There was a lot of good that happened to my son, Brock, in his first year of public school, but there was also something happening to my son that is a fear for all parents. My son was getting bullied. Brock made some really good friends in kindergarten, but outside of school, he was going through something I’ve feared for a very long time. A neighbor boy who is a few years older was bullying him.
It started one day at the end of winter. Brock was playing football with all the neighborhood kids. I was sitting on the sidelines reading a book when I ran into my house quickly. When I came out, I heard something that made my heart drop. I heard this child mocking the way my son ran. Brock has some developmental delays and part of that causes his legs to turn out and his knees to turn in when he runs. It would be very noticeable for someone who hasn’t been around my child much. So when I heard this child yell really loudly, “Look at Brock running, what are you retarded or something?” the tears instantly came to my eyes. I walked up to Brock, who had also started crying at that point, grabbed his hand and walked away. I had a million things I wanted to say to that child, but my first priority was my son.
I held Brock for a long time that night while he was crying, and he said something to me that completely shattered my heart. He said, “Why do I run so funny, Momma? Please help me be the best runner ever.” Thus started our daily runs.
Over the course of the next few months, the bullying didn’t subside; the teasing got worse. I saw my child turn into himself more and pull away from all the people who cared about him. Every morning before Brock got on the bus, we’d always say our “I love you’s” and pat each other’s backs (it’s Brock’s sign of affection). If for some reason he’d forget when the bus pulled up, he would either run back or yell, “I love you, don’t forget that.”
One morning when the bus pulled up, I bent down to his level to pat his back and say I love you. The meanest look I’ve ever seen crossed my son’s face. He said, “Don’t touch me. I’m not a baby anymore.” I was completely taken aback. I said to Brock, “I show you affection because I love you. Did someone say something to you about it?” He replied in the affirmative and said the neighbor boy called him a “momma’s boy baby.”
After the months of teasing, and later learning was he was also tripping and pushing my son, he came home one day with marker covering half of his white-blonde hair. I decided it was time to have a talk with the child’s father. Some may ask why I didn’t do it sooner, and but when I did talk to the father, he laughed in my face and said something along the lines of “That’s my boy.” He is a person I’m not very comfortable around.
I had some talks with Brock as well and told him to ignore him, and I started driving Brock both ways to school. He was much happier, and anytime the neighbor boy came to the door and asked to play with Brock, I’d decline for him.
That all changed this summer when I bought a pool for Brock and the child asked if he could play, too. I told him, “I’m sorry, but under the circumstances I’m going to have to say no.” So when Brock said, “Just let him, Mom,” I was surprised. When I asked Brock why, he said, “You always say to be nice to everyone and that wasn’t very nice.” I asked Brock if that’s what he really wanted and he said yes. I looked to the neighbor boy who had been the cause of so much pain in my house and said, “The first time you say one mean word, put your hand on or tease my son in any way, you’re out.” He promised he wouldn’t.
So this is how an unlikely friendship started. Every time he’d come to my door and ask to play, I would be right there. I did that for a whole month until Brock asked if I could basically back off a bit. So I did. Sort of. During one of their times playing together, and my times eavesdropping, I even heard an apology. My son said to him, “It’s OK, don’t do it again. Everyone needs a friend.”
The child who was bullying my son doesn’t have the best home life. He in turn lashed out at my son. They aren’t the best of friends, but they do get along now. My son taught me a lesson through his kindness: Yes, everyone deserves a friend. Or a safe place. After seeing how truly happy my son is, the boy who was bullying him wanted a part of that, too. Not everyone can make amends with their bully, but sometimes being the bigger person helps. Brock could have told him, “No, you can’t play with me,” and that would’ve been understandable. Instead, he took the high road and extended a branch.
Everyone has a story, and we don’t always know what goes on behind closed doors. But we can put aside our differences and be there for someone who really needs it. Even when we don’t want to be.
The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.