Julianne Palumbo essays

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I’m not a witch; I don’t even play one on television. But, my children would tell you that I have a broom, and I’m not afraid to ride it. They know it exists because, every so often, I threaten to hop on and fly into battle.

It started at the beginning of the school year when my son reached over to congratulate one of his friends in class. The friend had scored high on an assignment, and my son, who had been encouraging his friend to study harder, was happy for his success. His teacher didn’t see it that way. She simply assumed he was fooling around and sent him to sit in the back of the class.

Thus, began a series of challenging interactions throughout the school year. His element on the periodic chart was the one she decided, “Not to say anything about” when she was giving clues for an assignment. His labs were always incorrect according to standards, which were, apparently, an international secret. When he asked for extra help, he was told to ask his classmates. My broom began to purr.

A question has continued to haunt me ever since I began to raise my children. How much should I, as a parent, get involved to help my children fight their battles and how much should I just let them figure things out themselves? It pains me to see the slumped shoulders and the head held at half-mast. This is my child. I gave birth to him; I’d die for him. So, it becomes incredibly difficult to walk away from his battles, allowing him to be wounded. I don’t want to see his dignity stripped. I don’t want him to grow up thinking all adults are unfair or callous.

On the other hand, life is tough, and it’s the tough who are able to keep going. Incidents like this build character, or so my mother liked to tell me. But, how much character does a child need?

Back to sophomore science class. With each insensitive comment from this teacher, I struggled to find excuses for her behavior. I want to teach my children to be understanding and to give people the benefit of the doubt before we fly in on our brooms and smash them to smithereens. Maybe she thinks you’re a rebel because you wear your hair long. Maybe you had a funny look on your face and she thought you were smirking at her.

When it didn’t stop, I decided to look to my son for direction. I would read his cues. If showed signs that she was getting to him, I would intervene. If he seemed to be keeping it in perspective, I would listen but let him handle it on his own. Mother warrior, put your sword back in its sheath. At least for now.

So I watched and waited as my cauldron simmered.

As the semester went on, I heard less and less about science class. Hoping the issue had resolved itself, I decided to ask, casually, of course, so as not to dredge up the stew.

His response knocked me to my knees.

“I decided not to let her bother me anymore. I just pray for her. Something must be making her really unhappy for her to treat me this way.”

I let them sink in.

Those words.

From the true adult in the room.

Character built.

Dealt with his way and on his own terms.

Battle won.

For now.

But, should the issue return, my broom is tuned up and ready to go.



About the Author

Julianne Palumbo

Julianne is the mother of three almost grown children. She writes poetry, short stories, essays and YA verse novels. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Into Your Light (Flutter Press 2013) and Announcing the Thaw (Finishing Line Press 2014) and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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