Friday, October 07, 2005

Paolo's Bullies

last week, Paolo told me how he and his 1st grade classmate were playing with some 2nd grade boys in the football field, and how more 2nd grade boys later joined them and challenged them to a fist and wrestling match. at first it was just playing, he said, but then later on it hurt, and the 2nd grade boys taunted him and his friend for running away.

the next day, Paolo got some more of his 1st grade boy classmates to come and play with him in the football field, and the 2nd grade bullies were there, too, challenging them to a fight again. this time the match was even.

i think it affected Paolo, though, because when thursday came last week, which was their Club Day, Paolo asked to be absent from school. after further probing, i learned that the 2nd grade bullies were in the same club as he was. i told him, "okay, you can be absent now, but you can't be absent forever. you will have to face your own problem; let's find a way to solve it." he agreed to my terms.

last friday, i was told by the office secretary how Paolo and his 1st grade friend came running up to her and asked her to accompany them to the football field where the bullies were heckling them again. the office secretary, who was plump and looks stern, amusedly told me how the bullies ran away after seeing her holding Paolo and his friend, one on each hand, marching to the football field. i smiled, too, thinking how cute it was, but inside, i felt troubled.

i was torn between being the usual protective, angry mom who felt like reporting the incident to the teachers and the principal, even confronting the bullies themselves right away and scolding them and threatening them. on the other hand, i remember my training now in peace work. i know the first option, although the natural one, isn't the way to go. i realized that this was a good opportunity for me to teach my children more peaceful and creative ways of handling conflict and violence...

so in one of our car rides home, when the kids usually talk about their day, i asked Paolo and his elder sister Thea to at least get the bullies' names first, and what their class sections were. Paolo was afraid, "why, ma? are you going to scold them? don't do that please! i would look like a sissy to them, telling on you!!!"

"no, honey. i just want us to know them better," i explained. "the more we know about our problem, the better we are able to know how to solve it." then i tried to gently explain how we need to understand why the bullies do what they do, as a second strategy. i made it sound like a game, even a military game, to appeal to their sense of adventure, but im hoping that as i lead them on, we won't even have to resort to "military" actions. : S

anyway, i asked him about it again just now, remembering that yesterday was Club Day. Paolo said they didn't do anything to him, as the teacher was there. but he got one name right, and i asked him how that makes him feel. he says he doesnt feel so afraid anymore, knowing he has the name. and i said, that's good. right now, we'll just watch them and observe them okay? and he nods his head nonchalantly and moves on to talk about other things.

he seems okay, so far, and im a little relieved.

but i understand now the terror that struck in Mary's heart, when they found 12-year-old Jesus speaking to the scholars in the temple. it's the same kind of terror, the realization that you can't protect your little boy from the world anymore, that he must find his own way, develop his own spine and spirit, yet you must be there for him, too, in gentle and loving support, without babying him or smothering him.

i fear for my little boy, and yet, i am also proud of him so far, for his own ingenious ways at trying to solve his own problem-- first, getting more kids on his side, too; then, getting the help of a fearsome looking adult to scare the bullies away.

still, i know, those methods are not enough. i have to teach him more creative and peace-promoting lifelong lessons and skills in conflict transformation, the same lessons and skills i am learning now in my MA Conflict and Reconciliation Studies course... if i can't do that for my children, all the degrees in the world won't mean anything!

God help me walk this fine fragile line between being a righteously indignant mother and a more enlightened peace worker right. God help us all!
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