“Mom, Mom,” my daughter cried out, all excited as she bolted through our front door, her best friend trailing at her heels. Fearing something was wrong I dropped everything and rushed to the living room. Stopping a second to catch her breath, she bent over and wrapped her arms around her waist as if she’d just finished a marathon, before she continued her story.
“My brother, your son,” she continued. My brain was already racing a mile a minute. What happened to my son? I prayed this wasn’t like the time a few years back when they actually thought it was funny to pretend they got hit by a car crossing the street. Why was it taking her so long to tell me what happened?
“OK,” I said. “It’s OK. Sit down and slowly tell me what happened.”
“My brother is a hero!” She could barely stay still as her hands were all over the place like she was going to recreate the whole event in sign language.
“Yea, he is, Mrs. K.” Her friend could barely hold her excitement as she kept brushing away the curls that were falling into her eyes.
“Sit back down and take a deep breath.” Although I was dying to know what was going on, I wanted the correct story. “I’ll be right back.”
As I re-entered the room with a plate of cookies fresh out of the oven in hand, (yes, I was a June friggin’ Cleaver), I sat down next to my daughter, handed her a cookie, and said, “Now, tell me what happened.”
Before she got a word out, in walks my son, the hero, with his entire entourage in tow. As it turns out, despite all the Leave it to Beaver episodes we watched, my son chose not to turn the other cheek as Ward always taught "The Beav". My son did not choose to walk away from a fight. As a matter of fact, I learned, not just from my daughter, but from a good percentage of the rest of the neighborhood 6th graders, my son, deciding words were not enough for this situation, started the fight. Before I had the chance to wallow in self pity wondering where I went wrong, let alone worry about if he was hurt, or if he had hurt someone else, I summoned up my strength to find out more about the fight. If everyone considered him a hero, this fight must have been a good thing, just like when Ralphie finally beat up that bully in A Christmas Story.
It was a good thing. Although I’m against violence in most cases, my son defended a girl on the bus who was being picked on by the neighborhood bully. Although I felt I needed to say something about how fighting isn’t the answer, inside, my heart was swelling with pride. As we all sat around my well worn sofa, I poured sodas and brought out more chocolate chip cookies for everyone. I know my son enjoyed his BMOC status, for a while.
So what happened to this hero, I wondered, as he ran into his room, slamming his door after school a few weeks later? Just going into his room alone was very uncharacteristic as he usually headed directly downstairs with his friends on his heals for their daily dose of video game competition.
Again, I worried. What happened now? I knock on his door. “Are you OK?” I asked. “Is something wrong?”
“NOTHING’S WRONG! Leave me alone.” He yelled.
The following day, things seemed back to normal. But I still wondered what happened. He’d tell me when he was ready, I assumed. It was almost a week before I figured out the problem. While I was doing the laundry, I noticed his underwear. Instead of bright white, they were all pink. It dawned on me that I had washed his clothes with my new red sweatshirt last week. Everything that was white turned pink. It didn’t bother my daughter, but I learned my son was humiliated in gym glass. I'm not sure if this was the turning point. However, I don't think he ever wore tighty whities again!
He accepted my apology on the basis that I never brought it up in the future. And I didn’t, until my trip last week to visit him in Florida. There have been a lot of stories about bullying on the news lately. Each time I hear a story asking what we, as individuals, can do to stop bullying; I feel pride that my son did something. He stood up for the girl on the bus when no one else would. I also remembered he wasn’t able to talk to me, his mother, about his embarrassment, the humility I caused him, just like a bully. Now, now that he’s grown, I felt it was right time to bring it up. Maybe we could finally laugh.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “You fought other people’s battles but you were never able to tell me how you felt when I “accidentally” embarrassed you. I was your school bully.”
“Mom, I love you. Please, let it go now.” He laughed.
Finally, I can relax.