Please do not grow up to be a schmuck

It had been going on for months. Everyday I made the walk down the long path from Struble Elementary to our street, then followed the sidewalk across the bridge, over the creek and home. And every day I walked tentatively, not sure when or where Steve Bates might show up. Could be on the corner of Peacock and Royal Glen Drive. Could have been where the path dumped out onto Peacock's dead end. But I could count on getting beat up, kicked, laughed at, and put down. Everyday.

My Mom had finally had enough of me coming home crying everyday and nothing ever changing. She had spoken to the school, gone across the street to his parents, yet nothing changed. She finally told me if I did not whoop him, she would whoop me. She gave my sister the position of informer, because Angelia was to report back what happened the next day. And, as it turned out, there was a lot to report.

When I came off the path, I saw him waiting there. Standing on the corner, he told me I was a fat boy as I walked past him. He pushed me in the back, and that was the start of a bad day for him. I turned and clocked him in the nose all at the same time. He fell down, but I was not finished. I jumped on top of him as he was laying there, bleeding from his nose. I didn't want there to be any doubt that I defended myself, and the weeks of being bullied came out as I hit him again and again and again. My sister ran to get my Mom, and they pulled me off of him. And big bad Steve Bates never bothered me again.

That was 1982. Isn't it funny that 31 years later I still remember that like it happened this morning? He wasn't the last bully I dealt with in life. There was the monster my mom was married to for five years before the man I call Dad rescued all of us from that life when I was 13. There were countless kids who were very ready to pick on the "new kid in school", a role I played 7 times in 12 years. And there was the guy at Kroger in Gahanna who made a 15 year old me not want to use the bathroom near the break area anymore. But this one, this Steve Bates, is the one I remember so clearly even today, when I am faced with navigating being the father of two teenage boys with a third on deck.

When Jordan's dad was at my home (My son, the Bully) 9 days ago, I told him  I would follow up with him to make sure my son was doing what he had said. Thursday evening I called him and he told me that, while he thought he may have seen Ben walking home with the ring leader, he didn't think Ben had been a part of that group since we talked. In fact, Ben and Jordan had been walking home together until that day he mentioned. I told him I would resolve that as well, and did. Ben now gets picked up by Tiffany everyday, to remove any temptation. And Ben assured me he wasn't walking with this other kid, but did say they walk the same way home since he lives close to where we do. I believed my son and have faith that he is going to continue to make good decisions.

Tommy (Jordan's father) also told me that some of the kids have gotten worse, and have crossed a line into threats of physical abuse. He said he is going to contact the police, and I told him I did not blame him. Then he told me that the school told him they cannot discuss any other children with him, including the names of the bullies, because of privacy laws. I was shocked, and thought maybe that he misunderstood the information. I mean, if his son was being bullied, he has a right to know who those kids are AND how to get a hold of their parents. But he said no, they will not discuss it with him. Still, I was hesitant to believe that could be true.

Saturday morning, as I was picking up John-Michael from wrestling, I spoke to another parent who was doing the same. She had read the last blog, and said that she had a similar experience. Where she and her family used to live, her son was bullied just as Jordan has been here. They went to the school , who told them the same thing - they could not discuss other children with her. She said it went on for a while and it seemed like the school would not do anything about it.

I also got many comments on the blog and on Facebook about the last entry. People telling me about how their son or daughter was bullied, or that their child was the bully themselves. And it occurred to me what a big problem this is all over the world today. Kids going to school with that knot in their stomach wondering "what is going to happen to me today?" Or hoping that they aren't noticed walking home, or at a park, or anywhere that they might be ridiculed and humiliated. Doing a little research I found that nearly 30% of kids in school are either bullies or being bullied, and that nearly 160,000 kids a day skip school out of fear of bullying according to ABC news.

Today kids cannot handle their bullies the way I did in 1982. Jordan was already suspended for standing up to his aggressor. The Mom I talked to on Saturday said her son also was suspended for standing up to his. The schools, for all of their anti-bullying propaganda, seem to do more protecting of the troublemaker than they do of the victims (at least that seems to be the case with Jordan). And as more kids suffer and some choose to take their own lives, little will be done on the school or even community level. I ended the last post asking what do we do? And I still do not know the answers. The only thing I can tell you is that it starts at home.

 We are each responsible for teaching our children how to grow up to be men and women of integrity. Sit down talk to them. Ask them about the best part of their day, then ask about the worst part of their day. Find out how they reacted to both and tell them how their actions affect others. Share a story about a time you have had to deal with a bully of your own (I am finding that most people have had to do that in their lives). And tell to think about how they would would feel if they were on the receiving end. Maybe that is a good square one. Your home is the only place where you can control the environment. Make those moments count. If everyone made a conscious effort to win that battle, maybe we could win the war

I am no Father of the Year, I will tell you that. I worry every day if the life lessons we are teaching my 3 sons and the example we are setting is good enough? Are they going to grow up to be men of integrity? Men with honor? Men who will be good leaders dedicated husbands, and great fathers? Or will they grow up to be schmucks? I hope its not the latter. But it is hard to judge. Just when I thought we was doing okay, when I thought they were getting it and the teenage years were going to breeze by, we find out my son was one of the 30% mentioned above.

I have an awesome Dad, a man who instilled great morals and values in myself and my siblings. Yet I have had more than one moment, or day, or year of schmuckery in my life. Not that he ever needed bail money. But at times I am sure he would have liked to give me more than a swift kick in the butt. If I can do half the job he did, then I will feel like my part of the war is won.

If not, I will call them schmucks.

Day # 266. It is COLD in Columbus, Ohio. Going got stay in all day. It is good to be me


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