I told The Kid he would probably be called to the office to talk about it the next day. I emailed The Kid's teacher to give her a head's up. I went to bed and tossed and turned and worried and argued with the principal and demanded the other child be disciplined and threatened to go to the school board over and over in my head all night long. Very little sleep, much thrashing.

Dawn breaks. The Kid goes to school and the assistant principal calls me, explains how the school handles such things. Assures me, she is a mother. She will be sure that The Kid feels safe. He will be in the room with that second grader. She will listen to both sides of the story. I ask her to be gentle with my boy. He's only just turned seven. He's still so small. My voice trails off. I hang up the phone.

She calls me back mid-afternoon. Everything went fine, she assures me. The Kid was confident and unafraid. The other boy admitted to the punching and that he was not pushed or provoked at all by The Kid. He apologizes to The Kid and my child accepts his apology. She said they both smiled and talked about Pokémon for a minute or so before she walked them back to their classes.

So the fear and the anger (oh, the anger) are all dissolved in this crystalline moment of two smiling little boys. I don't know where The Kid gets his grace, his belief in the good in everyone – even someone who punched him in the groin. He didn't get it from me. I was ready to do a whole lot of things, but smile and forgive were not on the list. I'm happy with the way the school handled things. The other boy will be disciplined. But I'm particularly proud of The Kid and the way he handled things. He didn't catastrophize and think bad things happen, people are not to be trusted. He sees it as the fluke it was. He says "Sam (that second grader now has a name) will never do that again." And he believes it.


  1. Oh man that would be SO hard! I'm glad it all worked out.


  2. I got tense just reading this. I hope you poured yourself a large glass of wine and the Kid got an extra cookie. It sounds like everyone handled it well. I'm glad he's not scared.

  3. OMG, how horrible!!! It is funny how kids can just bounce back from that kind of stuff---I guess little boys have been punching each other for a long, long time but you are right....he's much more forgiving than I would have been!