Someone has said something so wrong that I am gobsmacked -- unable to respond appropriately.
I was always taught to speak my mind, but speak politely. I must admit, I have stumbled a few times. I have been direct at times when I probably shouldn't have said a word. I was inappropriate, not out of malice, but perhaps my enthusiasm got ahead of my sensibilities. I did learn, early on though, that if you make a mistake, you own up to it. You summon up the courage to apologize for offending someone and find a way to make the situation right. You don't hide from your mistakes because lord knows, we're all going to make them, and the worst thing you can do is to pretend that they didn't happen.
My daughter has been dealing with a situation at school with another student. This other person has been more than inappropriate. He has been telling her things that no one should ever hear. ("You should go kill yourself. You don't have any friends, no one likes you.") He says things in a "joking" manner. He sends text messages about killing himself. The other kids laugh -- sometimes -- nervously. But no one tells him to stop. That's just him, they say. He's stressed out. He has a tough time at home. Excuses, excuses.
She's been dealing with this herself. She's told him repeatedly that what he said wasn't funny, and he had to stop. Her girlfriends knew about it, but they didn't say anything because that was "just him being him."
He went too far this week. He caught her at her locker and told her that if she went to a place where many of the kids gather after school that "the group will rape you." Yes, that's what he said. Twice.
In a vulnerable moment, later that night, she broke down and told me. And I was speechless. Then I was overcome with sadness, as I hugged her. Then it turned to anger. I was mad. And I told her I'd help her handle it. And I praised her for her courage to reach out and speak out even though it was hard. And my anger melted as I imagined what it must be like to be that other kid.
We contacted the school. Our principal was swift, compassionate, and professional. We want the other child to get help -- we are not looking for punishment. He must be hurting badly to lash out like this. Someone had to say something. I'm glad my daughter had the courage to speak up. For herself. For her "friend." I then contacted other parents whose kids are in this circle to let them know right from me exactly what happened. You know how rumor mills twist everything.
We need to make each other's business our own business. We need to teach our children to stand up for themselves, yes, but also to know when lines are crossed and to always feel empowered to ask for help. And if we teach them these lessons when they are young, then when they are older, they will know what to do when they need it most.