Every parent has that moment when they have to decide if they’re going to tell their child to fight or walk away from a confrontation. For twelve years, my oldest son has lived a peaceful life. He goes to school, makes good grades and gets along with his peers and is active in sports. He is a normal 12-year-old, obsessed with video games and music. Sure, there have been instances when he got into a disagreement with a classmate but nothing that would have came to blows. That is, until today. My son came home upset because some kids on the bus were ‘picking’ on him on the bus. To make matters worse, one of the boys decided he was going to take the ‘picking’ further by taking an item that belonged to my son and walking off with it. When he came home he was upset and when he told me what happened, I had a flashback of what my mom told me as a 12-year-old when I came home upset about an altercation with another child.
Growing up if anyone messed with us, my mom’s first response was, “Did you fight?” If I said no, I was immediately marched back up to where the incident occurred and ordered to take up for myself. My mom didn’t care if I lost or won—her big thing was to not let anyone ‘bully’ me. There were many times that my mom would even come up to the school, ready to throw fisticuffs with kids if someone was messing with me. She would even confront parents if necessary—my mom was ruthless. Needless to say, I learned early to take up for myself.
As I snapped back to my son’s reality, I couldn’t help but want to drive to the middle school and handle this for him. But I knew that going to the school and threatening children would not be a smart move. I wanted to tell him to fight—defend himself—but I didn’t want to take him from a well adjusted 12 year old to a fighting thug-in-training. So I did something I never do. I just sat a thought for a moment thinking about what I was going to say while he fixed himself a snack. As I thought a thousand questions raced through my mind: Why as parents to seemingly good kids do we have to defend them from apparent thugs-in-training? Is fighting a rite of passage that all boys have to go through? If I tell him to fight will he then begin to fight every day over minute issues?
As questions still swirled through my mind, I decided to call my husband; this was a ‘Dad issue’. He broke it down calmly and straight to the point. He told me, “He has to defend himself. Call the school, arrange a conference but tomorrow let him handle it.” I hung up the phone and I called our son over to me.
I calmly asked him what he did in response to these children and their foolishness on the bus today. He explained to me how he had confronted the boy then decided to ‘walk away’ because he didn’t want to be suspended over something stupid. I further prodded him about what will happen if the boys do something to him and he said (like any wise 12-year-old would do), “Mom, I’ll handle it. I’m not a baby anymore.” And with those words he had forgotten about the confrontation and was engrossed in his math homework.
Despite his reassurances, I emailed the assistant principal of the school and will be making a visit to the school, all without him knowing just to make sure that these children don’t get away with harassing other students. But I have to let him handle certain situation—she’s not a baby anymore—despite him always being my baby. I had to let go a little bit.
Now my MommyNoire family, do you tell your children to fight or walk away?