My husband and I went to a meeting about bullying the other night. It was a meeting involving all the parents of the grade 4/5 split class. My oldest daughter’s class. She’s nine and this is the child who most likely has Aspergers but is not yet formally diagnosed.
What I got out of this meeting:
1. The school truly does care and is implementing strategies to keep the children safe and learning material to teach about empathy and kindness. As one mom says “Doing nothing is the absence of kindness” So even though another child may not be doing the teasing or bullying, if they do nothing it is the absence of kindness.
2. That parents who have “normal” children really have no idea what the reality is of a special needs child and tend to less understanding.
3. That parents who have “normal” children can be totally blind as to the faults of their children.
If I never had my E, I probably would have been guilty of the same lack of sympathy and understanding. Given that E has been pretty challenging from the get go, something that should have twigged us earlier, gave me to understand that it’s not all about parenting or lack of discipline. Some of it definitely comes down to a child’s personality. So when I met other parents of extremely active kids, I got it and I tried not to judge them or their children.
However, it wasn’t until we came to realize that our own child was actually a special needs child that true empathy came. When a boy in my son’s preschool class was wild and crazy, it took only one vague conversation with his mother to make me realize that her son has some sort of special needs. You see, I had learned some of the lingo along the way and although the mother never came out and said this is what’s going on with her son, I could pick up a few clues and put two and two together.
So when another parent approached me and complained about the child and criticized the mother for not getting him under control, I was taken aback and quietly pointed out that he had special needs. That rolled off the parent like they never even heard it. Because they have no understanding what it’s like to parent a special needs child.
My heart broke for that mom as she was alienated by the other parents because of her "bad" son and tried to make a point of going and talking to her on field trips.
Just like my heart broke for that poor mom who had to sit in the meeting and listen to everyone’s concerns about her son. I don’t know what her son has but he’s prone to violent outbursts. Most of the time he’s a sweet, good natured little boy but when you get a couple of “cool” kids who decide to poke and tease him to get a reaction out of him, well, things go downhill pretty fast.
She’s aware of what he is like and I can see how burned out she is carrying this burden. No one wants to be the parent of the misbehaving child. Yet, it was so obvious that the two parents whose boy’s were doing the bugging, were less concerned about their child’s actions and more concerned that this boy might harm their children.
There wasn’t even an acknowledgement of, okay my kid was being a jerk. It was this boy gets too upset too easy and what is the school doing to protect my son from him.
And that my friends is why bullying is prevalent in our society. No matter how many programs the government comes up with, no matter how often the school says they have a no bully tolerance policy in place it all falls apart when one person denies it’s happening.
Case in my point, my nephew was bullied for years by a particular kid in their neighbourhood. This kid had once been his friend and invited to birthdays etc. Eventually, the kid decided that it was more fun to pick on my nephew than play with him. He managed to turn an entire playground against him. When the school met with the parents to discuss the issue, the bully’s mother said and I quote “If ___ wasn’t so sensitive my son wouldn’t pick on him”. And even went on to suggest that my nephew had an unhealthy fascination for her son and was being a shit disturber. To the point that this woman went out of her way to approach the coaches on sports teams to make sure they were away of the issue. Her son could do no wrong in her eyes. We lived in a small town. Eventually my brother and his family moved out of that neighbourhood despite a severe economic downturn just to get away from that family.
So it was disheartening to sit across from these two mothers and listen to them. Especially, when I know that one of their sons taunts my daughter and calls her names on a daily basis. Apparently, two of them even joined together and drew a picture of her getting killed. I know, right.
To top all of that off, my daughter has no friends in this class this year. The ongoing name calling certainly doesn't help. While she does get involved in her own play and ends up on her own quite a bit, she does crave friendships and wants to play with the other girls. So when the principal says to me that E draws herself away and plays with the younger ones because she likes to mother them, part of me has to agree because I know my child and her quirks and yet the other part of me says.. but she asked to play with the other kids and they said no… so what is she supposed to do? Of course she will go and play with those that will play with her even if they are younger.
What do you say to your girl when she tells you she wishes she had the personality of the girl she thinks is popular in her class? She doesn't want to change her looks, just wishes she has the popular girl's personality.
Some days this is all just too much for me to handle.