At dinner one night, my son calmly told us all about how one of his coaches was calling him names, not letting him go to the bathroom, pushing him over, etc. My initial reaction was that of the Mama Bear. I could feel the my hair bristling, and my body moving into full on protection mode. Then, I stopped myself.
As an educator, I have been in this situation before, but never have I experienced it as a parent. I have received the email in ALL CAPS starting with, "How dare you...," and an impromptu visit from parents (storming into my classroom) wanting to know why I called Little Joe this or that. Once I calm the upset parent down, and we talk about what was reported versus what actually happened (don't get me started on pre-teen perception versus reality) things are usually, quickly set to rights. Thankfully, these scenarios are few and far between, but just one can scar you for life. Believe me!
Suddenly here I was, prepared to storm up to the coach and confront them about what happened. I could not believe how quickly the instinct to protect my child popped up. It was almost immediate. How dare he call me child names? What kind of person won't let a child go to the bathroom? I was drafting an email in ALL CAPS in my head. Seriously? Seriously.
I find myself in the lucky position of being able to see it from both sides. I talked to my son about the circumstances around the comments. I teased out the possibility that his coach was joking around with him (I am pretty sure he was). We discussed ways that he could tell his coach that the joking actually hurt his feelings, and came up with sentences that he could use so his coach would hear him. In the end he seemed to feel better. And I had a new understanding of where the parents of my students were coming from.
The funny thing is that even if you can calm down and see the other side, that seed of doubt lodges itself in your head. Consequently, the trust that you had for that person is no longer quite as strong. There is still a pit of unease in your stomach since you don't really know exactly what happened.
It is hard to be a parent. It is hard to be a teacher. I am realizing that no matter what side you are on, everyone is on the side of the kid. There is no one who would work with kids if they didn't care for children and want to see them grow into successful, happy, bigger versions of themselves. So, I have to trust that the people my son encounters when he is out in the world are supportive of him. And, when I find myself in these situations, I need to remember to take a moment to see the other side of the coin.