When I was in high school there were two types of guys who really aggravated me … cocky, braggers and bullies. Looking back I realize they both were dealing with the same issue, insecurity. The guys who were out to prove they were smart, stud athletes, or just cool made me want to take my brown bag elsewhere in the cafeteria. But bullies just flat out made me mad.
The first time I had to deal with a bully first hand was when Travis was in junior high. I suppose that’s really second hand, but I was about to make it first hand. A kid much bigger than him shoved him or socked him in the arm every day at the lockers. His locker was right by Travis’ so the just-stay-away-from-him tactic was no good. I encouraged Travis it was much easier to talk your way out of a tight spot than fight your way out, but that didn’t seem to be working either. This went on for weeks.
I finally had had it and decided to call the bully’s mom but changed my mind at the last minute because I realized it would most likely make things worse instead of better. I had come to my last resort. “Son, sometimes you just have to draw a line and don’t let the bad guy step over it without consequences,” I explained.
He looked at me like I had given permission to declare war. “Are you telling me to hit back?”
“Shock therapy is sometimes what it takes,” I said, wondering what would happen.
The next day I dropped by the principal’s office. I explained the situation and that I had suggested to Travis a little “shock and awe” might be the last resort. “Honestly sir, I don’t advocate hitting, but at some point a line needs to be drawn and I feel like the bully might pay attention more closely if Travis was the one to draw it. So if he ends up in your office for fighting, it’s because of me. He smiled and I still wonder what that meant.
A couple of days later Travis announced he didn’t think the bully would be bothering him any more. “How do you know that,” I asked? “At the lockers today he shoved me again so I socked him in the face, slammed my locker and walked away.”
“What did he say? What did he do,” I asked wondering what I had started?
“Nothing, but a couple of other kids clapped. I just headed down the hall praying he wasn’t coming after me. I think he was too surprised to do anything.”
I honestly thought Travis would give the guy warning by saying something like, “You shove me again and you won’t know what hit you.” Is a sucker punch really fair? I don’t suppose a bully thinks about what’s fair. It must have worked, because the guy never bothered Travis again.
I just hoped at 12 Travis didn’t think he could now “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.