I know we have all heard a lot about bullying. It seems there is always something on the news. Bad things. Kids end up feeling trapped and that no one will listen and then they do some horrible thing. Why is it that a child that is being bullied has to do something big to get people to see what is happening?
For those of you who know my family you know that we have 3 amazing boys and 2 equally amazing girls. I have Jaxon, 17 a Junior in High school; Connor, 15 in 9th grade; Porter, 13 in 7th grade; Emma, 8 in 2nd grade; and finally Maycie, 5 in preschool. One of the things that I have learned as a mother of 5 is that most all kids deal with bulling to some extent. From the little teasing that goes a bit too far all the way to the extremes that we hear about in the news. I have always tried to teach my kids to be the one who will stand up for someone else when they see something happen. I don't know that they do, I hope that they would, but I'm not with them so I can't really say for sure. But I do know that if those kids that can stand up don't we will keep seeing problems. Things will keep going too far and kids will keep having problems that make them feel trapped. It seems that the only way for a kid to get someone to back off is to stand up for themselves in a violent way. For them to "hit" back, quite literally.
Connor has been dealing with bulling, in varying degrees, since 2nd grade. We saw in 5th grade how good a bully could be at making sure teachers and adults don't see it. That it becomes one child's word against another. That the whole, "the second hit is the one that is seen" is SO very true. When he started 7th grade and middle school we found that whole new world to be no nicer to him then it is to any other kid. Middle school is just a cruel place. You add a kid with Asperger's to the mix and it is just a that much worse! We had to move him out of a math class because a teacher just didn't understand the syndrome which made the kids in the class think it was okay to make fun of my son. (Don't even get me started!) We have been able to put together a really great team to help Connor and my husband and I be able to understand the syndrome better. It has helped to have one person as a kind of "team leader" to go to when I have concerns and that can contact me when there is something I need to know. That doesn't mean that overnight things were hunky dory. We have had to adjust things over the last 3 years as he learned new things and strategies. But for the most part I think he has had a pretty positive, or as positive as middle school can be, middle school experience. But it seems that about once a year I get a call and have to go into the school because something has happened.
Yesterday I got a phone call from a vice principle asking me to come to the school. Connor was being suspended for fighting. WHAT?! My Connor? At this point I have no idea what has happened and so I'm bouncing between wanting to throttle my son for fighting and keeping the mother bear in check so I don't find and beat the other kid. So when I got there and heard what happened it becomes that much harder to keep the mother bear in check. In gym class a kid was giving Connor crap and teasing him, and not just a little. He told the kid to stop, he didn't. He told the kid to stop again, and he still didn't. So Connor hit him, the kid pushed him away and Connor hit him again. I have to say that I know my son is not blameless in this. He had others things he could have done without hitting him. He should not have hit him multiple times. But the more that I have thought about this the more I have wondered, what could he have done that didn't involve fighting AND would have gotten this kid to actually back off and leave him alone. Because some of the things that I have learned is that 1) the kid did it in gym because he knew he could get away with it easier and 2) is telling the teacher would have put Connor in a place to be accountable without anything happening to the other kid. Even if the teacher talks to this kid about "not bulling" the kid isn't going to stop. He will just be more careful to make sure he doesn't get caught. So I'll be honest that I'm not really mad at Connor for standing up for himself. I've run it through my head a million times and the only thing I can come up with is, what if someone else had stood up and told the kid to stop? What if Connor knew that there was someone there to back him up? What if he had support? I know that standing up to a bully is hard, REALLY HARD! But wouldn't it be easier if more kids did it? Because then they would know that when they stand up they wouldn't be standing up alone.
As I talked with the vice principle and tried, as well as I could through the buckets of tears, to explain some of what we had been through with bullying most of Connor's school experience I felt a little like he was trying to tell me that Connor brought it on himself. Now, I do understand that Connor does things that other people see as strange. I see some things as strange! But I would dare say that on any given day we come across someone that does things differently then we do, that we might think they are strange or weird for doing things the way they do them. That doesn't mean that we have the right to be mean to them. I would also say that if we take the time to get to know that person that we would find them to be a pretty great person, even if they do things in a different way then we do. I shouldn't have to ask my son to change who he is into the "mold" so that people will stop making fun of him and bullying him. I want him to know who he is and be comfortable with that. I want him to know that being who he is a pretty great thing to be. I can do my best to teach him that. To do his best to let what other say roll off and let it go, to not let all that in.
This youtube video is a great example of that. I hope that we can all be more willing to look inside to the real person and not just the strange things we see on the outside.