See that kid in the picture above? That is my middle son, Sam. He just turned nine yesterday; I cannot believe he has been hanging around for nine whole years. He is the one who is the most attached to me, and always has been. He was born early, at 33 weeks, so the first few weeks and months of his life were crazy and chaotic and more than a little scary, and I count my blessings daily (or at least weekly) that he is okay. He has terrible asthma and requires pretty constant monitoring in that respect. Also, he is seriously underweight, weighing in at a whopping 51 pounds-all skin and bones-to the point where his doc is actually considering it a health issue rather than it being mostly genetic. I am not complaining; I will take it, because the problems that COULD have manifested themselves due to his early birth have not, and my God, it could be SO much worse than it is.
In addition, his dad is, well, to say it as nicely as I possibly can, gone. Not dead, just-gone. And hasn't been around in any meaningful way since Sam was a little tiny baby. So Sam has me, and I have him, and we are pretty close; for him, it has always been me who has been a constant in his life, more so than the other three because, well, they still have their dads, and however peripheral their presence might be, it is still something. Sam doesn't have that, and never has. This closeness can get pretty annoying at times, I will be the first to admit, because no matter how much I might TRY, I cannot make up for the lack of a father in his life. Nor can I lavish all of my time and attention on him when I have three other kids whom I love equally. I don't love him more than I do the others; with all four, there is some little thing that makes them special to me, more special than the other three, but in a different way.
So this morning-and for once I am grateful that I forgot something and had to go back home-I was driving back home to retrieve the Almighty Coffee Cup when I came upon this scene: the above little boy being held down on the ground in a headlock, with an arm twisted behind his back and a foot on his tiny little butt. Being beat up. By a teenager who is taller-much-and bigger-MUCH-than I. For a moment it didn't register; I see the kids at the bus stop every morning, and they are always horsing around and wrestling and pretty much just being rowdy kids. So at first-for a split second-I didn't really recognize what was going on. And when I did, I pulled over and stopped just as the school bus was pulling up to pick up the high-schoolers. I went to Sam who was very manfully trying to hold back tears and rubbing the back of his neck, and my heart broke. His whole shirt was covered with dirt-the new shorts he just got for his birthday yesterday torn in one spot and absolutely filthy, his face covered with dust and small bits of leaves and gravel and blood. He was rubbing his arm and trying desperately to look like he was okay, until he saw me and came running over, bursting into tears as he ran.
To say that I am angry is an understatement; I am furious, and sick, and afraid. Furious at the boy who thinks it is somehow okay to beat up a little boy. Furious at my oldest son who was AT the bus stop and watched and did nothing to stop this. Furious beyond belief that not one of the neighbors who peer out their windows regularly in order to find juicy gossip to spread about people surely saw this and did nothing. I am sick that the little boy who has already learned early on that life is damn harder than it should be just had that opinion reinforced. I don't doubt that Sam may have instigated it a little; he tends to have a smart mouth and a wee chip on his shoulder at times, but I cannot imagine him saying ANYTHING that warranted having the shit kicked out of him.
I am disgusted today, both sick and afraid for my kids because I cannot be there to protect them all of the time. I am disgusted that this older boy clearly feels powerless and angry and chooses to make himself feel bigger and better by beating up a small child. I am disgusted that this is where things have ended up, where we as a community will sit back and watch, but not do anything about it. I am also afraid that there isn't anything that I can really DO. For a variety of reasons too messy to go into here, I will not be going to the police, and I know that. I AM going to be at the bus stop with Sam tomorrow, and I plan on having a chat with this boy. I don't know what I hope to accomplish, I really don't, but it can't continue. What I would really LIKE to do is find me a group of big men who will help me beat the shit out of this kid; I would like to follow him home and kill his dog. I would really LIKE to do a lot of things, but I won't. Partly because I don't want to go to jail, of course, but also because I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. I don't believe in acting on the desire for retaliation; we all FEEL it, but to act on it just causes more hatred and violence in an already strife-ridden area. At the same time, I don't want my sweet little guy to be afraid and to get beat up.
I just don't see the sense in all of this. I don't see why things have to be the way they are today, where even in a town that looks small and safe and quiet, we have to worry about things like this. I don't see why we can't all find a way to become a community again, to care about what happens to everyone, not just those who look the same way we do. I don't understand how it has gotten to this point, and I understand even less what we need to do about it. I just know that we have to do SOMETHING.