Posts tagged ‘bullying’

Silence and Heartbreak

Many years ago, when C was in second grade, I experienced the single most traumatic event as his parent – even to this day. This is saying a lot, given his birth could not have been much more dramatic than it was, or all that’s occurred in the last several years. Even now, all these years later, I can still conjure up the pain of that day in vivid detail. It taught me a valuable lesson, however, about silence, trauma, and what it really means to be a Mama Bear. Moreover, when looking back on it, I am reminded that despite all of the frustration I have felt over the years at being the person who gives C the most while being the biggest recipient of his anger and despair, I would do anything for this kid. I might screw it up completely, but I’ll go to the ends of the earth to help him. If that isn’t being a Mother, I don’t know what is.

You can read about that day here. Be warned, it is a bit longer than usual, and perhaps a bit more painful. But silent? Never again.

April 24, 2019 at 12:06 am 1 comment

Speaking out

     We’ve always known C has a tendency to go from one end of the spectrum to the other (no pun intended) in learning new skills, which made teaching him how to speak up for himself appropriately no small task. In preschool, when a kid would knock him down and take his toys, C didn’t protest. Then, in 2nd grade, he went from not telling anyone when a boy was physically and emotionally bullying him to telling anyone and everyone when that same boy even looked in his direction. When it comes to self-advocating, the difficulties of teaching C how to speak up for himself without going overboard has been a delicate balancing act.

     There are a few signs that C is growing successful in learning this ability. Whether it’s because of his comfort level with his 3rd grade teacher or his own personal growth, he is learning to at least sometimes speak up to her when he needs to. Helping C realize that adults in school are there to help him has been, for reasons unexplainable to me, very difficult. While he has bonded with just about every adult on the premises, it seems it wouldn’t occur to him to ask one of them for help if he needed it.

     The first time C had his card turned this year (unfairly, in his opinion), he was devastated. I knew the minute he walked out of the building that he was upset, and he barely made it into my arms before the tears spilled. We talked it over, and he decided he wanted to email his teacher. “Dear Mrs. D,” he wrote, “I wasn’t talking when J was doing checks recorder but he wrote my name down on the board. J thought I was talking but it was really K. It made me kind of disappointed when it happened and it upset me too.” He talked, I typed, he clicked “send” and off it went.

     C still won’t say anything like that in person, but I was impressed that he could at least get it written down, and I was proud of him for speaking up. It didn’t get him anywhere; the day was over and the deed was done, but he felt better about the whole experience and was able to let it go. And at the end of the day, that’s how I want him to feel about issues he has – perhaps they won’t all be fixed and wrapped up in a bow, but at least he can deal with them in a way that satisfies him.

October 26, 2009 at 2:24 pm 6 comments

Predator and prey

     I watch the playground, wondering if it was so fraught with landmines when I was a kid, wondering when it became, in my mind, a war zone. It looks completely innocent with brightly colored plastic play equipment and smiling children running around. Everything seems fine on the surface.

     I watch deeper. For those of us that always look deeper, that have to look deeper, that are forced to look deeper, it is a far more sinister place. It is perhaps the most dangerous place at school except possibly the bathroom. It is the place where our kids, our very vulnerable kids, take the most abuse at the hand of the other kids.

     I watch C try to initiate play with a group of four kids who were particularly mean to him last year. I watch, as though from underwater for as long as it takes me to make myself believe their mean-spirited play is what I think it is. Not mean enough so that C will know, but mean enough that he doesn’t even realize – which is somehow even worse. The level of sophistication of their teasing and their awareness of C’s own obliviousness is incredible to me.

     I watch these children and marvel at their cleverness on one hand, while silently urging C to move on to someone else on the other. When I realize he’s playing along with them, I sit back to see what he will do. After all, I can’t be there every day, and I hope he’s learned from last year that these kids just aren’t nice. But when I see the one girl in the group start kicking sand at C’s face, I head on over to them.

     I watch the little girl walk away as I remind her she shouldn’t be kicking sand at someone. After she throws a remark to me over her shoulder in a sassy tone of voice (one I wouldn’t have dared use with my own mother as a child, much less someone else’s mother), I fight the urge to give her The. Look. Reminding me of what we called “crusties” in high school, The. Look. is a penetrating stare that conveys all the wicked thoughts in one’s head to the person on the receiving end. I resist. She is 8. They are all 8, I remind myself.

     I watch these children, and I’m not sure what disturbs me more: that they remind me of a pack of hyenas, so conniving and ferociously social, or that C didn’t even realize he was their prey.

September 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm 6 comments

World View

     I don’t think of C as having any “deficits,” for lack of a better word. Like any kid, he has areas of great strength and areas of challenge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him; it’s the rest of the world that has a problem. I consider myself blessed and lucky to have such a wonderful kid, and sometimes catch myself thinking how boring typical kids must be.

     Yet my view on C has hit a wall. There is a skill that is completely and utterly absent in him, and it’s definitely a problematic deficit. He struggles, like many kids like him, to interpret and understand his own feelings. “Sad” and “worried” are used interchangeably in his vocabulary. I try very hard not to tell him how he should feel about things, and most of the time it doesn’t present that much of a problem. Most of the time, anyway.     

     Yesterday when C told me a boy in his class told C he would stop being mean to him only if C gave him one of his erasers (they’re all the rage at the moment), I couldn’t help myself, and my own anger flared. C thought it was a great deal and quickly complied. “C,” I said incredulously, “do you understand that what that boy said was mean?”

     His reply, heartbreaking in both its simplicity and its future implications, was “But Mommy, it didn’t feel mean to me.”

January 29, 2009 at 9:23 pm 7 comments

It’s all autism, all the time.

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