Mama Bear, here. My Boy got jumped yesterday. Assaulted by three high school kids on his walk home from school. There he is, 12 years old, minding his own business, walking down the sidewalk of a busy street in the suburbs in the middle of the afternoon, and suddenly he gets clocked in the jaw hard enough that he falls into the street. (He is physically OK)
What. The. Fuck?! So I immediately go into Mama Bear mode. I text several friends because I’m pissed and someone needs to catch the strings of profanity I’m throwing out there. I call the schools in the area (this happened close to three schools) and try hard not to curse. I file a police report. I sign him up for Krav Maga so he can learn to defend himself. Because I tell him he should never throw the first punch, but he needs to throw the last one. He should never start a fight, but he better be the one to end it.
My friends ask what I’m going to do. They ask if I’ll continue to let him walk home from school. I say yes, of course. The kids did not try to rob him. The kids did not continue to beat him up, they fled. The Boy has never seen these kids before, so it’s not an ongoing bullying problem. It was merely a random act of violence. These things happen.
The Boy’s father calls frantic and furious. He offers to take the Boy home from school. I thank him, and decline. I tell the Boy that he will continue to walk home. Because he was a victim of an assault, but he is not a victim of life. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Yes, this is a dangerous world, but there’s a difference between being vigilant and being paranoid.
There’s a difference in shielding the Boy from the realities of life, and empowering the Boy to live fully in life. I’m empowering him. He’s going to learn how to defend himself physically. He’s going to be more vigilant of his surroundings. He needs tangible action items to help him process this trauma. He needs to feel empowered in the face of feeling so helpless during this assault.
What he does not need is to feel his world feeling more secure around him. He does not need his world to become smaller. He does not need someone to drive him home every day. He does not need to go to an after-school program until I can pick him up after work. He does not need these false senses of security. Because the world will continue to be a dangerous place, and bad things will continue to happen to good people.
If I swoop in to offer to intervene in his world, to “protect” him, I’m essentially telling him that he is indeed helpless, that he can’t take care of himself. Or that he can’t be trusted to. No, I am raising resilient children. He needs to learn to take care of himself. He needs to learn to trust himself. He needs to learn that he gets to control his actions after bad things happen to good people. He needs to learn how to empower himself. To truly feel more secure, he needs to learn how to trust and rely on himself. If I drive him home from school from now on, I teach him to rely on others to save him.
He is not happy he’s walking home today. But he needs to get back into the daily routines of life as soon as possible. He needs to get back to the daily living of life, and that includes uncertainty and insecurity and the possibility of bad things. Yes, it hurts to grow and learn and process traumas. I can’t take the fear and anger away from him, but I can be there for him so he can use his words to tell me how he’s feeling and what he needs. I’m shifting my schedule so I can be home earlier, but I will not be picking him up from school. He needs to walk this journey himself. And know I’ll be right at home waiting for him.