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I know, I know. This doesn't surprise any of you. But this time I feel
I called someone's kid the "School Bully," and he found out.
There is this boy in our school — no, not the one who picked on my son, that's
another kid — who has been in class with Iz since kindergarten. He
always picked on her.
In the past, he was the kind of kid who stole balls, punched and hit beehives
with sticks. In fact, because of this kid, a huge beehive in the school
yard was "activated" and attacked half the school. "Bee
control" had to be called in. It wasn't pretty.
Unlike other "bully's" parents, this kids parents are actually
aware of his behavior and have worked really hard to get him under
control. It's a tough job. I give them a lot of credit. I would have sold him off long ago.
Anyway, he takes karate with my daughter. When he joined her dojo a
couple of years ago, we sunk in our seats. "Great, they're teaching
him karate." I thought thinking about my daughter or some other kid in
class getting a karate chop to the stomach at snack time.
He would bug Iz in karate class, make nasty remarks and was generally
inattentive. The Senseis (teachers) were always on him. I
haven't really seen much of him around the dojo lately, because he moved to
another group class. "Thank God!" I thought.
The other day we were at karate and this boy's mom came to pick him up. He's
in Izzy's new group class. I heard his mom talking to the Sensei about
buying "pepper spray," and I heard her ask if her boy would be able to
figure out how to use it easily. He said "yes."
I swear I saw a bit glossiness in his eyes, like he was sad, and it made me feel horrible.
As soon as they moved to the back door, I said to the Sensei, "You're
arming the school bully?"
Well, I guess she heard me, because today her husband came up to me in the
"Can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked.
"Sure." I waited for an apology for whatever his son had done
to my daughter to naturally follow. I'd spent the past four years hearing, "I'm sorry," from them for whatever affront their son had committed
"I was wondering if my son had been bothering your daughter lately. I know in the past there have been problems, but I was really thinking we had it
under control a little now, and that things were OK. Someone told me they
overheard you call my son "the school bully," so I was just wondering
if things were OK."
There was no malice in his voice. In fact, he seemed like any protective
father. I swear I saw a bit of glossiness in his eyes, like he was sad, and
it made me feel horrible. I could see what I had said about his son hurt
him. And that I had voiced a public opinion of his son hurt even more.
Iz came out onto the playground to our pick-up meeting place and saw me talking
to this boy's father. She instinctively grabbed my waist and
listened. I had a choice of what I wanted to say in that moment. I
could have said, "What are you talking about?" But it was clear, no
matter what I said, a lesson would be taught and learned.
"You know what?" I said. "I did say that. And I'm so
He was surprised. I could tell. His shoulders relaxed.
"Even as I said it, I knew I shouldn't, and I knew it was rude." I tried to rationalize. "Well, you know how our kids have a
history? Well, when I saw your wife asking the Sensei about pepper spray, it scared me. And instead of talking to your wife about it, I said something
really mean. I had no right to call him the school bully, and I hope he
didn't hear me." Then, I just stopped talking. I realized I had
been a total bitch. There's no excuse for that.
"I just thought that maybe he was bothering your daughter again, and I
wanted to be sure."
I hope I said the right thing and that Izzy learned you have to own up to your mistakes.
I realized, I hadn't seen his kid bothering Izzy lately. In
actuality, he hadn't bothered her in a while. This guy had managed to
help his kid — to help change his behavior — and I just went ahead and had made
things worse by perpetuating the idea that he was a bully. I felt so
He nodded. "I understand."
I apologized again with my daughter listening. "I shouldn't have
said something so mean. I'm really sorry."
"Thank you," he said and he shook my hand.
I know I hurt him. And he's a good guy. I'm a shmuck.