As parents it’s our job to protect and stand up for our children in situations they can’t otherwise do so themselves. Our children rely on us the most as their advocate when they are unable to speak for themselves. That’s when we really hone our skills for them.
Being the mother to boys makes it a little harder to advocate for them since I haven’t experience life as a male. I don’t understand their perspective or their challenges. This has been my handicap when it comes to helping to fight their battles.
I’ve had issues with helping my oldest battle his own mental health issues. In March he admitted to a desire to self harm which prompted an evaluation and a minor break from school while he sought help. He returned to school with everyone on board to keep an eye on him. Everyone opened their doors to him if/when he needed a break from class or his day. We all agreed to check in with him and each other if we saw something of concern. He did great the remainder of that school year and over the summer. His friend who brought his self harm plan to our attention was told to stay clear of him. Personally, that bothered me, but considering his plan was to hurt himself to hurt her, it made sense.
Here we are about 6 weeks into his last year in elementary school and we’ve hit a wall. I was called by the office and asked to come in because the mom of that friend wanted a meeting with me and my son. When I pressed for a reason all I was told was that the friend, a girl, was sent home early as a direct result of something that happened between her and my son. It was a bit of a scramble on my end to figure out how to go to this meeting while I had my youngest at home recovering from being sick over the weekend. I figured it out, went to the school. I pulled my son aside and asked him to give me an idea of what I was walking into beforehand. He knew nothing of what he could’ve done to trigger this meeting.
At this meeting with the girl, her mom, their homeroom teacher, school counselor, school priest and their science teacher/his scout troop leader I learned that my son was still attempting to talk to her at school. He would try to approach her, she would ignore him and according to her he had tugged on her hair that day when she ignored him. The mom stated that she noticed when I pick up my kids from school and we walk home we go down the street the school is on, but when my son walks on his own he takes the street they live on. This path he takes without me causes the girl to feel unsafe. I should mention that they live in the direction of our home. We have to pass in the vicinity of their house to get to ours.
All these sound like major red flags against my son. I will be the first to admit that it doesn’t sound as though he is innocent, but this is where I messed up. I went into this meeting mad at my son for causing this meeting. Instead of going in with the intention of listening with a bias towards the girl I was biased towards my own child. I didn’t defend him. I sat there as if he was not my son, with no defensive mom front whatsoever. I only reacted as a woman who has been made to feel unsafe by a man in the past.
It wasn’t until hours after that meeting when I had finally calmed down and had the chance to revisit it in my head that I realized a lot of what was said against him was without proof and, in my honest opinion, exaggerated. My son should not have felt as if he didn’t have me, the only person who truly had the ability to fight for him, on his side. He did not have to feel alone in that meeting. He cried when he heard the mom say her next step is to call the police to obtain a restraining order on my son. All this being with out warrant. He’s 13 years old dammit! He’s never hurt anyone. Not counting the time he was defending himself from a bully that took a swing at him, he otherwise has never hurt anyone. He just isn’t that kid. I’m not saying this because I’m biased. I’d take my kid to the authorities myself if I thought it would get him the help I believed he needed. I took him in for his evaluation myself in March. I’m not in denial.
On top of all this guilt that is weighing rather heavy on me for not advocating for him, I’m having to deal with how to make sure he fees safe too. He’s already being asked to change a lot of his own habits so that this girl feels safe at school. The difficult part about all of this is that they are in the same class. There is no option to switch classes since the school is so small the 7th and 8th grade class is combined. So unless one of us pulls our kid from the school, they’ll be stuck in the same class for the next 7 months.
My son has had the hardest time making friends. He was picked on in public school to the point where he was physically attacked by 2 boys on school grounds in 2nd grade. An incident that the school lied to me about and left my son with a black eye and scratches to his face. We switched schools to where he currently is and found another bully. That boy being in the same class as well. After meetings with the school and teachers the boys were kept close watch over and we declared it settled. I expressed to my son his need to voice any issues he had to me or another adult. That didn’t happen as planned because my son has a hard time expressing himself. Come 7th grade and they bully took a swing at him during recess to which my son countered with a judo sweep leaving the bully on the ground and walking away.
I’m torn as to what to do now. Is it too late to go back and defend my son against this mom? I already showed I was on her daughter’s side. How the hell do I go backwards and say “You’re exaggerating things against my son. I don’t believe you.”? My son has expressed he doesn’t want to change schools and he’s fine avoiding her, but there is still an issue that we can’t fix. They will at some point have some interaction because they’re in the same class. This is unavoidable! What do I do?