"How was school today, son?" The father asked the question, but did not expect to receive much of an answer. Usually his boy responded with 'good' or 'okay' or nothing at all.
"Something strange happened, dad."
So accustomed to his son's shyness was the father that the boy's words startled him. They sat across from each other in the family room of their two bedroom apartment while the boy's mother fixed dinner in the adjacent kitchen. The steady hum of the kitchen exhaust and crackling of fish in a frying pan drowned out any chance she had of overhearing their conversation.
"You know John, my friend who is always so quiet?"
"Yes, I know him."
"He's the smart one who gets good grades but he never speaks much in class."
"Yes son, I know him."
"The one who shared his pbj with me that time I forgot my lunch and—"
"Yes, son, I know which boy you mean. Please, continue with the story."
"You know my friend Kayla who I've known since we were babies?"
"The one who's a little bigger than the other girls?"
The father sighed. "Yes, I know her."
"Well this other kid Ricky who's kinda a bully, he's always picking on John but John never does anything, well Ricky was really mean to Kayla and all of a sudden John just snapped and tried to fight him. He ran straight into him and they both fell over."
The father took this in and mulled it. A lot of questions came to mind, but he knew that his son could shut down any moment if he asked the wrong thing.
He decided to ask, "What happened next?"
"The teachers pulled them apart so nothing really."
"Dinner's ready!" Father and son heard mother's voice from the kitchen. They looked at each other and father waited to see if his son had anything else to say.
"If John were your kid instead of me, if you were his dad, would you be mad at him?"
The father considered, then said, "I'd be proud of him for standing up to a bully, but I'd tell him to always try to find a solution other than fighting."
The boy scrunched his face and looked down, then asked, "Like what, dad? How do you stop a bully without fighting?"
The father put his arm around his son. "Let's talk about it after dinner. Come on, go help mom set the table."
The boy nodded and walked off toward the kitchen. His father knew that by the time dinner was over, he'd have to come up with some nonviolent ways to handle a bully. Perhaps he'd have a chance to google "nonviolent ways of handling a bully" after dinner, before resuming their conversation?