Newscasts are speckled with the stories of children who take their own lives because of bullying and peer pressure. Sure we read them, shed a tear on behalf of the mother and stare deeply into the pictures of these once happy children.
Once they are no longer a headline we forget them. But there’s always more to the story than what read and the interviews we watch.
Within the past year, my husband and I have been dealing with the uncomfortable situations with our oldest son and some of the kids in the school.
I never thought that being in a public school district with such great academic accolades would come with such racial prejudices and pitfalls. NO, this is not a “black lives matter” post; this is an “MY SON MATTERS” post. In which he happens to be black- his life is not in danger but his self-esteem is being tried. This is not a “talk with your kids about bullying” post or “tell your kids to be nice” post either.
This is me, as a mom, wanting to encourage another mother after I had a few days to sit and think about the best way to address this.
The tender caramel color of Joah’s skin has brought more attention to him lately then I am comfortable dealing with. The racial slurs and off-color jokes being used by the 2nd graders last year and this year’s 3rd graders are stifling-especially because they are contextually correct. So when he told me last week that he was getting upset because a boy (who he has been friends with) kept saying things that were annoying and starting to bother him, I naturally took great interest.
So, I questioned what was being said and Joah says “well last week he told me I looked like poop (edited version of that word) because my skin was brown, then he asked me yesterday how was slavery and today he told me on the bus that he didn’t like people who were black like me” Now, I know what you are thinking-come on kid get tougher skin, right?
Well, these comments were light compared to last year’s multiple N-word incidents. Immediately I dug deeper…When did he say this son? Why didn’t you tell someone? What did you say back? How did it make you feel? I was upset, to say the least, because he’s my son and those kinds of comments are outrageous coming from a 9-year-old. Because he goes to school in a predominately white school district and has been the only black student in each of his classes the last 3 years, I knew he would have to deal with something at some point.
We are in no way, shape or form ignorant or oblivious to fact that racism is still alive and being passed down from generation to generation. So, my struggle here is not what to tell him to do, not who to call to advise this happened and not even to wonder why he would say these things. My struggle is with caring for my son whom I am raising to be God-fearing and valiant.
After talking to the folks in charge and getting the follow up I was informed the other boy’s mom said she is unsure as to how to deal with some of the things going on with him and would not be surprised if he did say those things (even though he said he did not say them). Well, there is always more to the story right? So right there, that answered many questions for me. No, it does not justify, bring closure or make me feel better about what he said. Many people would end the story there. I won’t because my son matters and this is where I want to encourage any mom who is dealing with any type of bullying or struggling to understand their child if they are being a bully.
Your child’s story does not begin or end with the negativity they are fighting, it is just getting started. Here is where we as mothers must see in the power of our influence.
I could have been rude and nasty about the situation but that will not stop this boy from saying it again, only Joah’s response and confidence can do that. Every situation he encounters where a Caucasian kid takes a strike at the obvious, he strikes back with integrity (it is truly amazing to me). We have taught Joah for a long time now that he cannot run from being black. He cannot hide the color of skin, and he cannot stop people from trying to make him feel less than about it. All that he can do is stand up straight, hold his head high and be proud of who God created him to be. His story will not end with a tragic headline because someone else does not know what to do with their child’s negative and hateful ways.
I do not even want someone to read and say, “Awe how awful” NO there is no pity to be taken here because I am not raising a pitiful man. I am raising a strong man. We as moms are not raising children to credit hateful or hurtful comments and treatment. We are raising children who believe in themselves, have a strong faith and are confident in whom God created them to be.
I spend many sleepless nights covering my children in prayer, not to avoid situations like this because I believe the word of God is true, No weapon formed against them shall prosper, (Isaiah 54:17) meaning that though weapons of hatred and harm may form they will NOT prosper over them. They will not succeed in tearing down their confidences and faith.
I believe that no matter what our children are going through, whether they are on the giving or receiving end of negativity, that we as moms have the influence in their lives to help them take the right turns. For this mom in particular who is very sweet, I know it must be a hard pill to swallow because we want to believe that if we give our kids everything they need, they will be ok? The culture being created by the society we live in has a heavy influence on our kids today and we have to pray that those weapons of the world do not taint their innocence. Teach your children to have confidence in themselves and to teach them that their character is what proceeds and follows them. I believe bullying is a directly tied to something they are missing or something they do not know how to deal with.
Sure, talking to them and trying to get them to open up may not be easy, but keep going. Keep trying; do not give up on them. Take a step back from the busyness of life and spend some quality time with. You can learn a lot about kids if you just silence the noise around you listen to them. Secondly, take a look at what you are allowing around them. Off-color comments do not come out of the blue, they are products of something. Most importantly, pray for your children. There is strength in your prayers and prayer truly does change things. Remember there is more to their story. Be blessed mommas! May children’s confidence increase, may there be joy in replacement for all sadness and fear.