Mama Bear & the Bullies.

It’s Friday night and I get home later than usual when my husband picks me up from the train with Jonah and Lexi in the car.


“Jonah is having a problem at recess,” my husband Michael announces to me. “He says some Star Wars obsessed boys are chasing him and hitting him with sticks.”


“Seriously?” I say.


“They are mommy, I swear!” Jonah tells me earnestly as he sits in his car seat, already dressed for bed in his Scooby Doo pajamas.


Almost every day this week, Jonah had been coming home with Band Aids informing me that he had gone to the nurse because a boy in his class hurt him at recess. To the skeptical mom in me, the injuries seemed too minor to even warrant a Band Aid. But Band Aids seem to make kids feel better so I hadn’t said anything. No big deal, I thought.


My son is legendary for his extreme imagination. He’s the type of child who tells me that his tooth became loose, then fell out at school, and an hour later, a big tooth sprouted in its place. He also swears that he saw a real dinosaur walking through our front yard and that his teacher spontaneously took them to an amusement park as a special field trip earlier that day and bought every child cotton candy.


It is understood by all who know Jonah that he has a robust sense of fantasy. So when he started telling me that his friends were chasing him with sticks and throwing acorns at him, I wasn’t immediately calling the principal on bullying charges.


But tonight in the car, when Jonah told me that he was being picked on every day by three boys, I suddenly switched into Mama Bear mode.


“I’m calling the boys’ mothers as soon as we get home,” I declared in the car.


Jonah seemed relieved. And I felt terrible that I hadn’t taken him more seriously.


My first call was to Owen’s mom, a woman who I’ve never even met. She expressed an appropriate amount of concern about the situation and then informed me that she volunteers at recess and has seen all of the boys playing together. In great detail she described the scene of six year olds for me complete with the two, cranky elderly lunch ladies who constantly scold the kids for, well, being kids.


Suddenly, it seems that all of the moms are now part time volunteers in the first grade. This was never the case in preschool or kindergarten, but first grade in the public school seems to demand a battalion of mommy volunteers who do everything from stack library books to monitor recess. While I think it’s fantastic that so many moms want to and can help out at school, for a full time working mom, this makes me feel completely removed from what’s literally happening daily on the playground.


“Mommy, will you pleeaasseee volunteer at recess on Monday?” Jonah asks me before I put him to sleep Friday night.


My impulsive reaction is absolutely! I need to see who these kids are – who is chasing my boy with a stick. I want to be there. I’m already coming up with the story that I will tell my boss:



You're damn right you need to spend a day on the playground! If you can't do it Monday, work it into your schedule. Try to get there at least once a month. How long are we talking? An hour? Can you take an hour out of your schedule to support your kid at school? It's your KID for goodness sake! I know it's hard to try to work and be a mom, but really, what's more important? Raising a child who is secure in the knowledge that Mommy loves him and is there for him, or pleasing your boss who could replace you tomorrow? Let your boss know that you have an appointment once a month that you'll cover on your lunch hour, then hustle your booty over there and see what's going on.


I have so been there. Fight past the intial "working mom guilt" and realize your kiddo will probably be okay. Not minimizing your situation or your child's distress, just saying that ole' Lamaze breathing can come in handy. Second, are there any SAHM's you can also tag team with? Third, talk to his teacher. Fourth, the world can be an ugly place when you're tired. Get some rest and rethink your strategy in the morning when your internal resources will probably be a bit stronger. After COB, i'm usually more emotional b/c i'm tired and wiped. I can think clearer in the a.m. after the java has hit. Stay strong.


I haven't faced this yet myself, but my friend has and I noticed a few good things she did. First of all, you still have many tools to reassure your kid even if you can't be there in person. If you haven't already, you can tell him how concerned you are, that you will speak to/have spoken to his teacher and the lunch mothers, and that you and he need a plan to deal with this - eg he goes to the lunch monitors when this starts, and he can learn to walk away and play with other kids, a skill we all need at some point in our lives. I know its worrysome - first that you'll turn your kid into a tattle tale (but he is only in first grade), second, its your kid and you want to throttle any other kids that hurt him. But just b/c you can't be there in person (and lets be realistic about this - my mom was a sahm but I never once expected or saw her at my school, and I bet neither did you. We still grew up ok), doesn't mean you can't help your kid through this. And maybe he'll actually learn a few skills, like problem solving and independence b/c you are a working mom. Not that I'm insensitive to how much teasing can hurt or how upsetting this is, just trying to see something positive could come out of it. And yes, I'm one of those sahms who is perhaps a little too available for her kids but does get to skip the stress of some working mom choices. PS why doesn't the dad go into school? where are the dads anyway?


I feel your pain! We are going through that too here in Denver with my first grader, and if anyone else is in the hood, please consider attending a talk by Barbara Coloroso, the author of 'The Bully, the bullied and the bystander' at Montview Presbyterian Church on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 7:00pm. I am looking forward to learning what to do.


Ok--I am an elementary school principal, so I say this with some authority:) Call the principal;) Or talk to his teacher...the supervision at recess needs to be pretty intense with active may seem okay, but in reality, if teachers (we don't have volunteers on recess duty) aren't actively monitoring, things can get out of hand and teachers don't always hear what is being said. I'm sure Jonah will be fine...a caring parent is such a HUGE piece of the puzzle:)


Sounds like a plan sister. Monday is bad...any chance of you going to work early / leaving early or taking a half day some time in the next week or two so you can volunteer in the classroom?
We working moms can't volunteer as often as the SAHM's, but we can certainly jump in for some intensive participation here and there. Another suggestion that seems to work for us - I "tag team" with another working mom in our sons class...we team up for projects and watch siblings so that we can both spend a little time helping at school.
Good luck and don't stress too hard... it will work out and Jonah will be a happy and well adjusted adult