Continuing in the thread of Ninja Parenting...
On a recent visit to the West Edmonton Mall, Anthony discovered the joy of tubing in the wave pool. I could just as easily describe this as "the tube discovering the joys of Anthony-ing in the wave pool", since each one of them took equal time on the top and on the bottom. I was standing a ways off, watching his delighted and gleeful negotiation. During one moment when the tube appeared to be making a break for it, an group of older kids passed by and grabbed it.
"Hey!" Anthony declared, "That's my tube."
The boys looked at him and laughed. He was tiny and on his own, and his indignation looked a bit cute and not at all threatening. Little did they know, not far from any of them, Highly Threatening and Not Remotely Cute Mom was gathering steam and barrelling towards them.
But, luckily for everyone, Mother Bear paused for a moment before jumping into the fray. I'd like to say it was my good-mother instincts, knowing that I should give Anthony a chance to resolve things before intervening. It may have been that. Truthfully, it was more like I was gathering evidence to to give my defence lawyer for my homicide trial. Whatever the reason, I paused--and watched the boys holding the tube out of Anthony's grasp, and laughing off his attempts to get it back.
"THAT," Anthony declared again, loudly "THAT IS MY TUBE."
No crying, no whining, just a very clear demonstration that the tube they had stolen came with a permanent accessory--a determined seven year old boy with a very loud voice and no intention of backing down. With a shrug, the older boys tossed the tube back to him and disappeared through the waves. After wrapping his shaking arms around his returned trophy, Anthony stood in the waves, his face finally beginning to crumple. This was the moment for the mommy swoop.
"Wow," I said, in admiration, "I bet those boys were in grade five or six--and so many of them. How did you do that?"
Wrapping his arms around me for comfort, he took a deep breath. Then, pride began to seep up into his face.
"I used my Hard To Bully Voice," he said, in wonder. "I used it over and over until it worked!"
I asked him to tell me the story of saving his tube. He re-inflated a little with each telling of how "There were three of them and I scared them off." By the time he'd told me, his brother, the friends who were with us, several water park employees and multiple kids who were playing in the water and had no idea he thought he they were listening to him, he was a transformed kid. All traces of the frightened little boy have been replaced by the posture and expressions of a full Hero.
There were two stories of that event. The story of the kid who was bullied and humiliated and laughed at, and the story of the kid who saved his tube. They're both true stories. We don't always get to choose which story wins out--but every now and then there's a moment of ambiguity when we can help our children (or ourselves) choose to be heroes.