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Koren is furious that her son is being unfairly picked on

As she drove to pick up nine year old Hector from school, Koren seethed with rage. She was confronted with a complaint that Hector was suspended from after school playground access for hitting another boy. Koren was mad at the playground supervisor for believing the other child rather than her son. She was furious that the supervisor allowed the incident to occur. She was angry that her son wasn’t allowed to defend himself.

Koren zooms into a tiny part of the picture and blinds her with rage

As she talked with her son about the incident later that night Koren learned that he had been provoked by name calling. In an effort to stop the taunting Hector had elbowed the other boy who then complained to the supervisor. It was outrageous that her son was suspended while the boy who started it all got off scott free. She comforted her son by showing solidarity, loyalty and her absolute determination to take a stand. She made sure he knew that she didn’t blame him. She told him that she was going to make to right this wrong on his behalf.

At an arranged meeting with the Principal of the school Koren heard once again that her son was at fault and that he needed help to learn how to play with other kids. It inflamed her like a red rag to a bull.

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Koren feels personally attacked and fights to defend herself

“ My son was defending himself against a bully who was calling him names. Where was the supervisor? Why didn’t he see what was going on? If you people had been doing your job properly this would never have happened!” Koren said indignantly, laying the responsibility firmly in the school’s court.

“ This isn’t the first time Hector’s playground behavior has come to my attention. He has no idea how to socialize and I can’t take the risk of him hurting other students. You need to teach him how to behave or get him professional help,” the principal said, passing the ball right back to Koren.

“You’ve never liked my son. You’ve been complaining about him since he was in first grade. You’re always picking on him because he’s from a single parent family. I’ve taken it for long enough. I’m not going to sit by any longer and take your word for it. I insist that you bring in the other boy and get to the bottom of this!” Koren demanded.

Koren’s childhood and adult rage unite to fight against injustice

Can you guess what the Principal and the Playground supervisor thought of Koren? They had ample evidence that she was irrational, a bit unstable and unable to have a reasonable discussion. They probably thought she was a weak single parent who couldn’t manage her son. By reacting with such righteous indignation Koren had created the exact impression she was most fearful of and wanted to avoid.

Koren began to have flash backs about her own school experiences. She relived the incident when she had been wrongly blamed for throwing a paper dart in English class. Her mother had been told she was insolent and defiant. Her mother never asked Koren to tell her side of the story. Her mother believed the teacher and Koren was shamed for letting the family down.

The same feelings of shame, humiliation and rage that Koren had felt at that time were washing over her now as she felt marginalized by Hector’s school Principal. As a child Koren couldn’t show or talk about her bitter disappointment and rage at not being championed. Koren was left unprotected, scapegoated and gagged.

Koren’s anger piled up. It grew and bubbled waiting for a chance to justifiably explode. As an adult she could speak her mind. As a parent she had even more right to defend her son. Now her anger burst out in full force. Once again her protestations were dismissed. Koren’s fierce insistence on being proved right fizzled into a sad and hopeless feeling. She became morose and sullen, wanting to keep her son from school rather than put herself through this ordeal again.

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Koren was blind to the crucial differences between herself and her son

The problem was that Koren confused her own experiences as a child with that of her son’s. Hector had a mother who listened. He got heard, comforted and understood by his parent. He was able to process his feelings in a way that was validating and educational. Koren was blind to that crucial difference between herself and her son. When she attacked the Principal she was doing so from her personal place of being unprotected and silenced. Her son didn’t need her to defend him in that manner. Koren was defending her own undigested childhood anger via her son’s school experience.

The key to Koren’s emotional health is to deal with her own stuff separately from her so Koren attacked the wrong person, at the wrong time for someone else’s crime. She didn’t help herself as a parent, nor did she make life easier for her son at his school. But she has a chance to minimize the fall out. Here are some steps that Koren can take to begin to separate her stuff from her son’s stuff.

Give herself permission to air her bitter disappointment and rage on her own behalf.

  • Write about it, talk to her son about her school experiences, share in parent support groups.
  • Start a dialogue with her parents about her unfinished business with them.
  • Ask herself what is the true stuff of her rage when her buttons are pushed.
  • Getting the help and support of a psychotherapist to help her bridge the gap between her childhood feelings and those of a mother would be especially beneficial.

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2010.

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