We Are Family

John had just finished helping him tuck and pull on his uniform clothes this morning when Christopher confessed to the kitchen that some impulsive kid finds it amusing to tug on Topher's belt during circle time at school.   

Slouched in his chair, he whispered,  "I just don't


it when he pulls on me."

I was unloading the dishwasher and the children were devouring their morning cereal at the table, but when my older children learned another child had the audacity to "mess" with their sibling, they swooped down to protect Topher like a hawk plunges to save her young from dangerous predators. 

There is no other way to put it:  The fact another child  "intentionally" upset Christopher


my children.

They all stood, shoved back their chairs and swarmed Topher like a pack of protective dogs. 

Patrick spoke first, "You have a lot of power, Christopher, and you can use it.  You can't let that kid push you around."

Then Mary butted in, "Toph, this has happened to me.  Don't put up with that kid.  You have to tell him, 'No!'"

Meaghan, with her arms folded like a pretzel against her chest, nodded, "Toph, you teach people how to treat you.  Have you mentioned this to the teacher?  You may need to tell her if he doesn't get the message."

And, Camille,

who isn't even school aged yet

, elbowed her way through the lot of taller children and saddled right up to Toph.  She put one hand on her hip and with her other hand used a finger to point into Christopher's face, advising him with the following:

"You tell that kid to 'BACK OFF OR I WILL SMACK YOU!"

"Do I need to find him at recess?  Patrick interceded again.  "I have no problem saying something to him."

Patrick turned to John and with the confidence of a Philadelphia lawyer said,

"It's unacceptable, totally unacceptable that this kid is pulling Christopher's belt.  I will handle this, if I need to, Dad."

"Guys, guys, could everyone just settle down?" John said.  "Let Mom and me talk to Christopher."

And we did.

We told Christopher he needed to communicate to the child that even though Christopher really liked the kid, Christopher did


like when the kid pulled on him.  We told Christopher to be firm but kind.  We encouraged him to set a boundary.  We also assured Toph that the kid probably didn't know he was annoying Topher, so it was Toph's responsibility to tell him.

"You are really doing him a favor," I explained.

Christopher blinked his brown eyes at me, unconvinced by my words.

"Besides," I said  as I walked over and wrapped my arms around him, "Even if he never wants to be your friend again, I will always be your buddy.  No matter what."

Once John and I were sure Christopher had the necessary information he needed to set a boundary with the kid, we went back to task of getting everyone out the door.

But the rest of the breakfast conversation revolved around Patrick's, Meaghan's, and Mary B's ardent desire to set this kid straight.

I have to confess, I've never read

The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

, (I know, I know) but in one of my online binges recently, I stumbled across this brief exchange between characters from

The Fellowship Of The Rings:

“But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,' said Frodo.
Sam looked at him unhappily.
'It all depends on what you want,' put in Merry. 'You can trust us to stick with you through thick and thin--to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours--closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”

As I zipped book bags and packed lunches it dawned on me that although we Duggan's are besieged with many interpersonal weaknesses, (like the tendency for to go off half cocked at all hours of the day and over the smallest of transgressions , for instance) there is one strength that runs deep and wide in the Duggan gene pool:


Like the characters in

The Fellowship Of The Rings

, the kids will not let their siblings face trouble alone.  They will, in fact, use their life and their words to protect each other, no matter the cost.

So while I'll continue to work with my children (and me) on harnessing our intense passions, I also recognize that with intense passion comes a willingness to fight for the good, the true and the beautiful.  Intense passion brings with it a willingness to protect those who can't protect themselves.

And that kind of loyalty is a noble thing indeed.