My son is growing a rather mighty conscience. What must have been no more than a two-minute portion of an otherwise ordinary school day turned into two days of reflection for my 6-year-old new-found Buddha. What may have once easily passed through his little, yet ever-expanding brain suddenly set it relentlessly a-spinning on automatic replay.
A child who has no problem serving his 4-year-old sister the occasional brotherly wallop for such infractions as unauthorized room visits or looking at him the wrong way, suddenly began losing sleep over seeing an unfamiliar classmate berated and shoved on the playground by another classmate. Two evenings of intermittent tears followed the conscience-rousing event for my sensitive, observant first grader.
Despite hours of Lego Star Wars, mild TV cartoon violence and other imaginary destruction, the real-world sight of one peer bullying another was just too much for my son to bear.
When we dug down to the bare bones of his internal distress, I was somewhat relieved to find that his conscience was indeed a healthy one instead of a guilty one. The lengths to which he bemoaned the playground incident caused concern for a mother who had it in the back of her mind that perhaps all of the fret was due to having played some sort of part in the dastardly deed. Thankfully, posing such a question to my son quickly resulted in an emphatic and obviously truthful denial of any such thing. His heart truly ached for the unfair treatment of a fellow human being.
Seeing my young son’s sense of right and wrong begin to solidify so soundly at 6 years old, I have to wonder how so many atrocities happen right under the watchful eyes of those who should know better. Several recent school-related incidents, including the beating death of a 16-year-old honor student on his way to a bus stop in Chicago and the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside of a school homecoming dance in California, were well-witnessed, but not well-reported to authorities. Fellow students were more apt to use their cell phones to record such incidents than to reach out for help. So, where are all of the other aching hearts?
One of the first things I did after my son relayed the playground affair was to ask him what he did to help. He usually has no qualms about informing the proper authority, and this was no exception. However, his attempt to help as a first grader knows how, by commissioning a higher power, was not enough to wash away the stained image of schoolyard sportsmanship from his principle-laden little mind or alleviate the feeling that he could have done more.
As thankful as I am to send my son out into the world each day knowing he will try to do right by others, I am equally fearful that there will not be enough others who will do right by him. The idea of bullies reaching the levels of delinquency that can affect someone’s life forever or end it all together is nerve-racking enough. No longer being afforded the confidence that a greater good just wouldn’t allow such a thing to happen is almost too much to take. Even more terrifying is the fleeting thought that my beautiful little 6-year-old conscientious objector could ever be led down a path to complacency, apathy or something even worse by the time his teen years roll around.
Now that my son’s little Jiminy Cricket has arrived, all I can do is try my best to keep him fresh, well-groomed and here permanently. When principle-testing incidents occur in my child’s life, which they surely will continue to do, I have to use them to the best of my parental ethics-building ability. I have to keep reminding my little Pinocchio that he is responsible not only for himself and his own actions, but also for keeping a watchful eye on and a willingness to help out the rest of the world. Fingers crossed that the rest of the world will do the same.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. Follow her blog online at www.WhatsWithWomen.com and e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.