Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thank you, Bully

Photo Credit:  Will Clayton on Flickr
The bully on Bean's bus became an issue again.  Yesterday she hit, spit on, and teased my son.  An older boy tried to help; he had Bean and the bully's other target move away from the bully and sit with him.  The bully followed and crawled under the seat to get to Bean as he sat by the window and the older boy sat by the aisle.

On a day he wore clothes entirely from the boys' department (not that it matters) she asked him teasingly why he was wearing girls' clothes.  (To which he responded "first of all, these aren't girls' clothes!  And also, there's no such thing as girl clothes!  Or boy clothes!")

We've already worked with the school to address the behavior, but I'd also like to thank her.

Thank you, Bully, for bringing my family closer together, for showing me just how resilient my son is, and for giving me a chance to learn from him.  Thank you for giving my child the opportunity to witness the awesome example of an older boy who watches out for those who could use a little help.  I hope - I deeply hope - that this is a chance for you and your family to feel closer and for you to figure out a bit more of this socializing thing.  I know it's tough, and it took me a long time to figure out, too!

My son's self-confidence is completely intact, and possibly strengthened.  Thank you.  Thank you for the relief of knowing my son is more secure than I ever was, and that his teachers will protect him from emotional injury and take both words and actions very seriously.  Thank you for giving him a chance to shine brightly and reflect back at me everything I have ever said to him about compassion and empathy - you have him to thank for my remaining calm.

I am breathing a sigh of relief as my heart is filled with love and respect for my son.

Monday, September 9, 2013

BIG yellow butterflies

I came home from a sewing class tonight and Bean asked me to come snuggle him.  As I climbed up into his top bunk he informed me were going to "ask each other questions.  Whatever you'd like to know about the other person."  I got to go first and my question was "what would you like to know about me?"  Apparently that didn't count.

Eventually Grandma Nita came up, and he said "You have a necklace with a picture of you as a kid and a picture of her.  I seem to remember that she has your same hair and your same face, but her hair is black."  I told him that a lot of people say that about Grandma Nita and me, and he seemed offended that other people had gotten to see her and he hadn't. 

I explained that people had known her before she died - people had known her even longer than I had.  And lots of people had seen pictures of her.

So he started imagining her and said, "I see her in a white shirt...and a purple skirt with BIG yellow butterflies.  I haven't decided on her leggings yet."

Then he asked me more about how she died.  I gave the answer I usually give - that her heart stopped working - and he asked "how? How did her heart stop working?"  So I described plaque building up and making the tubes where the blood flows too small and eventually maybe a piece broke off and totally blocked the way for the blood.  He wanted to know more about where this "stuff" came from, and I said it was really hard to know - it might have been something she ate, it might been something her body was making.

"And then her whole body couldn't work anymore because blood couldn't get there?  That's really sad."  Yes, sweetheart.  It was sad.  I really wish you could have met her.

I love that kid so much.  I love that he imagines his late grandma in a purple skirt with BIG yellow butterflies.  She loved butterflies, and I once spent a good portion of my babysitting money buying her a butterfly pendant - it's currently in my jewelry box.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bean and the Bully

So there is/was a bully on Bean's bus.  He didn't tell me for a few days.  One night at bedtime, we were snuggling up and he'd already shown me his latest and greatest Lego creations so I started asking him questions about his day, his life, and his interests.  During previous bedtime talks, I had asked him how school was, and he raved about it.  I knew from other talks that there had been a couple kids at school who had said something about his Hello Kitty backpack, but it had been a single happening and not a big deal - I had this seconded by the teachers.  He was happy, secure, and confident.

This particular night, I asked how the bus was going, rather than about school.  And he said there was a girl who kept bothering him about his backpack.  He said he'd ignored her, but she just kept bothering him.  That's the word he used - "bother."  Almost in the same breath, he told me "also, the bus is really loud in the morning.  It's so loud that it makes the thoughts go out of the my head."

We talked at length about what was going on.  Bean was not the only kid being bothered.  I told him "she is probably feeling unhappy or out of control, and making people sad makes her feel better.  Like powerful or something."  He grinned and said "well, she doesn't have any power over me because I wasn't sad!"

He was purely annoyed, which wasn't a reaction I had expected...but it was perfect.  He wasn't upset, but he didn't want it to continue.  He showed concern for the other kid being bullied - who did cry.  And then he started thinking of ways we should address it.  At first he wanted his dad to get on the bus and talk to her, but I explained that was probably too confrontational and would likely make things worse.

We talked about going to the teachers, and that he could do that immediately or he could wait and see if it continued.  I offered to talk to his teachers, but he wanted to do it by himself after waiting a few more days.  A few days later, the girl was apparently under a seat on the bus hitting another kid's feet and ended up hitting her own head and crying.  Bean said he tried to make sure she was ok.  (And I decided I needed to talk to the teacher to be sure the little girl was safe.)

These small incidents seem so huge when I think about my 5-year-old navigating all this new territory largely by himself.  But I am so glad I let him go out there feeling confident in his own choices as well as prepared for those who question his taste.  If I'd sent him with a boring backpack, I wouldn't have gotten to see his compassion, his independence, or just how solid his confidence is!  Or I may have even undermined that confidence - if I won't even let him pick out a backpack, what choices can he make?
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