Crying Shame

I went to bed crying, I woke up crying, I went out in the car and drove home crying. Why on earth was I so upset? Something about the events of yesterday had triggered a huge emotional response in me. I woke up yesterday in a great mood, that just got better as the day wore on. The sun was shining and I jogged for the first time in ages. I worked satisfyingly for a bit. I had leisurely chats with friends back in England. I cooked a delicious meal which everyone enjoyed. I met a friend for a coffee and a catch up. I remember feeling so grateful and happy that all was well with my world. But all it took was one short phone conversation and my whole mood plummeted to one of shame, guilt and despair. The call was from a teacher at my son’s school. She had taught him previously and wanted to speak to me ‘as one mother to another’. Apparently, she had found Tom hiding behind the classrooms during his PE class and had been struck by how incredibly sad he looked. After talking to him she had discovered that some boys in his PE class were bullying him and wanted to let me know. Unfortunately, this was not news to me. I had known about the situation for some months and had already tried a number of avenues to try and stop it. I had written and spoken to his PE teacher, I had written, telephoned and had two meetings with the Principal, and I had spoken at length to Tom about what was going on. Nothing seemed to work or make anything better. In fact, Tom’s view was that whenever I intervened, he felt that things just got worse. My instant reaction to hearing this kind, concerned teacher calling me at 9 o’clock at night was to feel like I was completely to blame, that it was all my fault and I should be doing something more to stop it from happening. I didn’t even know the name of a

single one of the bullies as my son is not good at remembering names. I felt like the worst possible kind of mother, one who means well but is completely ineffective. I felt like I had let Tom down, like I wasn’t protecting him which was my job as his mother. He had been experiencing name calling, pushing, shoving, kicking and teasing about his English accent and the way he spoke for months on end. But the amazing thing about Tom was that he seemed to take it all on board as if it was his lot in life. He didn’t harbor any resentment towards these children and in fact admitted to me that he had actually thanked one of the kids who had stopped teasing him recently. As I was driving back this morning, however, with tears running down my cheeks, all I could think about was how much I loved him and how much I wanted him to be safe and happy. I felt like I had failed as a mother. I knew I was trying my best but my best didn’t seem to be good enough. Why couldn’t I get someone to pay attention, why weren’t the people who were being paid to look after him keeping him safe? Why were they teasing him in the first place? As I drove further I wondered to myself if I was over-reacting. Were my tears all about my son or was there something deeper going on? When I had been about ten years old, I had been bullied almost constantly for about a year. I remember it as being one of the worst years of my life. But I didn’t tell anyone about it, for some reason. Maybe I thought I deserved it, maybe I was embarrassed to admit I wasn’t popular, maybe I was afraid of repercussions, I don’t know. I just know I felt powerless then and I felt powerless now. I don’t know how this situation with my son is going to turn out. I hope I have the courage to protect him as I didn’t protect myself all those years ago. Maybe we can both heal by standing up for

ourselves and saying ‘No, it is not okay to behave like this’. I have only recently learnt how to set safe and proper boundaries for myself and I want to show my kids how to do this for themselves. I don’t want them to have to go through what I went through, but I know I have to model it with my behavior rather than merely with my words. I love my kids so much that it hurts at times. But I also know they have their own paths, that I cannot protect them from everything and that there are learning experiences and opportunities in each situation. But surely I can give them enough self respect and confidence to confront the bullies and put an end to the unkindness. I hope so.

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