Michael and Zachary are spending the first two weeks of summer at sports camp. They look forward to it all year and absolutely love it. It is such fun dropping them off and picking them up from camp because they are always so happy and so pumped by the uber-fit and super-sporty atmosphere of the camp.
On Friday, however, that was not the case.
I took one look at Michael on Friday afternoon and knew instantly that something was wrong. His shoulders were slumped and he looked really bummed-out. When I put my arm around him and asked him if he was okay, I got a half-hearted ‘yeah’.
It took a few hours for the story to come out and, when it did, I discovered that there had been some trouble with the boys in Michael’s group. Michael didn’t know any of the kids in his group before camp and had really been enjoying the easy camaraderie of the boys, including a set of best friends who had come to camp together. Apparently, on Friday, Michael was goofing around with one of the pair of friends and the other, Luke, didn’t like it. And so, Luke started to make fun of Michael and got the group all whipped-up to turn away from Michael.
Oh, the cruelty of kids is so difficult to swallow sometimes.
Michael left it behind him for the weekend and we didn’t say anything about it Monday morning hoping that it would all blow over and just be a one-time thing. It seems, however, that that was not to be. Michael came home from camp yesterday afternoon looking just as dejected as he had on Friday. And, apparently, it had been much worse than Friday’s situation and had slid into the painful realm of outright cruelty.
After the bullying that Michael lived through this past school year (by one of his old friends) he is a little tender when it comes to handling tricky social situations. My heart broke when he looked at me with despair and bewilderment all over his face and said; ‘why does this keep happening to me, mom?’
After settling Michael, I wondered how to handle the situation. Do I call the camp? Do I speak with the counsellors? Do I keep Michael home for the last few days of camp? Or, do I just ignore it and hope it will fade?
Well, as I wondered, Max swept in and said; ‘I just told Michael to put and end to all this crap by punching the little sh** in the face! He’ll get in trouble but it will be so worth it and he won’t be bothered again!’
There are times when my sons fight so much that I wonder if they will ever be friends. They tease, they punch, they wrestle, they bicker, and they make me want to tear my hair out. However, what I witnessed this morning reminded me that they deeply care for each other and that they will always have each other’s backs.
Before I went to bed last night Max asked me if I would wake him up at 8:00am. This coming from the kid who has slept until at least noon every day since school ended. When I asked him why, he told me that he was coming with me in the morning to drop the boys at camp. He wanted Luke to see that Michael has a big brother and that Michael is not to be messed with. He had no intention of doing or saying anything but was going to make it clear that Michael was off-limits to his bullying.
I had a lump in my throat as I went to bed and was so proud of Max’s fierce loyalty and love for his brother that I could hardly swallow past the emotion.
As we got out of the van this morning at camp, Max carried Michael’s huge camp bag. He swung his arm over Michael’s shoulders as they walked across the football field and when we got into the enormous gymnasium, Max walked him to his group. What I didn’t realize was that Zachary was also in tow to be a part of the Geoghegan-brother-united-front.
As Max made a fuss over Michael he had the attention of every kid in the group, including Luke. And, without, saying a word, Max gave Luke a long stare that spoke volumes. Max said goodbye to Michael with a fist bump and off we went.
As Max and I walked back across the football field Max said; ‘Luke will leave Michael alone now mom. He got the message. Nobody is going to mess with my little brothers.’
So here’s the thing…I could have called the camp, I could have talked to the counsellors, I could have involved the camp director, I could have called the parents, or I could have ignored the whole situation. But I didn’t have to do any of those things. All I had to do was to stand back and watch the brothers Geoghegan protect their own without harsh words and without violence.
And, by stepping back and trusting my boys, I had the privilege of witnessing the fierce brother-love that will bind my boys together for the rest of their lives, in good times and in bad.