Skip to main content

An open letter to the world's bus bullies

There are things, as a parent, I know I need to be prepared for: My children will fall down the stairs or off their bikes, they will get reprimanded at school for doing something stupid, they will have meltdowns in the middle of the mall, and they will get picked on by other kids from time to time. I know this. Yet for some reason, when this stuff actually happens, I always feel surprised, startled...and so freaking hurt! I know, I know: Welcome to parenthood.

Today Happy got off the school bus and buried his face in my hip, wrapped his arms around me, and crumpled into tears. I shuffled us quickly back to the car, worried the other kids would see him and tease him, where Happy told me that he wanted to tear his shirt off and rip it into pieces:

"Because So-and-so was teasing me! He called me a retard...and said purple is a girl color! And the other kids were laughing! And he said I'm gay!!! And I don't even know what that meeeeans!"

Instantly my heart broke for my sobbing baby. But I seethed! The blood rushed to my face. I heard whoosh-whoosh in my ears. My hands clutched the steering wheel so hard I thought I'd bend it. I clenched my jaw. Horrible violent thoughts of this bullying little jerk flew through my brain. For a moment I could feel myself turning green and muscly, my clothing ripping off my body, my rage fueling a Hulk-Mom transformation.

Instead, calmly....coolly...compassionately I told my boy that I was sorry his feelings got hurt; that purple is a very handsome color; that all the coolest men in the world (including his father) are wearing purple these days; and that the best way to deal with a mean kid is to say "Whatever," roll your eyes, and act like it doesn't bother you. I also told him that I feel sorry for people who are mean to others because I know that someone else is mean to them; I told him bullies often feel bad about themselves, and they learn meanness from others.

Then we went inside the house and ate pretzels and drank apple juice, and Happy found great delight in my cutting a pair of his ripped-knee pants into shorts. Our evening moved along as most evenings do (though I did notice he was a bit more sensitive and whiny than usual), and at bedtime we role-played the "whatever" moment. (We had to role-play a few times, of course, because the first time he "whatever'd" then kissed me...which probably wouldn't really improve the whole gay-calling thing.)

So Happy seems to have moved on from his sadness. Kids bounce. But here it is, six hours later, and I am still all riled up. My stomach is in knots. I am angry. I am hurt. There is still tension in my jaw. I am reliving all those times when I was a child (teenager, adult) and other kids mocked me. It hurts a thousand times more now because I can't shield him from these wounds. And even though I said all those kind, cool, compassionate things to my son earlier today -- and even though I meant them -- right now, this is what I really want to say to the little bag of snot who hurt my baby's feelings:

You, little boy, are a bratty little turd who is not worthy of even one of the tears my son shed today. You are nasty to other kids because you feel bad about yourself; maybe if you shut your mouth and spent some time being kind, you would notice that most of the children around you are amazing -- full of joy and wonder and creativity and heart.

Your parents probably have no idea that you behave this way, but I bet they wouldn't really find it troubling. In fact, they might even shrug their shoulders and tell me this is normal, that my kid has to learn how to fend for himself because life is cruel sometimes, or that it's my fault for letting you wear a purple shirt. It's possible your parents are the kind of people who laugh at me now when I pass by because I am super tall or my hair is too frizzy or my car is too old.

You will spend most of your life feeling bitter and angry because people like my son are smarter and have more friends and more imagination and do interesting things in their spare time. There will come a day, maybe 10 years from now, when my son is 6-foot-6 and weighs 250 pounds and looks right over your head like you're not even there as he walks by you with his friends; you will wish you had been nicer to him so that he'd come to your aid when some teenage thug is picking on you in the high school parking lot.

I do feel a tiny bit sorry for you, little boy, because you are probably picked on too. Any first-grade child who throws around words like gay and girl and retard as insults has heard those words from someone else. I feel sorry that you don't have the guidance and nurture that you deserve, that you don't have someone who will sit you down and explain to you that some words are double-edged daggers. But mostly I feel sorry that you haven't allowed yourself the opportunity to get to know my son, to play Star Wars or Batman with him on the playground, or to sing silly songs and dance with him in the yard, to go on adventure hikes in the woods looking for leprechauns. You are missing out on so much fun.

Next time you want to call him gay or girl or retard, know this: My son will be comfortable in his own skin, unlike you, because his parents are raising him to show love and kindness to everyone he meets -- especially gays and girls and kids with special needs -- and even you. My son wears purple because it's a royal color and he is a prince among his peers. You, little toad nugget, will never wear purple, unless it's around your eye because someone finally gets sick of your bullying and knocks you the frig out.

Oh, and by the way, WHATEVER.


  1. Awesome. I fear if someone ever made my little men cry I would end up in prison.

  2. Hey Honey,

    You think Happy's only going to be 6'6"?? I'm predicting taller!

    Uncle and Auntie were upset about Happy's teasing, but you are both strong parents to help your chilins' through any of this.

    Smoochies and great Blog! Uncle ratted you out! Caught him sniffling at the Bus Bullie Blog.

    Now, I've ratted him out. But that's what married people do with loved family members!!! :)

    Auntie B

  3. And whoa whoa whoa, has Happy never heard about the Minnesota Vikings Purple People Eaters Defense that wiped out scores of Offensesive linemen and QBs back in the day? OMG, they would throw that bullie under the bus for the mocking of the color of the shirt.



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Boardwalk ghosts

“Imagine this, buddy, in the middle of summer, especially near the Fourth of July. Wall to wall people, just sort of moving in and out of each other. Flashing lights. Loud music. Screams from Morey’s Pier, laughter on the swirly rides. Oh...and the cream, funnel cake, fudge, cheese steaks, pizza, fries...the smells alone would drive you nuts!” 
It’s 5:00 on the evening before his Nana’s funeral, and we’re standing in a windy drizzle on an empty Wildwood boardwalk. My mind has flashed back to the summer of 1991, when I spent a week here with my best friend. Wicked sunburn. Tandem bike adventures. Water slides. Thrill rides. A ground-shaking thunderstorm. Friendship bracelets. College guys taking showers outside. Ice cream and VCR movies every night.

Back in the here-and-now I’m trying to explain to Zippy what this place is like when it’s not October. He’s been to Rehoboth and Ocean City and Old Orchard Beach, but none of those come anywhere close to Wildwood in peak season.…


Zippy and I hiked in the woods the other day, following the icy trails around Evergreen Cemetery. The cold air stung our eyes but the sun shone warm and bright, and it felt great to breathe fresh air. As he skipped and hopped and twirled beside, in front, and around me, I felt peaceful, happy, content. Until I realized the Womens' March is in a few days, I am going, and I don't know what to expect. I've never done anything like this, except for a few years ago at Occupy Philly, which was nothing compared to the numbers they're anticipating this weekend. The Women's March will be a peaceful protest, yes, but 200,000 is an awful lot of people in highly charged city during turbulent times. I felt anxiety creeping into my chest.

"So you know I'm going away this weekend, right? To Washington, D.C. For just two sleeps. Do you know why I'm going?" I asked Zippy.
"Because you don't like Donald Trump and he's going to be the President."

Look up

I walk a lot. Walking is one of the pieces of my Portland lifestyle that I value most, in fact: countless trails, parks, paths, and sidewalks that not only get me where I need to be, but also show me woods and sea and proud old homes and all sorts of loveliness. (I also walk past a lot of not-so-lovely in this town each day, but we'll save that for another post.) Sometimes when I walk through a quiet neighborhood, like the one over here along Clifton Street in Back Cove, I feel envious of single-family homes and yards and kid-friends playing together in the driveway. Other times in these same neighborhoods, I feel grateful for the ample parking and snow removal of our rental home, as well as for landscapers who cut the grass and landlords who come to fix the kitchen lights or replace the dryer when it punks out. When I walk through Evergreen Cemetery, often I feel contemplative, peaceful; its consecrated ground and hundreds of years of history soothes me. Other times I feel sad an…