While there are many rights of passage for a child – learning to walk, losing a tooth, breaking a bone – I’m not sure if any strikes as much fear in a mom as letting their child ride the bus for the first time.
Since my kids went to private school until this year, riding the bus was never an option. Last year, my daughter started at the local public elementary school in December, but never expressed an interest in riding the bus (and I wasn’t going to suggest it since she would be doing it without her brother).
But this year, with both kids in the same school, I broached the subject trepidaciously. While both enjoyed having a parent drop them off via car rider line in the morning, they agreed that they would like to ride the bus home together.
Honestly, even though I was concerned, I didn’t want to deny my kids this right of passage. After all, I’d ridden the bus for years and I turned out okay, right?
But times are different now and kids are exposed to words, concepts, and threats like never before.
Still, I thought if they were ever going to ride the bus, doing it together on the elementary school bus was the best possible option.
So at the beginning of the school year, I marched myself into the school office and happened to literally run into the kind woman that would be their bus driver.
Feeling better after meeting the person who would be bringing them home to me each day firsthand, I informed the kids about the bus riding process as soon as I picked them up that day.
Things went fine for about a week and then it happened.
My son bounded off the bus and when I asked him how his day was, he exclaimed, “The best day ever!”
“Why, what happened?”
“I got bullied!”
Simultaneously shocked and astounded, I sat him on my lap inside and asked him to recount the whole thing.
As it turns out, a fifth-grader approached his seat on the bus and told him to move out of the way because he wanted that seat. When my son protested, the bully threatened him again. Seemingly unfazed, my son responded with a witty remark that must have thrown the bully off his course.
About that time, my daughter and her friends decided to help put the bully in his place; he must’ve gotten embarrassed and backed off. By then, the bus driver saw what was going on and made the bully come sit in the front of the bus with her for the next week.
My son was thrilled by his success and was actually hoping it would happen again the next day.
While I applauded him for handling it so well, I reminded him that we never want to find ourselves in a situation like that, but when we do, there are some simple things to remember:
It was author Nancy Rue who first taught me that there are always three people involved in bullying: the bully, the victim, and the bystander. While only about 30% of us will ever be bullied in our lives, the majority of us will witness bullying at some point; it is then that we have to make a choice whether to simply be a bystander or to actually stand up for the innocent and take an active part in righting a wrong circumstance.
Nancy’s book, So Not Okay, was such an eye-opener for me as the mother of a tween girl, and yet because of its profound message that speaks to both parents and children alike, my son was able to learn the necessary tools to stand up for himself when he was bullied.
Whatever you do as a parent, don’t be naïve. We can never protect our kids from everything that will happen to them in this world, but we can certainly give them the tools to stand up for themselves and know how to deal with hard times when they come their way.
Has your child ever been bullied? How did you handle it with them?