I had an interesting conversation with my son awhile back. I've thought about sharing it several times, but haven't because of two things. 1. It's humbling for me (you'll see why if you keep reading), and 2. I didn't want to ruin my son's friendship with this boy if he found out I'd shared.
A couple of things have happened since this conversation took place and while I still don't want the friend to get in trouble because I'm sharing the story, he's since decided to abandon his friendship with my son, so this won't affect my boy one way or the other.
My son Joe had a friend named Dan (not his real name). They got together often and he seemed like a nice enough boy, so I was surprised when suddenly Joe didn't want to play with him. Dan would call and invite Joe to do something and Joe would cover the phone and whisper, "I don't think I want to," or "I'd better do my homework." When Joe wanted to invite a friend over, he didn't want to call Dan.
I asked him why he didn't want to hang out with Dan and he'd just shrug or say something vague like, "I just don't feel like it." I knew there had to be more to it so after several of these exchanges, I sat Joe down and demanded an explanation.
"I don't want to say, Mom," Joe said.
"I want to know. He seems like a nice kid and he comes from a good family so I want to know why you don't want to hang out with him anymore. Did he do something we wouldn't approve of?"
"He said something mean."
Of course, at that point I wanted to protect my son from the mean things that might have been said to him.
"What did he say?" I asked. Joe shrugged. "Tell me what he said. I want to know."
After several minutes of coaxing and cajoling, Joe looked defeated. With a catch in his throat, he said, "He told me he felt sorry for me."
I was confused. "Why did he feel sorry for you?" I asked him.
Very softly Joe said, "He felt sorry for me because he said it must be embarrassing to have a fat mom."
I was stunned and hurt and humiliated. Stunned because Dan had always been nice to my face and I'd always been very nice to Dan. Hurt and humiliated because no one knows more than I do what a struggle my weight has been and the lengths I've gone to (unsuccessfully) to do something about it.
And then I felt proud of Joe, who when he had to choose between friends or loyalty to his mom, he chose me.
I told him he needed to forgive Dan, that kids say insensitive things sometimes but we shouldn't hold a grudge. I told him how thankful I was to have a son who cared so much about my feelings.
Joe and Dan renewed their friendship for several months before Dan's rudeness moved into treating Joe badly. At that point I told him he could be finished and he wasn't obligated to keep inviting the meanness back into his life every time Dan needed a punching bag.
I don't know if attitudes like Dan's are taught in families or learned out in the big, mean world. It's unfortunate wherever it's learned. All I know is that I'm super thankful that Joe is my son and that he's a thoughtful, loving boy.