I am in a dangerous mood. But before you get excited about what that might mean, know that restlessness equates danger for me. I could say, “I am restless,” but that wouldn’t adequately explain my mental state.
I am the kind of restless (dangerous) that would have me selling nearly all my possessions and moving into a small apartment so I could better focus on the essence of life. Mark likely wouldn’t find that dangerous, however, as we spent the first three years of our marriage living in an apartment no bigger than a two-stall garage (and a small garage at that). But I have a feeling my sons would feel the earth shake beneath them should such a bizarre downsize occur. So maybe that’s too dangerous an outcome for my restlessness, huh?
Yet, I am also the kind of restless (dangerous) that caused a father in Florida to board a bus and angrily threaten the bullies who had been picking on his 12-year-old daughter. He commented that it had “turned (his) world upside down” to know that she, who lives with cerebral palsy, was being bullied.
I get that.
I remember when my son, who was born with spina bifida and multiple other birth defects, was being bullied in middle school. I didn’t board a bus, but I wrote a handwritten letter to the offenders and asked the principal to deliver it to the bullies – those boys. I trust that he did. I also trust that the bullying stopped.
However, I am keenly aware that I don’t really know what happened to Stross during his days at school. I remember fearing what might happen to him during his time before school, his lunch hour and the time he spent waiting for me to pick him up. I assumed he would be safe during class.
If I could, I would have been there to let the bullies know that my son should not be the butt of their jokes. Instead, I put my feelings in a letter and hoped the letter had years' worth of staying power, at least with those two bullies – those two boys. I told the bullies that my son would never have the opportunities in life that they would, and that they would always have the power to make my son a victim. I simply hoped they would choose not to. I needed for them to hear that I loved Stross deeply; that they had hurt him deeply, and that their actions had hurt each one of us – them included – in a lasting way.
I don’t know what became of those bullying boys – now men. But I know that bullies – in general – still exist. In fact, most young bullies grow up to be adult bullies. They just change their tactics and how they choose their targets. That’s dangerous. And it makes me restless, wondering who and what will be next.
Restless … dangerous … I know they are different. I do. But they go together, yes?
The father couldn’t wait when his daughter was in danger. She was in danger. He felt compelled to act; and while he regretted how he chose to act, he didn’t regret doing something that stopped the bullying, even though it brought consequences for him. He moved past a state of restlessness directly into anger.
But I am not angry. At least I don't think so. I am restless. Why? And why do I feel threatened? Why do I have this impulse to sell my possessions and run away?
I can name the emotions I am feeling. I simply cannot identify their cause.
Someone asked me recently if I worried that I exposed too much of myself in my blog. Why, I asked? Should I be worried? I simply share what I am feeling - what I am living through - as openly and honestly as I know how. Is that dangerous? If so, why? I cannot imagine openness and honesty being dangerous, unless there are bullies lurking who regard those as vulnerabilities. Bullies who take someone else’s vulnerabilities and then twist them for their selfish purposes.
Do you want to know the incident that sent my son into shut down mode that day – the day I learned about his bullies? Do you want to hear about the incident that caused Stross, my open, honest and vulnerable son, to begin to withdraw and cry tears of frustration and anger?
During art class, some boys at his table said: “I bet your dad is gay. I bet your dad sleeps with other boys.”
Stross, mistakenly thinking that the bullies really wanted to talk to him in a real conversation, and not understanding the stigma attached to a word like “gay,” offered this response: “My dad slept in his uncles' bed for Christmas.” Stross had been proud that he had something so fresh to share from the bedtime story his father had told him the night before. Less than 18-hours previously, Stross had hung on every word Mark had told him about those childhood Christmases in Kentucky and how Uncle Philip and Uncle Richard had said that, “Nephews make good foot warmers.”
Now, I don’t exactly know what the bullies did after Stross told them about his dad and the bed and the uncles from Kentucky. I just know that I picked up a despondent Stross from school that day, and that Stross lacked both the intellectual capacity and the verbal communication skills to tell me the details of what had occurred. I did my best job of gentle-mother-sleuthing, and after I’d pieced together as much of the story as I could, I took action.
An anxious phone call to the principal at his home.
An evening spent handwriting two letters that I hoped would be delivered.
A sleepless night worried about how Stross would do in a new class section. (He simply could not be near those bullies – those boys – again. Would it even be possible to keep them away?)
There were more bullying incidents for Stross. But nothing as big as the one that caused him to shut down. At least that I know of.
Bullies forever changed my son's life. They changed my life.
The threat of danger hung with us through the remainder of Stross’ middle school years and all the way through his high school experiences. I still recognize tinges of restless fear (I am the one with fear, not Stross) as I watch him being as independent as his life allows.
And now I am restless. It's a dangerous mood.
I don’t like it. I am tired of feeling it, and as soon as I can identify what is going on, I plan to act. No regrets.