Ya Run

Jonathan has had it with a child in his classroom.  Every day, he says, the boy tells him to ‘shut up’ and calls him ‘stupid’.  The adults supporting Jonathan don’t usually see this–the truth is, they usually see Elijah doing exactly that, to other kids.  The other kids complain louder than Jonathan does. Pushed past the point of reason (“I tried I-Messages, like twenty different times, but they didn’t work, and now I just want to get my revenge”), Jonathan does what he’s read about in graphic novels and seen on TV.  He writes a note. On the outside, the invitation: to Elijah, the jerk, from Jonathan, the fancy man.  Please open at home.  On the inside ‘ya run ya fat bich’.  Jonathan is being as bad as he can be. I remember one time when I was Jonathan’s age and my older brother pushed me past the point of reason.  He was taunting me for something that I honestly don’t remember, and he was so relentless in his actions that I finally struck back.  I called my brother, an adolescent male, the worst name I felt brave enough to say out loud.  “You bitch”, I told him.  He laughed. Bad doesn’t fit my Jonathan, any more than it fit me.  We both wear it like a clown suit, ridiculous and exposed.  I won’t teach Jonathan the words that might really get his point across, because I don’t want him to have to use those kind of words. At the same time, though, I work with him to think about the words that he might use instead.  His first idea is to write a new note.  “A nicer one.” He’ll put in writing his request that Elijah stop teasing, and then, he’ll ask that his hypothesis be confirmed or denied.  “I’ll ask him, Elijah, do you not care about anybody except yourself, or do you? I won’t be mean.  I’ll just ask. Because I want to know.”  He still signs everything, Love, Jonathan.  My angry fancy man who has learned from his brother how to flip people off when they make fun of his speech impediment, but says he would rather tell the principal than do that.  He still shines with naiveté.  I want to do right by him. It is naive, I think, to teach our kids that I-Messages work, all the time.  But it isn’t right to make bullies of the ones who are bullied.  I have to keep thinking, as I keep working, about the best way to handle this.

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