I picked my kids up from school just like any other day. Backpacks, lunch boxes and musical instruments were tossed into the car and their heavy winter coats made the backseat feel even more snug.
“How was your day?”
I asked like I do every single day. Instead of the usual, “It was good” reply, today when my son answered his voice cracked. He had a rough day. We had a lot of problems with bullying last year and even had an intervention with the school principal, but this year seemed to be going better. He admitted he doesn't want to pick from two bad options; tattling to a teacher or getting into fights, so he has been making an effort not to take it to heart. But today, he did. It was his birthday. And you shouldn't get picked on on your birthday.
My very first thought was to turn that car around, drag my son into the school by the arm screaming wildly, demanding they put a stop to anyone being mean to my son ever again so help me Jesus.
Luckily, we know better than to act on our initial instincts. (Come on, people. We know this.)
I took in his story, listened to him struggle with the disappointment and process through the mean words they had said to him during the day.
I took a deep breath. Always first take a deep breath.
During the election I wrote an unassuming piece on American culture. I gave my opinion on how society has become over-sexualized and the difficulty of raising boys today because of it. I referenced the lewd comments that had been all over the media as my reference for culture desensitization. I didn't expect backlash because it wasn’t a political article.
Yet what happened next shook me to my core. The overwhelming majority of people understood the piece how I intended it. But a handful of folks re-interpreted and misunderstood, and they wanted to let me know that I was an idiot. I was attacked on a very personal level because they didn’t like what I wrote. Let me be clear, I did not once, ever, even remotely promote any candidate or excuse lewd behavior. I only wrote about it existing and about the challenge of raising kids in today's culture.
I started getting hate emails. People mis-interpreted or completely fabricated what they thought I said. They wanted to be angry and they wanted to attack. I was accused of being pro-sexual assault. One guy even suspected my children would grow up to be rapists. I got “parenting advice” as clearly I was unfit to raise my own kids. One person complained about the font I used, while another hoped someone sexually assaulted me. The backlash from that unassuming non-political blog was jarring.
I felt kicked down. I never wanted to post or write again. I wanted to go hide in a hole away from the crazy people and never be heard from again.
I was fresh off of this experience on my son’s birthday as he sat behind me dealing with the disappointment from his own bullies.
I wanted to yell at him, “YES! I GET IT! PEOPLE SUCK! I'VE LOST MY FAITH IN HUMANITY TOO! PEOPLE REALLY ARE JUST THE WORST, RIGHT?!” When people are mean, listen, it hurts. When we are wounded sometimes we want to hide and sulk. Or even worse, follow another instinct: hurt people hurt people.
I want my kids to believe the world is lovely. I want to tell them to chase their dreams without fear of recourse from people misinterpreting their endeavors or attracting a critical eye. After this divisive election, so many of us are just done. We are spent. Exhausted. We are hurt.
We’ve been called so many names, defended our ideas, received insults and in the end, many of us came to one conclusion.
People are mean.
But another thing happened on the day after the election. My other son had a rough day too. His teacher pulled me aside at pick up and said he had misbehaved in school. She described his behavior and I was mortified. Among other disciplines, I also mandated that he write his teacher an apology letter.
So on the day after the election, I was SPENT. We have a new president, so at least this election madness is finally over, but the nation is still divided with big, gaping wounds. My son was bullied on his birthday. My other son acted out of character and disrupted his class and showed disrespect for his teacher. On all three counts, I was down.
The next morning, as I packed lunches, a paper on the table caught my eye. It said,
“Dear Ms. Robertson, I’m sorry for everything. I will be nice and stay on task.”
I Thessalonians 4:11 came to mind.
“….make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,”
Vs. 9 reminds, “for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.”
Or in Gabe's words, be kind and stay on task.
I wish I could distribute his little apology note to America today and ask everyone to sign it. Maybe my kids represented America yesterday. One was deeply hurt. The other one acted out of turn and misbehaved. Regardless, there are new mercies every morning. Although we can't control how everyone acts, we can control ourselves and that's sort of liberating.
I would like to edit Gabe's note just a tad and add my electronic signature. I'm sorry we are here, so divided, so hurt and defensive with one another. I choose to let go of my own offense, and offer new mercies just as I myself receive them every day. I'm sorry that my first instinct is to snap back, or shrink back and disregard you if you hurt me. Because even if you hurt me, you still matter.
I’m sorry for everything. I will be nice and stay on task.”
I’ll lay the pen down if anyone else wants to sign.