A young man walked up to me at work recently and asked if I could help him find a book. I told him I’d be happy to and asked what he was looking for, writes ben Keenan.
He asked me if I had any books in stock about coping with bullying and it was at that exact moment that my heart broke in two. I am trained to deal with all sorts of customer enquiries from the ridiculous to the offensive but as I stood there, staring into the face of a boy only a handful of years older than my own, all I could think about was Thomas. Since the day my son arrived, I’ve spent a lot more time watching families interact and making mental notes on things I would have done differently and understanding more and more that every parent is as unique as the child they raise. Some choose to frown and scream while others prefer to smile and cuddle, but no matter how many parents you line up to compare, each one will be completely different. As I handed the young man the only book on bullying I could find, the voice inside my head was screaming at me to sit him down and help him. I wanted to ask if he’d spoken to his family about what was happening to him? If he did, maybe he wouldn’t need a 200-page doctrine on prepubescent victimisation. I thought about Tom and what I would say if he told me that he was being bullied. I thought about me when I was young and how much I hated the bullies at my school. I thought about my own father and how much I hope to emulate him. I wanted to be the shoulder that this boy could cry on but couldn’t find the strength to open my mouth. I’ve been asking myself if I did the right thing since then and am still no closer to an answer. Being a dad is hard work and I’ve yet to scratch the surface but one thing I know for sure and knew the second I first held Tom in my arms – I will try my hardest to be as good a father to him as he is a son to me.