Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Compassion.

source


I may be getting ahead of myself.

But,

I'm probably not.

Little stories have been emerging lately, surrounding my 8 year old son.  My son, who happens to be somewhere vaguely on the high functioning end of the Autism Spectrum.  My son, who looks like any other kid, except sometimes when he's nervous--really, really nervous--he does weird tic things with his head, or maybe looks like he's doing an impromptu dance.  My son who can't stop himself from mimicking other kids when they cough or when they say something that really tickles him.

These little stories sound like BULLYING.

Little whispers.  Little hearsays.  Little "oh yeah" anecdotes.  Little "I don't know if you know this, but..." stories.


Story number one:

I am sitting by the playground during a week off from school, where my son and daughter are playing.   A girl in Jack's class happens to be there too, with her sister and her mother.  Her mom is sitting with me, and we're chatting about this and that.

The mom asks me if the teacher has been talking to me about "what happened recently."  I have no clue, so she explains.  She tells me that she often has chats about bullying with her kids, to educate them and keep them informed.  It's cute, because Jack's peer has concluded that whenever anyone is a jerk, or is in a bad mood, they're being a bully.  The mom corrected her;

"no, everybody can have a bad day, or be in a bad mood.  Bullying is different."  She explains that bullying can be more subtle, that it can carry on over a period of time.  The little girl thinks about this and says;

"Jack is bullied!"

She explains how Jack is afraid of the dark, and some of the boys know this, and whenever the teacher steps out of the room, one of the little buggers says;

"HEY JACK! WE'RE GONNA WATCH A MOVIE!" and he flips the light off.

Jack, who is actually most afraid of that staticky sound a tv makes when they flip it from TV mode to VIDEO mode, panics, and clamps his hands over his ears.

Every time the teacher leaves the room.


Shit, this is making me want to cry.


The little girl's mom was horrified, outraged--she almost wanted to cry.  She told the teacher immediately.

I kinda found out at some point that some boys had been harassing Jack, and they were "dealt with" and it had been made known that if his teacher even HEARD of anything stupid, there would be trouble.

But, I didn't know the specifics.


Story Number 2

I'm chatting with another mom.  Today.  She too has been having chats about bullying with her daughters.  She explains; "there's always going to be a kid in class who other kids think is 'weird,' and then they'll pick on him/her."

Her daughter says: "That's Jack!  So-and-so picks on him all the time, and [another boy] always says; 'hey Jack! Wanna play the game?  Hey Jack!  Wanna play the game?'"

I don't know what "the game" is, but I'm very, very far from being an idiot.  I know egging-on when I hear it.


This shit is going to stop.

Little stories about boys shouting in the echo-y bathroom on purpose, because they know that Jack is sensitive to noise and it frightens him.

Someone encouraging him to pick his nose and eat it.  Good luck kid:  Jack doesn't even like FOOD.


This shit is going to stop.


I'm bothered right now.  I'm agitated. I'm upset.  I'm angry. I'm crushed.  Hell--I know my son gets along better with adults and kids who are younger than he is.  I know that he'll hear a joke, or something he finds funny and retell it TO DEATH.  I know that whenever a kid coughs, the immediate echo of their cough comes courtesy of Jack.  I know he doesn't know how to be cool, that he has no interest in shooting a ball around the playground.

I know that he knows nearly everything there is to know about 1960's British Invasion bands, and that when Willy Wonka plays the musical lock code in "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory", that Jack casually says "That's Mozart."  His dad said; "is it?"  Jack said; "yeah.  That's 'The Marriage Of Figaro."

Yeah.  THAT'S MY BOY.

But, I know that doesn't make him fit in with the hockey jersey crowd.  With the boys whose mothers DON'T have chats about bullying.  With the little shits who haven't been taught to be KIND to everyone.  To be COMPASSIONATE.  To be SYMPATHETIC.

This shit is going to stop.


I'm going to talk to the teacher.  I want to actually be a guest speaker, and tell these kids that this is my boy.  He is not making fun of them.  He is not trying to piss them off.  He can't help the way he was born.  He is smart and wonderful, and charming, and he blew kisses to me as he was going into the school just a few days ago.


Every generation spawns just as many new, compassion-less souls as the one before.  It just makes me shake my head.

43 comments:

  1. Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. I fucking hate awful people I really do.

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  2. Thanks Sue. I know you do. It's because you're AWESOME.

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  3. Go into the class as a guest speaker? I would. I wouldn't just mention it as an idea... I'd make it happen. That's a good idea Karen. A lot of times kids will respond positively to someone who comes in and speaks to the class about bullying.

    aim

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    1. yeah, I'd be reasonable and relatable too.

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  4. Oh God Karen my heart is bleeding over here reading this. Bleeding. We had the same thing with Alex and I found out from another mom. Where the eff was the school and why the eff didn't they tell me about it??? I was so upset and was met with, "boys will be boys." I still get sick thinking about it. I would have been none the wiser. Bullying is so pervasive, so insidious and those little prigs do it so quickly the teachers sometimes don't know. And here, if its one kids word against another they're hesitant to do anything to basically the bully gets a free pass---just encouraging them to do it more. And when Alex is at his breaking point and he responds????? He is the one who they called a bully. No lie. I almost died.

    Get in front of this bus now. NOW. I put a big fat halt to what was going on at our school but not without pissing a lot of people off first. Thing is, I can't be certain it isn't happening again since Alex tells me NOTHING.

    Gawd, I'm there for you.

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    1. Lizbeth, if it's the incident you blogged about before, I totally remember that, and the unfortunate subsequent fallout with the other mom.

      Yeah, I don't fault the teacher because she is really good, and really on top of things and very compassionate and empathetic and helpful for Jack. The problem is, she just can't be there ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the time. I'm talking to her tomorrow.

      I have to PRY details out of Jack as well.

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  5. I hope getting in front of the class and talking helps, in fact a friend of mine does her speech every school year at the beginning. She explains why her son is different, what he likes the other children to do, and what he does not. You are the one who best understands your son and his needs. You can not change everyone, but I hope it helps the other children at least understand better. Good luck. Due to privacy laws, we are not informed when there is a special needs child in our children's classrooms unless they mention it. Then we have a discussion on behavior and how we should treat people. I try to teach my children at home how to be kind to everyone and how we should embrace our differences instead of making fun of them and how we would feel if someone would do that to us. The worst part of it is, these children who talk bad about others have learned to do this.

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    1. You're very right Alaina: we can't change everyone. But it would be nice to get through to a few people. And it's so true that this is a learned behaviour.

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  6. This put me in tears. I just don't know WHY. Why do they do it? Why? Half of my life has been spent guiding and defending those who are 'different' than others. Explaining behaviors. And if I had a dime for every time I turned my back only to find some ding dong took advantage of or mocked some one...It hurts me on a soul level. We talk to Rowan all the time about kindness. His Uncle is challenged. He knows. And yet, still, I hear these singsongy little rhymes that are just ignorant coming from his mouth. I know he picks it up from school, okay, but then I still have to go through it all again. I have to tell him that maybe so and so said it, but they are an idiot. And we do not treat people like that.
    I almost can't fault the teachers. Kids are so quick, so sneaky. But what world are we in that we and the kids still aren't accepting? That it makes us feel powerful to belittle someone else? (I'm grouping us all in. We all should have had this dealt with and over.)
    My heart hurts for you and Jack. Childhood should be fun and easy.
    I know you'll handle it well. I just wish it wasn't happening.

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    1. I know how your heart aches for your family member, Leanne. I remember the post--it was very poignant.

      Yeah, the worst part of it for me is that when parents are having "casual" convos with their kids about bullying, as soon as their kids understand the concept, the first EXAMPLE that pops into their heads is good old Jack.

      That really sucks hard.

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    2. And again, tears sprung to my eyes. Damnit all. Yup, time for a talk to the kids. Give Jack five for me.

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    3. I will indeed! Well, I'm off in a few minutes to chat with the teacher.

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  7. Oh Karen. Oh Jack. How hard for you both to have such shit going on. But it's good that these 2 mums were able to talk to you about what's happening (I'm guesing Jack himself would NEVER say anything.) Of course you are feeling angry and upset.
    BUT - you are thinking of strategies to deal with it. Talking to the teacher is the first step, but your idea of talking to the class is great (I'm holding that one in reserve if things go tits-up in Nina's class.) Will Jack be OK with that? That's the bit that makes me anxious about doing it with Nina's class. We've had the occasional comment from other kids but nothing sustained like Jack has experienced.
    Some kids are stupid or haven't been taught how to treat others. Some are easily led and do it because others are doing it. Some are mean-spirited and prey on more vulnerable kids just because they can. Whatever the reason, it needs to stop and they need to know it won't be tolerated.
    Nina's like Jack in some ways, she's a quirky kid who adults "get" and appreciate, but other kids are a little bemused by her. It breaks my heart when she struggles with the social stuff. I can sympathise so fiercely with how you feel.
    Let us know how you get on, love. xxxxxx

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    1. Curtise I'm going to have to email you. We need to get some motherly things off our hoots, don't we.

      The social conundrum is a killer, is it not?

      I'll keep you updated.

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    2. i thought the same thing. when the kids are younger, going in to talk to the class, as the mom, is totally the way to go. but as they get older, does it make it worse for the kid getting bullied? does it just throw fuel on the fire for jack once you're out of the room and the teacher has her back turned? i've struggled with the same question in some of brooke's situations that get sticky. is it better for the other kids to be told that there's a legit reason for our kids oddities or does it just confirm to them that our kids are weird and worthy of mocking because the mean kids have no decency in their souls?

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  8. Oh Karen! :(
    I hate to hear this...

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    1. thanks Steph. I wasn't too pleased myself.

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  9. Tears in my eyes because I know EXACTLY what you are saying. Hun I am so sorry, it is a really horrible feeling isnt it? You just want to protect your special, wonderful little man. I know all too well. I do hope you can sort it out.

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    1. thankyou Sprite, you're very kind. When things like this happen, I can't help thinking specifically about you and Sherilin (Laughing My Abs Off), because you both homeschool your kids. I can so understand why. We are very protective aren't we.

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    2. reading yours and some other stories about aspie kids in schools just confirms to me why i keep the brookster home. even on the days when i feel like i want to just chuck it all & put her on a bus.

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    3. Oh I totally agree with you Sherilin. Best decision we ever made.

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  10. Yay Jack! YAY KAREN! You go Supermum! I just love that you are such a wonderful advocate for your beautiful, awesome boy. And I love that bullying has become something so completely unacceptable - instead of something that kids should just 'ignore and walk away from' like when I was a kid (and copped bullying every day for ten years).

    I was in my cousin's little girl's classroom yesterday and there was a huge hand written sign on the wall that said:
    Step 1 "Stop that now, I don't like it"
    Step 2 "Stop that right now or I will tell the teacher"
    Step 3 TELL THE TEACHER

    That made me happy.

    You get in there and do what you have to do - and know that we are all with you every single step of the way. And Jack ROCKS.

    Sarah xxx

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    1. Thanks lovely Sarah. I remember you mentioning about bullying. Such bullshit. Look how wonderful you are too. People are ridiculous.

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  11. Jeez Karen. That is heartbreaking and maddening. You march right in there tomorrow and talk to the teacher. And if I were you, I would demand that the parents of those boys be made WELL aware (by the teacher/principal) what their darlings were up to. There should be a zero tolerance for bullying and in the school where I work, that kind of behaviour would earn a kid an in school suspension, especially if they had already been 'dealt with' and were continuing to do so. A stern talking to an warning is a first step, but this should not be continuing, as it's then more serious. Your son sounds an awful lot like mine...high functioning enough that they look like the other kids, but odd enough that they don't fit in. Nick has yet to be a target, but I know it's coming. One day some kid is going to realize that all my Nick does is have verbal diarreah about Mario Bros. and that will be it. I'm gritting my teeth that he's nearly 9 and we haven't had an incident yet, other than never being invited to a birthday party or play date. Keep us posted on what happens. Not sure whereabouts you live, but you seem like the kind of gal I could have coffee with...with Baileys in it....

    Claire

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    1. thanks Claire, you lovely woman you.

      Yeah, sounds like you and I have a little sumpin sumpin in common. God, that sounded retarded, but you get what I mean. Yeah, that really rang a bell about not being invited to things. Oh well. Soldier on.

      I'll be talking to the teacher this evening, and as per your suggestions (which didn't occur to me, because I am very DUH at times), I will ask her if these boys' parents have been spoken to.

      The school does have a zero tolerance policy, and when some shit was happening with some kids in grade 8, it stopped IMMEDIATELY. Where it fails is with a kid like Jack who refuses to talk about it, and a mom like me who is, apparently, still fairly naive.

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    2. OH THAT'S WHY I'm not reading your blog, Claire! It's invitation only! I thought there was a glitch in my brain or something! :)

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  12. You're killing me with this.
    I kept thinking of Johnny as I was reading this and my heart goes out to you.
    I think it's a wonderful idea that you speak to these students. I now recall that a father came to my elementary school and spoke about his mentally challenged son. His action stopped the giggles and taunting.
    You're a good Mama!
    m.

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    1. Thanks Mark. I try. I think it's a good idea too. It makes me feel tired, just thinking of going in there and giving some seminar, because I like to fade into the woodwork, but there are times when one just can't.

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  13. GO KICK SOME BULLY BUTT YOU WONDERFUL LADY! It needs dealing with. Luckily the teacher sounds sympathetic even if she isn't very observant - telling kids about bullying but not noticing when it goes on under her nose. Mind you these little fuckers are devious. I really really hope things improve for Jack. Can you tell I was bullied?!

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    1. Miss Simmonds, I guess we were all bullied at some point. I remember all the shitty things kids said or did to me too.

      I think she's observant, but I think it's rampant in all those little moments of her not being able to notice--like during bathroom breaks, and recess and lunch breaks.

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  14. This is sad. My heart is with you.

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    1. It is sad Jeanne, but still so damn typical!

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  15. OH HELL MOTHERFUCKING NO!!!!!!

    My main question is why the hell hasn't the teacher been communicating with you about this? Totally unacceptable. You should have been informed immediately so you could try to be decompressing your kid at home, and talking to him about how to handle things. I call BULLSHIT!!

    I started meeting with the resource teacher MONTHLY to make damn sure she knows I'm part of the team and want to know everything that is going on.

    They need to know at that school that bullying will not be tolerated and you expect them to take immediate action to educate those kids about bullying, and prevent it from happening.

    I'm so, so sorry you and your son are going through this. Please write more about the outcome of this.

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    1. Oh Flannery. I love you so and I'm so behind on reading you lately, discombobulated as I've been since my vacation.

      Anyhoo, you always make me smile. Does everyone wish Flannery were there beside them, holding their upper arm and frog-marching them in to do what MUST be done! I mean that in a "supportive woman of steel" sort of way--not a Hitler kind of way.

      Shit, I haven't had a coffee yet.

      Yeah. What gets me the most, the very most, is that as soon as these kids understand the definition of bullying, who pops into their heads?

      DING! IT'S JACK!

      And that's what sucks.

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  16. Yes that is what sucks...I am so sorry
    This is frightening
    and yes the Flannery approach sounds good.
    Very good.

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    1. Oh I like Flannery. She's a ballsy woman for sure! It does suck, and it is frightening, but I heard about it now, which is good.

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  17. Yeah, I agree with Flannery too. I'm so sorry for this, it's so horrible. Your idea to talk to the class sounds good. There was a story not long ago about a mother who went on the school bus with a baseball bat to tell the kids to stop bullying her child. Not that I condone drastic measures or anything, I just like living vicariously through stories I can relate to.

    Good luck resolving this situation, I hope it goes smoothly.

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    1. Thanks! I can relate to that mother. Kids are so relentless and ruthless. I hope it all goes smoothly too :)

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  18. This is breaking my heart. The thing that I am mad about is why is the teacher not even telling you. Are they really dealing with it? I think they need to be in communication completely and I want to know just what they do to stop this. This is the hardest part of letting our kids leave our arms. I hated the early years with Kelsey in school. It was so hard on me to let her deal with life. I am so pissed for you right now. :(

    BTW, Ieft Fb, but opened a new account. I just added Sherilin, but I didn't know your last name. You can find me through her if you want. Or tell me your name!!! :)

    So sorry dear.

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    1. Thanks Daniele, I will find you via Sherilinnie! Yeah, it's a hard enough world for our kids without any extra bullshit, no?

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  19. i think sometimes, even though we've all explained about bullying to our kids, they don't fully grasp what it really is when they see it happen in front of their faces. it doesn't always look like on tv where someone steals another kids lunch money. there are so many subtle, hurtful, sneaky ways for people to hurt each other, that even if the teacher is watching, there are sure to be things that go undetected by the adults. i'm glad that those two kids were aware enough and willing to tell their parents.
    brooke rarely tells me things either. she just internalizes them and keeps her mouth shut unless i have some reason to realize that i need to pry information out of her.

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    1. yeah, they really put their thoughts in a VAULT don't they! Holy cow. It's an interesting point, about the bullying thing versus reality. I swear all those kids can listen to a speech on bullying and think 'yeah, that's bad,' but it's fun to bug Jack because he's different and annoying, and never the twain shall meet. Until I come in there and knock heads together!

      Ha, no...I'll probably win their favour with cookies instead.

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