Read Part One here.
As of this writing, the Principal still had not read my letter. “Too many emails”, he said to my husband via phone. He assured my husband that our concerns were already addressed.
Apparently, and bless this child, one of Nick’s friends went to the Principal himself. He told him the story, how Nick was berated in front of the team and that he felt “scared” not only for Nick, but for the potential that someday, he too might be on the receiving end of this ridicule.
As relayed to my husband, the Coach was called into the Principal’s office. He was, in fact, reprimanded for not only chastising my son and encouraging the team to do likewise, but for leaving the school grounds…abandoning my son from any adult supervision while still on campus.
And yet, despite the fact that it was “handled” and my husband happily reported this to me, I still felt like it wasn’t quite enough. At 3:30 today, I went to pick my son up from school. In some sort of kismet, the Principal happened by. I felt this overwhelming urge to talk with him, knowing full well I would only be reiterating what my husband had already said. Still, it was necessary for me to have this man look into the eyes of this mother, this mother of a very precious child and have him tell ME that this matter has been taken care of.
I approached him and said, “I am Nick *****’s mother.” Nothing more needed to be said. He invited me to sit alongside him on a bench in the garden area as opposed to pulling me into his cold and uninviting office where he would be behind a desk. He patted my hand and said, “Mrs. CP, I am so terribly, terribly sorry that this happened to your son.” He paused. He allowed me to process the sincerity of this statement. My eyes never wavered from his. It was not an awkward silence, but rather, a deep commiseration between two parents. He then said, “I was absolutely livid to hear that the Coach decided to make a spectacle of your son. I called him into my office earlier in the day and told him that while Nick may have the appearance of a man, he is still a child. He is a confused adolescent who made an error in judgment. He was already punished for his actions. What you did was reprehensible. Instead of berating that boy, you should have gotten the team to support him with words like ‘we’re here for you, Nick’ and ‘hey man, everyone messes up. We’ve got your back. It’s going to be okay.'”
And then, Dear Readers, I cried. Not outward sobbing, because my son was standing a few feet away and I refuse to let him see his mother break. Rather, the tears rimmed my eyes and then slid slowly down my heated cheeks.
“He was broken yesterday,” I muttered almost inaudibly. “You didn’t see him. You didn’t see the look on his face and the pain in his eyes.”
“No,” he replied. “I didn’t. But I know your boy. He’s a good, honest and loyal child. I told him that if I were ever in trouble, I would want him on my team. Your son is not mean. He is not a liar. He is a good person and I am so sorry that a member of my faculty hurt your boy in this way.”
We chatted for a few moments more. When we stood up to leave, he walked over to my son and placed an arm around him.
“I promise you, it will be okay from now on.”
“Um, alright,” said Nick, trying to maintain his teenage cool level and likely, hoping to God that no one just bore witness to the Principal giving him a hug.
When the Principal left, I sat down with my son on the same bench.
“You know I love you, right?”
“Yeah, Mom. I know.”
“And you know that I only want you to have three things in your world. To be safe. To be happy and to always feel loved. Do you have those things, Nick?”
“I don’t care if you play ball, Nick. That is not what makes me proud of you. What makes me proud of you is that you are a good person. Your artwork? That makes me proud. Your guitar playing? That makes me proud. Hell, even when you level up on your video game, that makes me proud too.”
“Want to go shopping for some new shorts and stuff?”
“Nah. I think I’m just gonna go to Dad’s house tonight. Is that okay with you?”
“Of course it is.”
“I really do love you.”
“I know, Mom. I know.”
And with that, I watched him get into his Dad’s car and drive off the campus. I sat on that bench for a long time, just staring off into the distance. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the emotions in me at that moment, only that love was the prevailing one. I would die for my kids. I would take a bullet to the brain for both of them. I would cut off my own arm using a butter knife if it meant them never feeling another ounce of pain in their lives.
Of course, that will never happen. He’s going to feel pain again someday. Someday, some kid will harass him. He will get his heart broken by the love of his life. He will lose a friend. Down the road, he will lose a parent. He will know heartbreak no differently than any of us do. But for now, in this little bubble of time, I am here with him to make sure that the pain assuages easily and quickly.
It’s all any of us can ever do for our babies.