The dog leash is wound tightly around my wrist. Her little body begins to shake the moment the bus comes lumbering around the corner, eventually rolling to a stop. She chases her tail, excited and anticipating boy cuddles after a long school day apart. Oversized backpack slung over his shoulder and a coat hanging off one elbow, my youngest meanders down the bus steps, hollering final goodbye's to his friends. He doesn't notice that his brother isn't following behind like usual. Chattering. Gathering things that have likely dropped on the floor during the ride. I think of a million reasons for a delay by my social butterfly.
But then, he appears. Eyes welling with tears, he stumbles down the stairs and throws himself into a bear hug, burying his face in my jacket. Alarmed, I guide his eyes up to mine and give him a questioning look. "She said our house looks stupid, Mom. She thinks we're funny and she made fun of Jesus."
It takes a moment for it to sink in. The nativity scene. He'd helped me set it up in the front lawn just a few days prior. "She said it's baby stuff, like fairy god mothers," he explains, a dejected expression spread across his face. Maybe the angels? I'm tempted now to ask him which little bus princess said these things, but I'm also self-aware enough in my current state of stress-sweating and heart-pounding, that I'd be inclined to hunt down this bully child and, well...
We walk home - the three of us together and one furry ally in tow. I can't bring myself to respond just yet so I silently hold his hand. The situation was pricking a vulnerable place in me, a reminder of the struggle that I'd had in the school decision-making process. Public or private? Homeschool? Montessori? As if it were yesterday, I'm standing back in the kindergarten classroom the night of my now seven-year-old's open house.
I'd shared a little bit about our journey and hesitation with his new teacher. "I understand, but he'll learn to own his faith here," she replies, convinced. "As you teach and guide him in real life situations, he'll become stronger in whatever religious beliefs your family wants to uphold. These kids need to be tested and counseled along the way, so that they have a deep understanding of what believing means. He'll be able to defend it that way."
Back then, I was uncertain, but her words echo true as we climb the hill to our yard. By this time, my sons are discussing the situation together. I overhear the youngest agreeing that this girl is quite the "meanie head", and at that point, I intervene.
"Guys, the things *Ava said have everything to do with her family and her life. Our family knows how important Christmas is to us. Do you think one little girl should steal our fun? This is our favorite time of year, but not everybody feels that way. Can you think of a reason why she might have said those things?"
The eldest ponders as if I've asked him to solve a math equation. "Well, maybe she's sad or mad about something...maybe her family doesn't like Christmas? But I think if she really knew who Jesus is, she'd never, never say those things. I wish she could just be happy 'cause I just love Him."
I feel like I'm being let in on the secret a little late, and my own tears begin to blur my vision. I'd assumed that my little guy was concerned about being made fun of. I'd jumped to the conclusion that he felt silly or attacked, called out in front of the bus crowd. I stood there fearing that my parenting had subjected him to others' mocking. That I hadn't prepared him...
I was wrong. Just beginning to understand his need to defend "his Jesus," I could relate. To him, Jesus is loving and safe. A place to take bad feelings and scary dreams and drop them off. His protection. Who wouldn't want somebody like that in their corner?
That evening, as we wrap up bedtime stories and prepare to pray, he reminds me to cover *Ava. "I think you better do it, baby. You know her much more than I do and God probably needs to hear it from you first." He agrees.
As my seven-year-old asks for peace in this young girl's life...as he asks God to make her heart happier and to help her to be nice to everybody, my heart explodes and I know that my fears are unfounded. God is faithful to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.
These kids are His - ours for just a little while. And so we train them to rest in His peace. Being still, for He fights their battles.
It's not my son who needed the lesson. It was me. We need adverse encounters to help us realize what's most important in this life. Never give up. Our children hear us, they watch our faith manifested daily, and they'll stand courageously in that faith as long as we, ourselves, are willing to do the same.
What about you? Have you and your family ever had to stand up to a bully-situation?
Happy, Courageous Advent,
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.