When my son was eight, he was pummeled by a group of thirteen year olds.
We were at family camp where there is a lot of time for kids of all ages to hang out together. Unbeknownst to my husband and I, our son thought he was “entertaining” the older boys. In reality they were mocking and teasing him. Eventually they got tired and asked him to leave. Our boy already struggling with social cues did not get the message and after a few more promptings, he was flat on the floor with fist in his eye.
Not long after, a few parents pulled our son from the bottom of the pile. Even though he had a black eye; he was more bruised internally than anywhere else.
But what caught me the most off guard was what happened next. The parents of the boys did not want to address the situation with us, with them or with the director. They essentially just wanted the situation to go away claiming, “Boys will be boys.” In our attempt to be conciliatory we let it go and walked away.
I thought that was the end. But I could not have been more wrong.
A few days later our family was preparing the Shabbat rituals around our assigned table. The culprits had been avoiding us all week ducking behind corners every time my husband and I came near. But now, out of the corner of my eye I could see a few of them watching us. I invited them to come over and join in our circle of hands and prayers. To my amazement they did. We broke bread, we talked and by the end of the dinner, they even apologized.
I realized that the boys had been suffering all week. Their guilt was eating away at them. But their parent’s were ignoring the situation and without those “guides” to help, they were at a loss to how to make it better.
As parents it is always hard to know when to step back and when to step in.
Sometimes, when the development of our child’s soul is at stake, we must “man up,” face the situation so that everyone - victims and perpetrators- can win in the end.