Bully For You

It’s almost like I was begging for it – right? Talking about how great kindergarten is going?

G rides the bus with his friend from two doors down. They’re both kindergartners and they both love playing outside with each other. These two have known each other for two years now and have really hit it off in recent months.

So imagine my surprise when G’s friend’s mom – my friend – calls me after the boys’ bedtime last night to break the news that my kid has been repeatedly punching her child all the way to school on the school bus. Even after he tells Graham to stop, Graham just… keeps on going. Even struck him in the face at least once.

And while my boisterous five-year-old has been coming home regaling the dinner table with tales of his brave new world, his friend down the street has gone home every day to seek consolation from his mother – asking her why his best friend is being so mean to him.

Breaks your heart, right? I *never* thought I’d be the one to get those phonecalls. I mean… I was the passive kid. Here, my boy who I tell everyone has compassion beyond his years has been rough with another kid and is totally not picking up on the cues that his actions are causing physical and emotional hurt.

Andy and I were so upset and disappointed after I hung up the phone with our neighbor. We played over and over what could have come over Graham, and our best guess is that he just wasn’t reading when the joke was over. Probably that the joke wasn’t ever funny to his sweet friend – who just wanted to sit on the bus and talk about Star Wars and upcoming birthday parties.


We had a serious talk with G the next morning (this morning). Andy and I waited until he was dressed and downstairs at the kitchen table for breakfast. I told him about the phonecall. I told him how it felt to get that phonecall, and shame made Graham’s face go red. His eyes filled – then exceeded – their capacity. I knew what he was feeling. I remember that feeling. When you know what you did was wrong – so wrong, and you literally have nothing to say for yourself. You just desperately want everything to go back to the way it was before you’d made the choice you had.

We kept the talk brief. Stemmed the temptation to use a bunch of analogies and wax poetic about whatever. Instead, we focused on feelings. How Graham’s friend feels. How we feel. How Graham feels… all related to the choices he has made on the bus. Then we moved on to consequences. Graham’s friend doesn’t want to sit by him on the bus anymore, so Graham lost his bus buddy. There were a couple others too, but I think that was the thing that really stung.

G is a good kid, and a sweetheart. I have no doubt that this was a blip on the radar. It was an interesting wake up call to get though. We’ve got a little more work to do.

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