Oy Vey! Have I Got a Problem…
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Oy Vey! Have I Got a Problem…

A concerned parent asks for advice on how to help their son, who is being tormented by a close friend's child.

Rachel Stein

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

Dear Rachel,

What do you do when your son is being tormented by none other than your close friend’s child? Things came to a head recently, and I’m flummoxed. Here’s the story…

Ten-year-old Davie flew into the house, his face streaked with tears.

“Hi, honey!” I greeted him, wondering what happened to my sunny-side-up little man. “What’s the matter?”

“I hate him!” Davie clenched his fists. “He’s the meanest boy in the whole world! He always teases me and hides my stuff. And if I say I’ll tell on him, he threatens to beat me up. Can you send me to a different school?” Davie pauses, and I can practically see his wheels turning as he scrunches his eyes and tries to wiggle out of this situation with one of his creative ideas. He turns to me with his old grin, a ray of light glinting through the clouds, and his blue eyes shine. “I have an even better idea!” he says.

“What, Sunshine?”

“Let’s move!”

I sigh and offer him a snack. My heart is heavy; my insides are twisted in knots. Not only because Davie is suffering, although that  alone would shake up my equanimity. But if that’s not enough, the bully who’s tormenting Davie happens to be my close friend’s son.

I know my obligation is to protect my child, even though it may mean the end of a precious friendship. My question is how to best deal with the situation. Do I speak to my friend and hope for compassion and a willingness to help? Or will I confront a mother bear who will not tolerate hearing the truth about her child? Perhaps it’s best to approach the administration and keep out of the boxing ring?

Regards,

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

 

Dear Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place,

What a tough situation! I bet you wish the bully was your enemy’s son (not that I’m hoping you have enemies) rather than your close friend’s child.

This reminds me of a situation I had when my kids were growing up, although the tables were turned. My friend, Carol, and I both had daughters in the same class, and we delighted in seeing their friendship flourish much the same as our own did. They loved playing together and were always in one of our homes. And suddenly it stopped. My daughter, Stephanie, would call her friend, Ellen, and the mother kept giving excuses: She’s not available; she’s not home now, etc. At a certain point, my suspicions peaked upon seeing my daughter’s dejected expression yet again when her phone call still didn’t yield a play date.

Mustering my courage, I placed a call to Carol.

“Hi, Carol,” I began, my voice quivering. “Is there something wrong? I mean, is there a reason that you’re not allowing Stephanie to play with Ellen?”

Carol heaved a big sigh.

“I don’t know how to tell you this. I didn’t want to hurt you. But I feel like Stephanie is a bad influence on Ellen.”

My mouth opened and closed like a fish underwater. I didn’t know what to say, and the words threatening to explode from my lips were not going to be helpful. Stephanie, a bad influence? I shook my head vigorously. She’s a model child-obedient, refined, helpful. What in the world was Carol talking about?

I asked her for specifics and then we hung up as I tried to digest what she had conveyed.

My pain was searing as I cried for my daughter. In a flash, her best friend had been stolen from her, and she had no idea why. And the warmth I felt for Carol was coated in ice.

Time passed, and apparently Carol was convinced that Stephanie had outgrown a stage and was once again appropriate friend material for Ellen. As if there had never been an impasse, our girls renewed their bond and played happily ever after. And Carol and I? To my surprise, the same thing happened. I realized that she wasn’t out to hurt me but was just trying her best to look out for her daughter’s welfare.

Even though the message was terribly painful for me to swallow, it would have been more palatable if Carol had communicated with me directly, instead of leaving us dangling. I would have told Stephanie that Ellen’s mother wants her to have a little space for a while rather than let her make repeated overtures and have the door slammed in her face over and over. But hindsight is great, and who says I would have done differently had the tables been turned?

My suggestion is to be loving, compassionate and honest when speaking to your friend about her son bullying Davie. Pray that your words come out right and are well-received. No matter the outcome, you will have given it your best shot – and who can beat that?

Best of luck,

Rachel

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