Thursday, 27 October 2011
A crisis of Faith
If you're on my Facebook, you probably already know about this. But I need to blog it. I need it clear in my head before I deal with the school tomorrow.
Alexander is a very mild mannered child, especially away from home. He is suffering (I suspect) from some depression this year and school has been very difficult for him, socially. He has lost his best friend, in fact, his entire group of best friends from last year. His best friend and some of the other boys in his class give Alexander a hard time. Mostly small stuff. Taking his equipment (pencils, rulers, erasers, drink bottles), we try not to make a fuss. Just replace them and tell him they were just being a bit silly. We ask if he wants us to talk to the teacher and he says no, so in these smaller things, we leave it be.
Most of it is more the snide remarks, humiliating him at every possible chance. Making up stories about him, trying to get him into trouble for things he didn't do (this isn't me believing my child can do no wrong. This was the teacher telling me she saw incidents when they were clearly lying and Alexander had done no such thing). Calling him names, refusing to talk to him or let others talk or play with him. Taking his lunch, or teasing him about lunch (no, he doesn't have anything odd in his lunch box). Not letting him play in the general vicinity they're in. Making him move if he's sitting somewhere. You know the type of thing.
I hate it. It makes my chest hurt and my eyes hurt and my stomach sick. I want to go in and say 'enough is enough' and stop making excuses for them. But I tell myself that they (some of them) have a lot going on in their lives, and the last thing they need is me guilting them when they are already having trouble with their kids behaviour at school and elsewhere.
We've been here before. Last year (the two children who carried out these two assaults on him were given detention). We were unsatisfied with the school's response, but he begged us to let it go. Refused to be angry at the child who hurt him (in fact, by the end of the year they were good friends), but was so clearly hurt. Damaged.
But today, he came home from school, sat on my bed and cried. He tried to hold it in, but he buried his head in my lap and cried as he explained what had happened today.
First off, he'd been in the toilets. As he was peeing, his former best friend and that child's new best friend (the two of them spend a fair amount of time in the classroom saying things to upset Alexander, but it's never physical and never during lunch etc). Alexander was peeing and the two boys were being silly, rough-housing (as boys do). The other boy, E shoved J (Alexander's friend from last year) into Alexander. They kind of pushed him into a wall and unfortunately (mid pee), he soaked his shirt. He was mortified and was sent to the office to get a spare.
He's not angry with them, at all. He says it was an accident, and I believe him. I think the boys should have been spoken to about appropriate behaviour in the bathrooms during school hours, but while embarrassed, Alexander is not upset at them.
Lunch time though, was another matter. There is a boy that Alexander met in Vacation care. We've not long come off 2 weeks holidays and this child seemed to have a 'thing' for Alexander, often pushing him, tripping him, taking his hat etc.
Well today, this little turd (I'm sorry. It's not a nice thing to say about a 9 year old, is it?) was following Alexander around at lunch time. Alexander is extremely non-confrontational, so he kept just getting up and leaving, trying to ignore C's taunts, not saying a word back (this has been backed up). C caught him though and told him he was going to 'squash him'. Alexander tried to move away again. C grabbed Alexander's head in both hands and proceeded to headbutt him, right in the face. He split Alexander's lip.
A teacher found Alexander cowering in a corner somewhere, crying, with a bleeding lip. She sent him to the office where they kept him for an hour or so to ice his lip, then sent him back to class. The other boy got a 'slip' which means he has to talk to the Vice Principal and after 3 slips you get detention. Seriously. That's it.
Noone called us. When Joel picked Alexander up in the classroom, his teacher didn't say a word. She knew what had happened and she didn't say a single word to Joel about it.
So I'm here now, and it's 1am and I'm sad, and I'm angry. My child isn't perfect. I know that some people find him difficult - he talks even more than I do (!), he's incredibly literal and you really have to watch what you say around him (he won't tolerate "Stupid" or "Shut Up" or anything of the sort without pointing out that that's not a nice thing to say). I know we're probably overly gentle with Alexander and Sam. We don't yell. Any yelling makes them cower and cry so we simply don't do it and we dont' allow it in our home.
And that may seem unrealistic, as I now he has to encounter that in the big bad world. And the head of the SEU tells me I need to 'toughen' him up so that he's not a target for bullies. When I spoke to the VP about the fact that he was getting bullied quite a lot he simply shrugged his shoulders and commented that "A is the perfect target for bullies. He's quiet (as in, won't fight/yell/), submissive and incredibly eager to please. Add to that the autism, his gentleness and his timidness around rowdy boys, and he's their perfect target". As if this is his fault. As if these qualities make it his problem or our problem that Alexander is bullied. It's not the school's fault we raised a child like Alexander, basically.
And I think that I'm close to my breaking point. There are a number of things that have happened at the school (or NOT happened for Alexander, that were promised) that have left me more and more disillusioned. This just feels like the straw that broke this camel's back.
I'm writing a letter to the principal asking for written documentation of their bullying policy. What steps they take to protect children, what they define as bullying, what happens to the child who did the bullying, what they do for the child that was bullied. I want to know what they define as their 'Zero Tolerance Policy". I want it in writing.
Then I want them to tell me what the hell they're going to do about yesterday, and ask them why on earth they didn't think to call us. We'll see from there, but I'm 99% sure that by the end of tomorrow I will have compose and sent a lengthy, detailed letter of complaint to the Department of Education.
But all of that aside. I'm heartsick. Why can't I protect him, hold and keep him close like I used to? What do I do? How do I help him? I've said before, and I stand by it now. Alexander is honestly the best person I know. Not my favourite child. Not the cutest or smartest or just 'because he is mine' child. But the best person I know. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He sees the good in every single person, even the ones that are horrible to him. He holds out hope for every single one of them that they'll come around. He genuinely believes that all you need to do is be nice to someone and they'll be nice to you, that everything will be ok.
An example, that kind of broke my heart just yesterday (ironic). He told me in his spare time (after completing a work assignment in class) he wrote a card. I said that was lovely and asked him what it was.
"It was a thank you for being a good friend" card", he says.
"Oh how lovely! What a good friend you are. Who did you give it too?" expecting it to be one of his friends.
"I gave it to Ethan K". Stunned silence from me, I'm utterly confused.
"But darling, isn't Ethan mean to you? Don't he and J (former friend) say nasty things to you and about you?"
"Yes. But out of all of the bullies, he's the nicest. He isn't as mean to me as the others, so I wanted to do something nice for him, because he doesn't actually hurt me at all".
What to say to that? I'm seriously asking. What was an appropriate response to that? Do I tell him that Ethan probably found that amusing and used it to further tease? That Ethan would not have appreciated the gesture and the card is probably in the bin? That this will undoubtedly become another thing for Ethan to tease Alexander about? Do I hurt Alexander's feelings, make him feel embarrassed, doubt himself all in the name of 'giving it to him straight' or 'toughening him up'?
Or do I hug him and tell him he's just lovely and that I hope that Ethan appreciates what a lovely friend A is.
I'm floundering here. The school (and others) are making me doubt my parenting skills so much. The one thing, the only thing I really was proud of about myself. The way I was raising 2 gentle, loving souls in a fun, loving (but not tolerating bad behaviour), gentle home.
That's gone. Now I feel like I've set him up for this. Like I've made this happen. I've been so long grateful to have an ASD child who isn't violent (though this year there have been violent (not physical but screaming and crying) meltdowns at home, after bad days at school. Always directed at me).
But did I raise a 'sook' as a family member enjoyed announcing to FB? Is it my fault he is sensitive and gentle? And is it bad that those are my favourite things about him? Am I now supposed to pull the rug out from under him and change his personality? Turn him into someone he's not?
Or let the bullying continue? I have talked to him about changing schools. It sends him into a panic and he begs me not to pull him out. Unless it's to home school and as much as I want to, we all know my health is not up to that.
What would you do if you had a child like Alexander. A gentle boy who was terrible at sports, but loved to read and make up stories. A child who trusts everyone (yes, we do the safety talks, but we also keep a close eye as he is so trusting) and believes the best in them. Even when he is subjected to their worst.
What would you do? How would you handle this? And please, do you have an 8-10 year old boy? Please, tell me about him? What's 'normal'. What's a normal week like for you? I have noone else to ask. No girlfriends (my closet girlfriend, or was, has a child as a major player in this). No sisters to talk to, no mother to ask. Noone at the school to ask, and get a straight answer from.
For those interested, I have an updated post here.
This is my FYBF post for this week. Hop on over to Trae's blog Where's My Glow and add yours to the many voices getting out there every Friday.