When you have a newborn, and are enduring sleepless nights and sheer exhaustion, you think "This is hard." Then you have a mobile baby who you can't let out of your sight for two seconds and you think "No, this is hard." Then you have a toddler, laying on the floor in the middle of a public place throwing a tantrum, and you think "No, actually this, this is hard." Etc. etc.
With each new phase your child moves into, new challenges arise, and you find that they are harder to deal with than the previous phase. (Now don't get me wrong, there are perks, too, that balance it all out. With everything I deal with right now, I can at least be comforted by the fact that I don't have to wipe anyone's butt anymore.) However, now Ryan is starting to reach the phase where I think I'd rather be having to wipe butts. Heck, give me a sleepless night with a newborn, or a toddler throwing a tantrum, over this.
Ryan is now a fifth grader, just one grade away from junior high. I hated junior high, and most of you out there probably did too. It's a miserable time, made even more miserable by other kids. The kids that choose to deal with feeling bad by making other people feel bad too.
The first hints of this were seen recently for us. Ryan went to a campout with a bunch of other boys, and apparently some bullying went on. He was pretty upset when he came home and told us what happened. I was upset too, when I heard. My first instinct was to jump in and save him. I gave pause though, and realized he's starting to get to the age where he's going to have to deal with some of it on his own. I then realized that as parents, we're going to have to be the ones to figure out when and how to jump in, and when we should just let him figure out.
This time, we did step in, as we felt what was said went way too far and should be addressed. I had a nice heart to heart talk with Ryan, too. I told him that this is probably going to happen more as he gets older, and he is going to have to decide, as a person, how he is going to handle things like this in life. On the one hand, you see those stories of kids being bullied so much they kill themselves, and that scares me. A lot. On the other hand, someday Ryan is going to be an adult, and there are still going to be bullies. I won't be able to swoop in and rescue him anymore.
I know part of my job as a parent is to teach him how to deal with it. The problem is, I was always terrible at handling it, and even now as an adult, I don't handle confrontation well. Somehow I've got to help my son navigate the next few years and come out the other side intact, when it's something that I was barely able to do at that same age. And that? That is HARD.