I remember the day you were born. You completed our family. You came bursting into our lives, capturing everyone’s heart. You were perfection; small, round cheeks, looking just like your dad. Your siblings fell madly in love with you. Your sister was especially smitten and acted like another tiny mom. Your arrival was not as smooth as your siblings and we were so glad that it all ended well. You showed stubbornness and assertiveness, even as an infant; foreshadowing to the larger than life personality that was to develop, and the daredevil that was about to emerge. From the time you could walk you climbed anything and everything, and constantly made us laugh. Even your great-grandmother talked about how she had never seen a toddler that was so funny, and who went out of their way to make others laugh. You were a light for all that met you.
I’ll never forget the time that I looked out the kitchen window only to see you waving at me while sitting on the neighbors garage roof. You had scaled the basketball hoop in the two minutes I had walked back inside. My heart was in my throat and you just smiled as if to say, “what’s the big deal, mom!” Terror was a regular emotion we felt raising a child as adventurous as you. You were glued back together more times than I can count and we joked that we were going to be flagged by child services because of the scrapes, stitches, and bruises that followed you wherever you went. You were smart, really smart, and you asked questions constantly. You wanted to know the how and why of everything in the world. You would hug us as tight as your little arms could squeeze and I can still see your little baby face covered in dirt telling me that you “love me the most.” But unfortunately even with all the love and attention I couldn’t protect you.
I’m so sorry that I couldn’t save you from those that decided you were vulnerable and easily picked on. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to pull them away when they yelled in your face. I’m forever haunted by the times we’d pull into school, tears streaming down your face, and I just thought that you were having separation anxiety and sent you to the wolves. I look back at pictures now and see that the smile faded, you no longer wanted to be seen. Your light went out. I failed. If I could, I would go back and tell those kids to go to hell. I would tell them to stop using you as a verbal punching bag. I know that you still hurt. I know that the pain still lingers. I wish you would talk to me more, but the little bit that I do get from you centers around words like, “loser, stupid, ugly, bad at sports, weird, awkward, no friends, not good enough, loner, never included” and the list goes on. Why can’t you see what we see when we look at you? Why can’t you understand that the words of others should not define who you are? Why don’t you believe that you are an amazing human being ? I am paralyzed with sadness when I see you in pain. I cannot breathe when I think about how you must feel when you sit alone, pretending not to care.
What the hell is wrong with people? Yes parents of the world, I’m talking to you! What is going on that we allow our children to behave like this to others? And as a teacher of over twenty years I can tell you that kids who behave this way, their parents are NOT in the dark. Fix this! Stop this! It is enough!
So now what? I don’t know. For every step forward I feel like we take twenty steps back. I do see awkwardness now. I see deliberate withdrawal from others to avoid being rejected. I see one who is never included, never invited, and has created a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you think you have no worth, you teach others to believe it too. I see one who cannot, I mean literally CANNOT catch a break. My heart is broken. I want to go back. I want a do-over. I want my fun-loving, larger than life little boy back. I want all of his pictures to be filled with joy.
So I will spend everyday until I take my last breath telling you that you are worthy of love. You are worthy of respect. You are smart. You are a gifted musician. You are a talented baseball player. You are a great son. You are a great brother. You have stood up for others being bullied, and helped them. Your teachers tell us on a regular basis that you are kind, a great citizen, and always look out for others. Everyday at school you hold the door for others, even when we’re running late. Your teammates think you are awesome, and I cannot even begin to count the times I’ve heard from coaches, “wow, he’s such a great kid!”
You make mistakes, but everyone makes mistakes. Those mistakes do not define you. If you mess up, apologize. Be better than the others. Remember that it is better to have one true friend than be part of a crowd that talks behind your back.
For all of us…be kind, treat others the way you want to be treated, if you see someone sitting alone, sit with them, remember that you are loved, call others out when they are behaving badly, protect those that cannot protect themselves, give others the benefit of the doubt as you have no idea what they have gone through or may be going through, tell others when you need help. We can stop the light from going out in others. I still have hope, but for now this mama bear is going to fight to save her cub. I’m through playing games. I know that this dish is heavy, but it was long overdue. Peace.