So last night I am walking into the health club to get in an hour on the elliptical trainer before they close when I hear the young girl behind the counter ask, “Mrs. Abeyta? How is Jonathon? Is he okay?”
It is a refrain I’ve heard often over the past twenty-four hours.
It is amazing how much can change in the span of a day, and how in a few brief moments a boy can turn into a man.
Let me go back to the beginning.
It was a Thursday afternoon, which meant I was at the high school answering phones for the receptionist while she went to lunch. She had just returned and we were talking of her impending move to California where her husband had found a job. A large group of kids burst through the front doors of the school, half of them decked out in ther ROTC uniforms.
And in the middle I spied my son, a young girl clinging to his arm. On closer inspection, I realized that blood was running down the side of his face.
I shifted into Mom mode instantly. “What happened?”
“He was punched in the face,” his friend said. “Really hard.” More friends chimed in, spilling out the story of boyish fun turned angry, following me as I rushed my son to the nurse’s office. Within seconds, the school’s two police officers took charge. With the name of my son’s assailant on their lips, they rushed out to apprehend the offender.
It was a rough afternoon – a mad rush to urgent care for stitches above his eye, tests to determine if he’d sustained permanent vision damage, and instructions for dealing with his concussion from the blow.
And when things finally calmed down, I got the story from my son: a large group of friends decided that, with the blight of snow in our state, it made sense to toss pine cones at each other. A few were tossed to a lower field, a few were returned, and soon it was an active pine cone fight. In the midst of the fray, a pine cone tossed by my son hit a boy down field who was not part of the fun.
The boy threw his jacket off, stormed up the steps and confronted my son. He apologized profusely and thought the incident was over when, without warning, the boy, almost a foot taller and a lot heavier, slammed his fist into my son’s eye. Surprisingly, he didn’t buckle under the force of the blow, despite almost losing consciousness.
As we sat in the urgent care, my son told me, “It was stupid. I should have never been involved. I knew better.” I was proud of him for taking responsibility for his actions – something most parents always want to see in their children.
The police called the next day, letting me know the boy was charged with battery and that the charges might increase due to the differences in size in the boys and the unprovoked nature of the attack. And then he told me that the mother was blaming my son, excusing her own child’s behavior as justified.
As the day progressed, I discovered just how well-liked my son had become at his school. Kids he hardly knew expressed outrage and offers to help. Teachers told me how sorry they were for what had happened to my son. Moms expressed comfort. And through it all, my son kept perspective that, while his attacker’s actions were horribly wrong, he’d let his own fun create a bad situation.
I look up at the young girl across the counter at the gym and tell her my son is fine. “He’s a hero,” she says. “He didn’t fight back. And he didn’t try to get even. Your son is cool.”
I smile as I begin my workout. It was a tough experience, but it’ set my son on the road to becoming a man. And an honorable one at that. What more could a mother want?