Baber looked up in surprise at his mother, who was wearing a gentle expression.
Ellinor reached out and gently ruffled his hair. “Yes, sweetie? Do you want to go to the amusement park, or would you rather head home? It’s all up to you. I’ve cleared my afternoon schedule just to spend time with you guys.”
Baber blinked. He was beside himself with disbelief. “Mom… I got into trouble. Aren’t you mad at me?”
Ellinor raised an eyebrow. “Oh? What did you do?”
Baber looked stunned. “I… I hit someone.”
Ellinor smiled. “Well, I should praise you for that. Standing up against bullies isn’t wrong, and neither is fighting back when they hurt others. I’ve seen the surveillance footage, and I must say, you did great. You bravely defended your classmate. Good job!”
Baber couldn’t believe he was being praised. His large, anxious eyes widened in shock. “Mom… I really didn’t do anything wrong?”
Ellinor, with absolute certainty, cradled his little face and planted a soft kiss on his forehead. “Of course you didn’t, my brave boy. You’re an incredible role model for your siblings. I’m proud of you.”
Baber turned a glowing shade of red. He was overwhelmed by this unexpected praise. “But Mom, I still caused you trouble.”
Ellinor frowned. “What do you mean, ’caused me trouble’? You’re my child. It’s my duty to protect you and take responsibility for you. I’d do anything for you without a second thought. So, no more silly talk, okay?”
Baber bit his lip, trying to hold back his tears. He had expected his mother to be angry and blame him like the director, Jessica, did.
Meanwhile, in the back seat, Adrian and Layla, unaware of the situation, leaned in curiously.
“Mom, what are you and Baber talking about? Who did Baber hit?”
“Mom, who did Baber fight with?”
Ellinor turned to her other children.
“Today, your brother did something very brave. He stood up for a little girl who was being bullied and even fought off the bully. Isn’t he amazing?” She proudly explained.
Adrian and Layla gasped in surprise. They began looking at Baber as if he were a superhero.
Adrian asked eagerly, “Baber, how did you fight him off? Can you teach me?”
Layla gushed. “My brother is so cool! Now I can walk around preschool with confidence, knowing Baber’s got my back! But I can only count on Baber. Adrian, you always run off faster than me when there’s trouble!”
Adrian crossed his arms in defiance. “Hey! You can praise Baber without insulting me! When did I ever abandon you?”
Layla snorted. “You wouldn’t protect me. You never treated me like a sister.”
Adrian retorted. “And you never treated me like a brother! You’re always badmouthing me!”
The conversation took a turn for the worst. The two kids started squabbling and began ignoring each other with their cheeks puffed in resentment.
Ellinor laughed helplessly at their antics. “You two can’t stop bickering, can you? Why not try to be more like your brother and channel that energy into standing up against bullies?”
The two kids glanced at their mother, then at their blushing brother.
Layla sighed. “Fine… For Baber’s sake, I’ll make peace with stinky Adrian.”
Adrian scoffed. “And I’ll reluctantly accept your peace offering, for the sake of being the bigger person.”
Ellinor pinched the bridge of her nose and turned to Baber. “Let’s ignore them. They’ll sort it out. So, Baber, have you decided? Do you want to go to the amusement park?”
Baber blinked his big, sparkling eyes. He hesitated for a moment and then nodded vigorously. “Yes… Mom, I want to go to the amusement park.”