Sunday, September 25, 2011

Being The Little Man

My Son is twelve and in the sixth grade.  Its a most difficult time for him and I want to spend a little bit of  your time telling you about it.

My Son is one of those exceptional people you meet.  He is compassionate, caring and considerate.  From the time he was 2 yrs old, he would play quietly, not fuss much and always tried to be a good boy.  He simply was not a bothersome child.  He was a joy then as he is now.

He isn't a budding athlete, he prefers to make movies and cartoons.  He's just creative.  He loves animals and with them and me, his tenderness shows.  He likes people and wants desperately to just be friends with everyone.  He understands that  he goes to school to learn.  He told me last week that he loves going to school, he loves his classes and his teachers and he loves all that he can learn.  He simply hates the kids at his school.

I know that he is not mean to anyone as he has endured the cruelty of his peers.  As he once said to me, "Mom, I can't say mean things back to the kids because I don't want to make them feel the way they make me feel."  I suppose this only makes him more of a target for those kids less kind and more aggressive than him.

Last year, his 5th grade year, was a great year.  He had no problems with the kids, but that was last year.  This year is shaping up to be much different.  Being less athletic, he is constantly criticized by other students when engaged in field soccer or football.  He has tried all the sporting games and it's pretty much the same thing.  He's not good enough to deflect the wrath of his peers.  During one soccer game, he went to kick the ball and another boy attempted the same thing, they collided and the other child fell on the ground.  The fallen child got up and began pointing at My Son calling him a bully and before long, many of that child's friends were trying to take My Son out of the game by hurting him.  How ironic and what a spin on reality.  To imply that My Son, of all people, could bully anyone.  Yet there they were, pointing fingers and yelling "Bully, Bully".

School started August 22, the fires came through Sept 4 and in the four weeks we have been able to have class, he has come home every day, sometimes nearly in tears because of the cruelty of the other kids.  He takes their venomous words to heart.  I remember what it was like to be a kid and how deeply those words and deeds are felt and no matter what I say to encourage him or what coping tools I give him, he simply can't fight the masses.  And if there is one thing we have learned is that bullies seldom work alone.  They surround themselves with kids with similar mindsets or kids that prefer to side with the bully than to leave themselves a potential victim of one.

During the summer, he and I changed our diet, lost weight and improved our overall health.  He was excited to go back to school looking leaner than last year.  He had grown taller and he was proud of his accomplishment.  Last week, the kids began calling him fat.  The fat kid.  "Mom, the entire sixth grade thinks I'm fat."   Again their words chipped away at  him.

In order to keep eating healthy foods, I send a healthy lunch with him every day.  They tease him and make rude comments on his food.  Last Thursday, they unmercifully thrashed him about the soup he brought for lunch.  "Mom, I love that soup, but they just kept telling me how disgusting it looked.  I tried to eat it but they started pushing my lunch bag into my soup trying to spill it.  I only got to eat a couple of bites before I just gave up fighting with them and trying to keep the soup from spilling.  So I packed it up and just didn't eat."

That was my last straw.  Friday I sent him to school with lunch money, telling him to buy his lunch in the cafeteria and just not to worry about it for one day,  hoping he would at least have some rest from that part of the school day.  I sent an email to his counselor and asked for some help with the situation.  I explained what was happening to him and what had happened with his lunch the prior day.  I also let her know that he felt no one at the school cared about bullies.   She was eager to visit with My Son and made time to do so.  He would not give her the names of the students out of fear of a further escalation of already unbearable events.  And that's ok, this process will take many steps.

As it turned out, that very morning, My Son mentioned the bullies to another classmate who quietly told his math teacher.  Mr. T  called My Son into the hallway and talked to him, asking him what was going on.  Again, he would not give names and Mr. T told him to tell  him anytime something happened.  He assured him that he would take care of those kids.

When My Son came home from school  he told me he had the best day ever.  He rattled on about Mr. T and how when they reentered the classroom from the talk in the hallway, all the kids were quiet and no one bothered him.  He said no one bothered him at lunch mainly because there was a parent visiting at the table.

For the first time in many weeks, My Son was smiling and happy.  There is no doubt that he needed to know that school officials really did care and that help was there if he needed it.  Now mind you, it will take no time at all before those obnoxious children begin their antics again and things will return to the way they were.  But as I explained to My Son, this is a process.  It takes time to build a case when it comes to bullying.  I have documented every email I have sent regarding the incidents and my requests for help from the lower staff levels.  If it continues, the emails will go higher.

You see, My Son certainly isn't the only child on that intermediate campus that must endure those harsh days.  My Son is not weak because he wants to follow the rules and only goes to school to learn.  He is not weak because he does not fight back when pushed or shoved into the ground.  My Son is not the one with a problem to solve.  He is entitled to have a safe environment in which to receive his education.  My Son is the bravest man I know.  I can't even imagine what his days are like, but I can imagine what they should be like.

So as long as he keeps trying to get through his days, I will keep trying to make sure they are better days.  I will keep documenting and emailing and if and when My Son reaches the point where he has to push back, there will be ample evidence to justify his actions.

Patience is a virtue.  Adversity will build strength of self and an understanding and acceptance of life's hurdles.

As a parent, it is my responsibility to turn each obstacle and hardship into a teaching opportunity.  It's just so hard because I'm his mom and hes the little man.  My instinct is to protect but now, at this age, I have to do so from a distance.  I simply can't carry him through the fire, there are parts he must walk alone.

But rest assured, he knows, I will be waiting every day at the end of the path.

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