Carter is doing kindergarten this year for a second time. He’s a mid-August birthday and we started him too young last year for his first shot at elementary school. He’s asked us, more than once, why he isn’t in first grade with his friends. This morning he was really upset when Val dropped him off at school. I called and talked to his guidance counselor. She talked to him and he seemed to feel better.
Then we had baseball practice.
A kid he was in class with last year is on the team and this kid does not let up with the questions as to why Carter isn’t in first grade. Today it escalated to insults. “Carter can’t hit. Carter can’t throw. Carter’s a failure (yes, he actually said it.) He’s a big crybaby, etc.”
I was pitching when this was going on and I can’t tell you what it was like throwing to Carter while he was standing there trying his hardest not to cry. As a dad, saying it breaks your heart is an understatement and this is why:
I was picked on in school and, to this day, I can remember every moment of it.
Carter and I stopped and got dinner after practice. I asked Carter if he likes this kid and he said yes, they are friends, but he doesn’t like when he is mean.
He has his mother’s heart and a soul that cares about the world, even one who hurts him.
So, for this kid, this bully, I have a message.
You will not win.
You will be overcome by the gracious heart of a child willing to look past your antics and be your friend.
You will plant a seed in Carter that grows his heart even wider and deeper, allowing him to love others and stand up when he sees someone being bullied because of empathy, because he was there once when you put him there.
You will be a catalyst that makes my son a better man, father, and husband.
You will not break his soul, deaden his passion, or make him feel like lesser of a person.
You will be a teaching point, a moment in his past that he can learn from and use to build himself into a stronger person.
The hardest thing, as a parent, is to find a balance. My gut is to grab control and stamp it out immediately. I also know I can’t always be with him, that he’s on his own at school five days a week and will need to navigate his social situation. This is new territory.
Before bed, I knelt before him and promised him that I would always be there. I told him I would look out for him and that he was the more important than he would ever know. He hugged me and said, “I love you daddy” and that is all the fuel I need to wake up in the morning and do it all again tomorrow.