So my son came home from school today in tears. Seems a couple of boys on the bus have been making fun of him and it finally got, as he said, to be "too much." He said he didn't know what to do.
This is where your dad genes are supposed to kick in and you have the answer, or at least words to make it better, right? Nope. Didn't happen. I had hugs and assurances that he is perfect just as he is and the feeble advice to launch back at them next time, but that's it.
What do you say? I mean, the temptation is to tell him it's just a kid thing and if he toughs it out, he'll pull through and it'll stop. But that's a lie and I don't want to lie to the boy.
I feel like I should, after 43 years, have something constructive to offer, but I don't. I have been there at his age and know that while it gets better, it doesn't stop. Adults are less blatant, but just as cruel. And often it turns out worse because as we grow it isn't strangers making fun of or trying to hurt us, it's people close to us. It's our co-workers or friends or associates. In the worst cases it's our family or spouse.
How do we, as adults, deal? We ignore it, we pretend it's a joke, we convince ourselves we misunderstood. We think of a thousand ways that next time we will come back, next time we will stand up for ourselves. We know exactly what we should have said. But when the next time comes around, it isn't really any different. And there's always a next time because we don't really know what to do.
Truth is, the truth is too hard. What we do is scab over, emotionally. We take the bad and hide it from ourselves. We have to, as social animals. If we didn't believe that this time it would be different, we'd stop making new social contacts and all become hermits and society would collapse. But how do you tell a child that all you can do is learn to put up with it? That's no comfort.
The closest I can come to making it better is to explain how important it is to not turn a blind eye when you see others being hurt. There's really no good way I have found to defend yourself, but it helps tremendously to stand up for a friend or even a stranger who is being treated poorly or made fun or insulted or belittled. Maybe it's a bit Pollyanna of me, but I still believe in treat others as you would wish to be treated by them. If you stand up to the asshole attacking another, then maybe someday when you need it, someone will be there for you. It isn't a guarantee by any means, John had a friend remain silent on the bus but you can try. Standing up to bad behavior is hard, it leads often to the defender becoming the target, but I try to teach John, and show him by example, that it's always worth it.
That's how we win.