A few days ago, I got the rare privilege of taking my son to the bus stop. Normally, I walk him there and stand with him until the bus comes. But, now that it’s colder outside and given the fact that I also take my daughter to preschool, I will drive my car and he will get out and go stand at the bus stop with all the other kids while I sit in my car and watch to make sure he safely gets on the bus. Usually this is a pretty routine start to the day…
But, not this time.
There’s a fifth grade boy who is much larger than all the other kids at the bus stop. Regularly, he will pick at the other kids at the bus stop. But he has never even looked at my son, who is in first grade, much less picked on him. But this day was different. I hesitate to use the word “bullied” as we use that word too much in our society and it brings with it all kinds of images – but that’s kind of what happened.
He looked at my son, Sam, and said “Hey, little kid.” And then he proceed to puff his chest up and push my son backwards with his chest.
My son backed up and eventually ran away from the kid. He chased after him and proceeded to do it again. My son, again, ran away and this time two other kids at the bus stop came over and defended my son and the fifth grader stopped.
As this is going on, I’m sitting in my car watching it all…but hearing nothing. What the fifth grader said and the fact that the two kids came to his rescue were things I found out that evening after Sam returned home from school. So, I couldn’t tell if they were just playing a game or if “bullying” was really the case. I had a suspicion, but no evidence.
My son got on the bus and I went to work. This heaviness was on my mind. In fact, I found myself in tears for a while after getting to my office that morning. I was feeling sorry for my son…and for myself. I was asking myself questions like:
“Should I have jumped out of my car and intervened?”
“Did this lead to my son having an awful day at school?”
“Was this one of those life lessons that is good for him to learn?”
“Will this moment in time have a long-lasting impact on my son’s life?”
I was gripped with fear and confusion while imagining that my son was too…
That night, after school, my wife and I found out what truly happened and were able to dialogue with our son about the day’s events. He was upset about what happened and asked some very good questions about the situation. But the next day was the thing that was on my mind the most…
Sam and I got in the car and drove to the bus stop. As we buckled up, in my deepest moment of fear for my son, I asked him “So, you’ll probably just stay in the car with me until the bus comes, right?” But he didn’t answer me. I’m not sure if he didn’t hear me or understand what I said, but he began to talk about something completely different. So, I let it go.
We got to the bus stop and we begin chatting about school, Christmas, and life. I had settled in and resigned myself to the fact that every day from this day forward would be just like this – Sam will wait in the car until the bus comes avoiding any chance that he will get bullied ever again.
But, then it happened…
He looks at me and says “Daddy, I really want to go out there to the bus stop.”
What?!?!? Are you crazy?!?!? Do you remember what happened out there yesterday?!?!? You’re supposed to be afraid! And, what do we do when we’re afraid? We run away! We go the other way! We turn our backs to it and try to fix it ourselves by avoiding it!
Those are all things that I was saying in my head. But, out loud, I said to him – “It’s your choice.”
He immediately unbuckled his seatbelt and ran out there. He didn’t back down in the face of fear. He ran out there, uncertain of what would happen, and faced his fear with an unbelievable resolve to not give up. I am so proud of him for that.
And, it made me think about how I react when I’m faced with fear…and uncertainty…and bullies…and failure… I regularly avoid, run away, ignore, etc. etc.
The beautiful thing about it all is that it turned out fine. The fifth grader didn’t acknowledge Sam’s presence. There was even a moment where Sam glanced over at me sitting in the car and gave me a sly smile that communicated to me “Look dad, I did it! I showed him!” And that’s what he did…
How do you react when you’re faced with fear? Do you run at it head on or do you tend to shrink away from the challenge and try to find ways to avoid facing the issue? Post below and let us know your thoughts…