William, my big baby boy, is growing up, even though he doesn’t want to. He’ll be 13 in March, he’s almost as tall as I am, he weighs 140 lbs., and he started middle school this year. [edit: he’s now an 18 year old high school senior, over 6 ft., and about 260 lbs.!]
He’s not a fan of school, William. He’s had some struggles, and only returned to formal schooling last year after spending several grades being taught at home. Making friends with other kids is not his strong point. And middle school is a particularly vicious place, where bullying is a favorite sport.
This one kid has been a thorn in William’s side most of the year. The name-calling got so out of hand that both John and I spoke to the boy ourselves after school as well as alerting the principal. And things improved. But while he has turned it down a notch, this boy cannot seem to stay away from William. It’s more irritation than bullying, in my opinion–this boy is much smaller and William is not intimidated, just annoyed.
At first William would come home and complain about how much he “hated” the boy and what “a jerk” he was. But lately that’s changed. He still complains, but he also talks about how “sad” and “pathetic” the boy is, how he never does any schoolwork, how he just lays his head down on his desk, how none of the teachers seem to like him much. He says, “I wonder what his life is like?” and asks me, “Why do you think he acts this way? What is the matter with him?” He says he wants to be angry with him but he can’t help feeling sorry for him.
William loves to have conversations in the car on the short drive to school in the morning, and today he introduced the topic. “What do you think,” he asked me, “Jesus would say about the way we celebrate His birthday?” We both agreed that Jesus would be in favor of presents, although not materialism. But that most of all he would like us to show love, especially to those most in need of it. William recalled the Golden Rule, and then I reminded him about turning the other cheek and loving your enemies. I suggested–only half serious, really–that he should say Merry Christmas to anyone who bothered him today.
But when William got in the car this afternoon, he said that on the way out of school he went right up to the boy who has been bothering him, gave him a hug and wished him Merry Christmas. A few minutes later, he said, the boy walked down to where William was waiting for me and said, “I can’t believe I am saying this, but Merry Christmas to you!” 🙂