Three days, and maybe longer.
As soon as I walk in the door from work on Friday, my son asks if he can go down to a local girl’s house to play.
“Dad, can I got down to Hayden’s house to play?”
Me: “Isn’t this the girl who kept calling you annoying?”
“Yes, but she doesn’t do that anymore.”
Me: “How long has it been since she called you annoying?”
Hayden, as well as some other girls on the bus, were calling my son annoying and teasing him in front of everyone on the bus. Apparently this was going on for months. One day Chris just came home and broke down at dinner about the teasing he was getting from these girls. My wife and I talked to him about bullying and ignoring the girls. About walking away and not interacting with them. He was so upset about everything that he asked the bus driver if he could have his seat moved so he didn’t sit by them any longer. The boy was deeply upset about the whole thing.
Now, three days without her teasing him and he’s willing to forget all of that because she asked him to come over to play.
I told him I didn’t want him going to her house to play because of the past issues he had with her and all he kept saying was “She doesn’t do that anymore.”
I tried explaining to my son that he doesn’t need to be around people like that; that he needs to be around people who like him for who he is, and that he’s smart and funny and doesn’t deserve the way he was being treated. And that three days without teasing is not a long enough time to determine if a zebra has changed its stripes. But, of course, he’s only seven. He doesn’t understand all of this yet, or just has a hard time processing it. He just collapsed to the floor crying, kept saying that she doesn’t call him annoying any more and begged me to let him go.
I did not relent.
I sat down with him, hugged him tight, and tried my best to console him and help him to understand. I told him to give it more time and if she continued to be nice to him, maybe then we would let him go up to her house to play.
He said he’ll wait four more days. I asked for a month.
This is some hard stuff. Chris can definitely run on at the mouth at times and doesn’t read social cues so well, but he’s sweet and loving and smart and funny. To be honest, I can definitely imagine any number of circumstance under which this girl would think my son was annoying, but that doesn’t make her belittling right. My job is not to raise that girl, it’s to raise my son; build him up when he needs some confidence, console him when he needs to cry, help him understand when he’s done something wrong, and try to give him the best guidance I can scrape together.
I’m getting into some dark territory here. I feel that any course of action I could have taken would have ended up in tears in one way or another, but I’d rather be the bad guy than have him get humiliated and upset again.
How would you have handled this?