So I went to a birthday party for my son's bully.
Javon (not his real name) and G had been tight from the very beginning. While G would check the “white” box, and Javon would check the “African American” box for the census, they are both minorities in a class of twenty six kids. Perhaps they bonded when they found each other on the fringes of the social circles in their classroom. Perhaps they just really liked each other. However it happened, I heard almost exclusively about G’s friendship with Javon for the first couple of weeks of the school year.
Then the complaints started drifting into the conversation on the ride home. “Javon pushed me.” “Javon keeps saying he's going to set me on fire.” And the worst offense of all (in G’s mind): “Javon is making fun of me. He is saying that Angelique is my girlfriend.”
It went beyond accusations. Javon would try to humiliate G by telling untruths about him to Angelique, or mock his affections to the other kids in the class.
But more troublesome offenses began to whisper to me between G’s words. G learned a crude definition of the word “sexy” from Javon. Javon’s mom was “fat,” which, apparently, was something hilarious. And when I went to watch G’s Halloween parade at school, I saw with my own eyes some slick, trickster moves by Javon. He wouldn’t take the word “no.” He wouldn’t respect G’s boundaries. He thought it funny when his actions upset G. I saw my son scream at his friend with an uncharacteristic frustration, after countless attempts at diplomacy had failed.
I was worried. At his previous daycare, G had had a similar friendship. G is a loyal boy, and does not know how to extricate himself from a situation that presents itself as a friendship. That boy would turn on a dime, and declare G to be “no longer a friend” after G broke “rules” that were random and indiscriminate. The flip-flopping confused G, and the mind games continued until that boy transferred out of the daycare.
And it seemed to be happening again.
From what I could piece together, Javon had an ideology that spanned from a world vision steeped in the mentality of hip-hop lyrics to “Jesus Saves” to an aggression that kept my son on edge at all times, both mentally and physically.
And then we got an invitation to Javon’s birthday party.
I gave G the option to decline. “Do you want to go?” “Yes!” my son insisted. I could understood his answer. Because, you know. Cake.
So I embraced the party as an opportunity to learn more about Javon. What was his family like? What were the dynamics between him and his parents? How would he play with G with adults around? I wanted to see for myself what was going on with Javon.
I truly do not ever expect to attend a kid’s birthday party without putting the gift in the gift bag in the Target parking lot on the way there. This day was business as usual and we were half an hour late. We were the first guests there.
My son would be the only kid Javon's age who would attend his sixth birthday party. (Well, serves him right for being such a little jerk, I thought to myself as I hung my jacket on the back of my seat. )
Javon had an uncle who was only three years older than him. A very, very nice boy who ended up hugging me before the party’s end.
I watched G, Javon, and his Uncle Brother rough house, with music playing in the background: A mix of today’s hits sung by shiny Disney kids, and current hits sung “as is.”
I saw my son swing as many punches, if not more, than the other two boys. I saw all three boys keep it together, never once losing their self-control. I saw them play, but never fight.
I spoke to Javon’s mother, her mother, her mother in-law, the granddad, and other well-dressed guests. The conversation was light and friendly. There was even genuine laughter in that rented conference room with construction paper hearts masking-taped to the walls for Valentine’s Day.
There were some babies wobbling about wearing some very nice boots. Javon’s older brother by nine years was there, but he was a bit too cool to be playing the silly hot potato game. He chose to focus on video work with the impressive camera with its long lens and thick, tapestry-style neck strap.
Other family members strolled in, brushing the snow off their fancy hats, with gifts in tow for the birthday boy. I felt a slight tension/discomfort in the air concerning the lack of party guests Javon’s age, but no one ever said it aloud. (Aside from my own kid. “I’m the only one here!” he said. The weather and the unfortunate timing of a February birthdate were the hooks on which we hung the excuses for the glaring, vacant folding chairs around the tables with Angry Birds’ tablecloths.)
I took on the role of Honorary Kindergartener, and the three of them assigned me the role of “Monster Needin’ Defeatin’.” I lifted my son above my head and literally put him in the trash can after I had “defeated him.” But his stock superhero character always comes back to life, stumping my “bad guy” character every time with his ability to rise from the dead. Javon and his Uncle Brother took to the game immediately, and were respectful in their attacks against me. I never once absorbed a low blow.
And there was that uninitiated hug I mentioned earlier. I think it took us all by surprise in its unabashed purity.
We all laughed so hard when I pretended to bungle musical chairs five times in a row. When the music stopped, the three shortest guests scrambled wildly to get their butts into the three hotspot chairs. Their feet swung back and forth six inches off the floor, wildly anticipating my “discovery” that the music had indeed stopped, and that I had lost AGAIN. No one enjoyed the silly charade more than Javon.
“When his dad picks Javon up, he is always asking to steal away a classmate or two for a play date,” his mom tells me. She also mentions that two other classmates had said they were coming to the party. My earlier insolence quickly turned to a slight resentment aimed at the deserters.
When we disguise a person in a photo, we sometimes place a black rectangle across their eyes. Even with most of the face showing, without the eyes, we are in the dark about their identity. Remove one small piece, and everything changes. The pieces I had gathered to the Puzzle of Javon were legitimate, and seemed to fit together. I thought I could see the whole picture clearly enough, but without the missing pieces, the picture was wholly inaccurate.
After putting a few more pieces in place, I will no longer hear stories about Javon with a listening gilded in “bully.” I now believe that Javon is a good boy from a loving family. To get attention from his big brother, I think he has to be a bit aggressive: play the part of a “Squeaky Wheel”. It is how he asks to be “invited in.”
I also believe, now, that G is a willing participant in the rough housing, and I will no longer be so quick to think that he is being attacked for no reason. I know my son has a tendency to become a victim pretty quickly when things don’t go his way. My son can be a bit of a, well, er, a bit of a sore loser.(I have NO idea where he gets that. No! NO I DON’T!!!)
I saw that G and Javon are actually good buddies in their hearts. I now believe that, with a little adult guidance, the rocky parts can and should be ironed out. By inserting ourselves into their relationship a wee bit, his mom and I might be able to teach them how to be better friends than if we just leave them to learn everything the hard way.
We set up a play date for an upcoming Saturday at Javon’s house. I suggested that, perhaps, we take the boys to the Lego Movie.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my silly words. It means the world to me. Carry on..
Old Single Mom
If you enjoyed this, and want to go one more round, might I suggest another post: You Will Not Buh-Lieve Who I Met This Week in Chicago
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