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Sunday, April 27, 2008

a PUNCH and People That Rock

I was planning on posting a word about Ohio people, because they rock. At least the ones that live by us do.

But Conner came home from a Scout campout today and when I went to pick him up he told me that another kid punched him on the bus. So that's kind of on my mind right now.

Because, huh? Punched him? My Conner?

Conner's okay. The other kid is smaller and his fist basically glanced off of Conner's cheek; there's not even a bruise. And I met this kid yesterday, who's also coincidentally named Connor. (I'm just assuming he spells his name with the "o", since, like, everyone assumes Conner's name is spelled that way, so I guess every other Conne/or is spelled with an o, too. We had to go and be different. Lucky Conner.)

The other Connor is younger than mine and, I thought when I was around him, kind of goofy. Now I think a little differently. Now I'm worried for him and wondering if he's headed down a bad path. After hearing more about him from my Conner (they were paired up as tentmates) he sounds like at the very least he is a bit of a social misfit. At the worst he might be a sociopath. Just kidding. Just a little mama bear sneaking out. But he does remind me of those kids with symptoms of watching too much tv and playing too many video games: their minds struggle to differentiate between electronics they either passively watch or actively control and the social reality around them. Connor is the type of kid who would just pop into an active conversation and say something inane, leaving everyone standing there blinking and unsure of how to react, but usually by just ignoring him. And, ultimately, going out of their way to avoid him.

I try to be so careful of there being two sides to a story: after all, how many times have I heard my own son give his subjective version of an incident that I personally oversaw and heard quite differently?

Thing is, anyone who knows my Conner cannot conceive of anything he would do to justify someone hauling off and hitting him. This is the kid whose preschool teacher once told me that she waited to intervene when Conner and another kid were having trouble, because she wanted to allow time for Conner to stand up for himself so the other kid would learn that he couldn't get away with doing that to him (whatever it was, I can't recall). This is the child who, in Italy, came home at one point last year because he had stood up to one of the bullies in the playground, and the other guy had backed down. That was huge for Conner, and I could tell a difference in his confidence level after that incident. He also learned the valuable life lesson that bullies are usually just scared little people. Although I don't think he appreciated that at the time.

It has taken me much of the day to digest what really happened on the bus and what I think should be done about it. I have my ideas, but I am respectfully waiting to see what comes from the Scout leaders once they have had a chance to discuss it among themselves. Apparently it had happened just before they arrived back in town, and once they did it was the usual chaos and disarray of unloading and meeting up of parents and scouts and making sure all the gear was taken care of and no one had a chance to really get a grip on what had transpired, including myself.

I am learning some valuable things about this and am having things I already knew further cemented in my brain. I was standing there near my Conner at the gathering while they were making final announcements (Lord help me, this is a large Scout troop and can these things take forever) and watching the other Connor and his mom across the way and thinking, I can't believe she hasn't even said anything to me, her son going and hitting my son like that. Even if there were a good reason shouldn't she offer up an apology or something? At least come to me to talk about it? And there she is, standing there like she doesn't have a care in the world.

So I'm standing there stewing and turns out that she didn't have a clue that anything had even happened. Which I found out when she came up to me later and said something about "next time" to which I replied that I didn't think it would be a good idea for our sons to tent together again. And when she said, "Why, what happened?" I immediately turned to her Connor and said, "You mean you didn't tell your mom about what happened on the bus?" And when he just looked down I told her that her son had punched my son on the face, and he was okay, but she might want to talk to her son about it and find out what happened. She just turned directly toward him and kept saying, "You hit another kid? You hit another kid? You hit another kid?" (I resisted the urge to wave and say, Yoo-hoo! Over here! Um, that would be MY kid.")

But when her Connor finally looked up and said, "Yea, I did. But he made me really, really mad." I knew there was nothing more for me to say. He seemed so...disconnected. Oh, yes, Boys Will Be Boys. But did it ever occur to this boy that if he hauls off and hits someone that that someone might hit him back? He clearly acted like, I was mad, so it was justified. Now, they weren't in a heated argument; they weren't having a political debate or arguing over who was better at whittling a stick, or whatever. According to my Conner, the other Connor had grabbed something out of Conner's hand, and Conner had grabbed it back. A grabbing war ensued and within seconds Conner felt the punch, which was so random and sudden that he felt his hand ball into a fist, but (luckily for the other Conner) instead of hitting back he raised it into the air, which called a scout leader to come help.

A little part of me almost wishes that Conner had hit him back. But the grown-up in me is so glad he didn't, not just because it was the right thing to (not) do but also because it wouldn't be so clear who was in the wrong if he had: it would have become more of a he said/he said and been translated into "Conner and Connor got into a fight" instead of one boy clearly starting it by hitting the other.

This is one of the hardest things about moving around, when your kids are in activities in a new city and no one knows you from Adam and you have this balancing act of advocating for your child without sticking your nose in where you don't belong. Conner is still a child. On the cusp of teenagehood, but still a child. I will follow through on this to make sure that my Conner is treated fairly and not just lumped in with the other kid as being equally involved in an altercation. But dang if I'm not out of my element with this Boy Scout Thing, what with my being a girl and all.

And I was a little bothered by the reaction of the one volunteer adult leader whom I approached before we left, who said that they would both probably get a "strike" simply because they were both involved, but acted like it wasn't a big deal; you know boys will be boys and all. At the time I couldn't quite put my finger (or my words) on why that didn't seem right, but when I called John later to tell him what happened he said it best, "It sends the message that you'll get in the same amount of trouble whether or not you hit him back, so you might as well hit him back."

I got a different impression from a scout leader who called to talk to me this afternoon about what happened. This "kid" is quintessentially what Scouts is all about, in my opinion. Here he is, a high schooler, taking charge of an incident that could potentially be volatile, what with hot-headed soccer moms and all, and doing it with maturity and sincere concern for the people involved. In Scouts, see, it's the Scouts who are in charge; the adult volunteers are really there just to facilitate and oversee things to make sure that, you know, no one gets punched, or anything.

This Scout seemed to be getting a grip on the situation and was very concerned that this was going to taint my Conner's experience and cause him to give the whole Scout thing up. And very well it might have: certainly if you had asked him right after he got off the bus if he wanted to keep doing Scouts it would have been a resounding No -- he was quite upset, after all, and really, really mad himself.

But I am learning that, Boys Will Be Boys and all, that you really shouldn't hold back when it comes to doing what you feel is right by your own child. I do have concern for this other Connor: I'm worried that his mom might react by pulling him from Scouts, when he is really one boy who could really benefit from it. My Conner told me later that the other Connor's dad died (when, I don't know) from cancer, and that he had a twin brother who died at birth. For a boy to share this with another over one weekend? You know there's pain there. And what struggles a mom faces raising a son alone after suffering such loss, I can't imagine.

I will stand up for what I believe is right by my son, and I hope to convey to them to somehow encourage the other Connor to face -- to recognize -- this with the responsibility that is his, while still encouraging him to stay involved with the troop himself. Just maybe not in the same tent as my son.

So. I'm not going to go on about how my neighbors rock. How Darlene behind us called and asked if I would like to get out Saturday afternoon by myself? You know, since my husband's away? These are the neighbors who already have been taking Conner to his Scout meetings for me, which would be difficult for me to do what with the little ones needing to go to bed in the evening before it's done and all.

I was like, "Well, I don't know. I mean, I don't even know how to think about that!" because, truly, I am simply so used to not having a life. And it turned out that it really was more important that the little ones and I go hang out at the Scout campsite with Conner for awhile (and in retrospect isn't it good I made an appearance? besides, Olivia couldn't get enough of "exploring in the woods", no matter that stupid mom only put sandals on Sean-Peter because he has an owie on his toe so "No gocks, mom" only it's a miracle that his trying to keep up with big sister didn't take off his toe altogether) so I didn't take her up on it -- this time.

And I'll just barely mention how my neighbor Bob across the way ended up mowing our whole yard with his awesome riding mower after I asked for his help to start our little push one which has been dormant all winter and I can never start a cold mower and Conner (so far) is just as pathetic as I am. And not only did Conner so luck out because he was charged with tackling it but so was I because I was going to have to make him do it and listen to him gripe and moan and complain even more when I make him go over the big swatches he misses so obvious to the naked eye yet I can't tell where I've been! is what he always insists.

So I'll spare you, because this has gone on long enough as it is.


Mrs. Staff Sergeant said...

Oh no, about the big punching incident on the bus :( That happened to Dillon on his first day of school and I was so upset!! I think you're handling it in the best possible way. I hope Conner is OK with things now, and I hope Connor has learned a lesson.

And wow, you do have great neighbors! I'm jealous!

Carmen said...

Why I oughta!...Let me at 'em, let me at 'em...Oh, excuse me, I mean, that other Connor needs our good thoughts!

There is nothing that can put a pit in your stomach faster that felling as if your child has or is being threatened. I commend you for looking at things objectively. Can you teach me how to do that?