God Is Good: He Helped Me Defend My Child against a Bully

God Is Good: He Helped Me Defend My Child against a Bully June 4, 2023

God is good. In the face of bullying, He gave me the wisdom and opportunity to be a defender for my child. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes; sometimes they are teachers.

When God needed someone to defend the Israelites against Goliath the giant Philistine, He sent David. (1 Samuel 17). This was long before David became King and a true mighty warrior. He was only a boy, a shepherd who tended flocks of sheep. But he was exactly what God needed—someone who would rely on God’s power and not on his own.

When God needed someone to defend a small, artistic boy against a bully of a teacher, He sent me. I didn’t have any strength of my own, but it turned out I didn’t need it. This is the story of how it happened.

Mosaic self-portrait - God is good
God Is Good and Defends the Defenseless – Mosaic Self-Portrait by Benton R. Kruschke

Misunderstanding My Artistic Child

Creativity coursed through my son Benton’s veins, seeping from his pores and his fingertips. I’ve often said that the route from his brain to his hand when trying to write a simple sentence was a rut-filled, single-lane gravel logging road rife with hairpin turns.

But when drawing, the route from his brain to his hand was an empty ten-lane superhighway. If he could see it, he could draw it. And he saw things the rest of us missed.

When he was in the first grade, his teacher, Miss Barker, was in her first year of teaching. Parent–teacher conferences were scheduled a month after school started. Miss Barker barely knew Benton, but she thought she had him all figured out.*

“I believe Benton has ADHD. I know because my brother had it. He is really struggling to stay on task and often spends his free time alone. These kids,” she said, “do much better on medication.”

Getting an Expert Evaluation

The following week, we took him to the pediatrician for an expert evaluation. After spending almost an hour with Benton, my husband, and me, Dr. Oldman determined that Benton did not have ADHD. “He’s just bored,” he said.

Later that year, I learned that four other boys in Miss Barker’s class had been medicated, supporting Dr. Oldman’s assessment that there was an “epidemic of kids with ADHD in the local school district.”

Proving My Child Could Stay on Task

I remember one time that year when I arrived to pick Benton up from after-school care. He sat alone at a table, drawing a colorful fish. “We can’t leave yet,” he said. “I have to finish my fish.” He had a task he had to complete, and nothing would deter him. Except me. “We have to go now,” I said. “You can finish it at home.”

But once we were home, I had to let the dog out and feed her, make dinner, and help Benton with his homework. Then it was time for bed. He didn’t get a chance to finish his fish.

The next day, our good God gave me a déjà vu experience. I arrived at after-school care, and Benton sat in the same chair, drawing the exact same fish from scratch. “Wow, that’s a really cool fish,” I said. I perched next to him on a tiny kids’ chair and watched him complete the drawing. “We’ll have to hang this one on the fridge—or maybe even frame it.” Only then did we pack up his stuff to go home.

Benton proved over and over that if he had an interest in something, especially if it involved art, he could focus for as long as it took to get it done.

Nurturing the Artist Within

When Benton was in the second grade, I signed him up and paid the modest fee for a once-per-week after-school art class. Although more expensive than after-school care, it was worth it to nurture his God-given passion and give him a structured creative outlet.

On the first day of class, we discussed the change in his afternoon routine. I wanted to make sure he didn’t forget and go to after-school care out of habit. I also sent an email to his teacher, Miss Garcia, and asked her to remind him. Miss Garcia said later, “He actually reminded me of his after-school plans, grinning ear-to-ear.”

When I picked him up at the end of the day, the dimpled smile I expected did not grace his cute little face. In the ten-block drive home, he announced, “I don’t want to go to that class anymore.”

“What? You love art class. You were so excited to go. What happened?”

My usually chatty son had no more to say on the subject.

“Well, I paid good money for that class. You’re going back next week,” I said.

The morning of the second art class, he again said he didn’t want to go, but I insisted. I could think of no good reason why he shouldn’t.

Finding Inspiration in Snowflakes

At about three o’clock that afternoon, I noticed an unexpected scattering of snowflakes outside my office window. As the flakes began to stick, I decided to leave work early to avoid the inevitable rush-hour traffic fiasco.

The roads were still clear, but as I drove, I noticed the flakes blanketing everything else. I’ve never been a fan of snow, but watching it pile up brought back memories of when I was pregnant with Benton and we had eight inches of snow on our back deck.

I parked in the parent lot at school and headed back to the classroom to surprise Benton. I looked forward to watching him finish whatever he was drawing.

Discovering a Bully in Our Midst

From the far end of the empty hallway, I heard a teacher berating one of the kids. “You keep getting out of your seat, and I don’t like it!” As I crossed the threshold of the classroom door, I realized these cruel words were directed at my sweet, sensitive artist, who had left his seat to gaze out the window at the falling snow for inspiration for his almost-finished snowman drawing.

“And I don’t like you talking to my son like that,” I retorted.

The teacher sputtered and tried to come up with a plausible justification for her words and actions. I refused to listen. “I paid good money for this class,” I said. “It was supposed to be fun. There is no excuse for you treating any of these kids that way. I will be reporting this to the after-school class director.”

Benton looked at me, his eyes big with astonishment. “Let’s go, Benton. You don’t need to come back to this class ever again.” We left immediately. The next day, I followed through on my threat to report this bully and demand a refund.

Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I bore part of the blame. I failed to listen when Benton said he didn’t want to go. I wondered what callous words the teacher had hurled at him the first week that made him lose interest in the class. Perhaps her verbal barbs had been flung at another child, and he feared he was next.

Overcoming Discouragement

Although I had rescued him, the damage was done. My easily discouraged artist had been crushed. The teacher’s harsh words had made him feel small, as if his talent was insignificant. How do I know? His incomplete snowman drawing, with melting snow dripping from the eaves of the school and three snowkids on the playground, lay in a stack of papers on his desk. He never finished it.

I shared Bible verses of God’s goodness with him, reminding him that God loved him.

Nonetheless, for several months following this incident, he never once picked up a crayon or colored pencil to draw anything. On Saturdays, I would suggest we get out his art supplies to create something beautiful. “I don’t feel like drawing,” he would say.

Eventually, with much encouragement from me, his dad, and Miss Garcia, he found his inspiration again. He picked up the paintbrush and the pencil, creating new masterpieces with ease.

God Helped My Artist Flourish

I reminded Benton that God had created him with this incredible talent. He didn’t just create art; he was an artist through and through. I shared with him Bible verses to hearten his creative spirit. “And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). He needed to be who God formed him to be.

All through grade school, Benton struggled with homework—unless it included an artistic component. At a friend’s suggestion, we enrolled him in a program called Learning Rx that was supposed to help build neural pathways, kind of like going to the gym for your brain. Before his first session, an instructor administered the Woodcock-Johnson cognitive skills test. It came as no surprise to me that his visual processing scored at a college-entrance level in the sixth grade.

With each art class, his artistic skills improved. When it came time to plan for college, he said, “Mom, what would you think about me going to art school instead of college?”

I laughed, “Of course! Isn’t that what we’ve always planned? I’m just glad that mean art teacher in second grade didn’t deter you from your true passion and talent.”

“I remember her,” he smiled. “I like to think of that as your ‘badass mom’ moment.”

Closing Prayer

Precious Jesus, I pray You would give courage and wisdom to each person reading this post. In Your sovereignty, give them opportunities to defend the children in their lives against the inevitable bullies they will face. Encourage the children through the words and actions of their defenders. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

*Miss Barker, Dr. Oldman, and Miss Garcia represent names that have been changed to protect their privacy.

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