Do you remember the first time you were teased? I don't remember the words that were flung, but I do remember that I was in kindergarten and this first grade boy in kicked me in the shins, hard, and it gave me a huge bruise. The thing I remember most, though, was my mom's anger at this boy. My mom had a quick Irish temper, and I remember feeling that this boy was in Big Trouble with my mama. She said, and I quote (this part I remember very clearly) - "I wonder how he would like it if I put on my army boots and gave him a kick in HIS shins?!" I truly thought she would do it, too. She never did put on those boots, but I'm pretty sure she did talk to someone at school. I know she wouldn't, and couldn't have let it go. A couple years later, though, my same mother held my much older brothers back physically when they heard me yelling for help in the alley because I was being kissed against my will by Darren Teichmer. She knew I needed to learn to fight that fight myself. I think, too, that she had learned that righteous mama anger was all well and good, but children needed to learn to defend themselves, as hard as that sounds.
I bring this all up because yesterday after school, as we were walking up the hill from the bus stop, Joe-Henry stopped in his tracks and said "Mom! Chance teased me on the bus! He asked me if I slept with my mom, and I said I did, and he said 'You sleep with your mama, you sleep with your mama!' like that, teasing but not nice teasing. And he wouldn't stop, even when I told him to!" Nothing really prepares you for the feeling you get when your kid is picked on. I imagine it's something akin to Dr. Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk. I've had to deal with these feelings before, to a different degree, when people, mostly adult people who should know better, would look or make comments about Joe-Henry's feet or his birthmark. He was born with a rare syndrome and his feet are larger than other kids his age, and he has a large vascular birthmark on his leg, as well as two big fingers. But in those cases, even though you just can't BELIEVE how stupid and rude people are, the comments are without malice, so while I might strain against my necktie a bit, I always manage to stay in my mild mannered Dr. Banner guise. In this instance though, a little boy was actually being outright mean to my son. I put on my game face, but I felt myself flush a mighty shade of Hulk green, and I had to force myself to not say "What a little shi&t!" Instead, I managed to stay my own pleasant, but somewhat darker shade of MamaPink. I asked "What did you do?" He said, "I just ignored him. But if Mike (the bus driver) says I have to sit by him tomorrow, I'm going to ask if I can move." The first thing out of my mouth was that maybe his mommy didn't snuggle him, so he felt the need to be mean. Not the best thing I could have said, I know, but it just came out. But I also told him that I was proud of him for using his words so well, and that I had confidence that he could work out a good solution. I AM proud of him - he is exceptionally verbal and confident, and I know he can say what he needs to say to work it out.
But if he can't, and this kid can't stop teasing, I WILL turn green, and my boots are going ON.