I took the kids to dinner tonight. (El Mat, our go-to Mexican place. We’re regulars; we actually get The Usual.) So, I was tired and a little stressed, but I always try to put down the phone and listen when the kids are talking about school. And tonight, for whatever reason, The Boy brought up a kid at school. We’ll call him, “M.”
The boy: “Remember when I told you about M last year? He was kind of a bad kid?”
I say yes, and the conversation flows and somehow we end up talking about kids in his class and one kid in particular. This kid, The Boy says, is kind of special. You can tell he doesn’t really know how to talk about a kid who’s different. I think the words he used were, “He’s, like, special needs?” And so we discussed how that could mean a lot of different things, both physical and mental, etc.
Well, long story shorty, he tells me about this kid in his math class. The Boy believes he is special because, “The teachers are really, really nice to him, and they give him special assignments.” That could mean anything, but obviously, this kid is different and that is apparent to the other kids in the class.
We discuss that maybe he’s on the spectrum somehow, and that it just means that his brain works differently, and maybe he processes things differently than other kids.
And then The Boy says, “Yeah, but some kids pick on him. They throw things at him. He doesn’t look people in the eye. I don’t know if it is how his brain is, or if it’s his thick glasses.”
So, I say, “You know that is completely and totally wrong, right? And that you need to be nice to that kid? In front of the other kids. They need to see you be nice to that kid.”
I’m not good at subtlety. Every freaking wrong I endured in middle school came rushing back and spewed out in two or three sentences uttered in complete and total seriousness to my son.
I could tell it made him uncomfortable. I remembered what it was like to be 12-almost-13 and know, deep down, that something was really wrong, but be afraid to speak up.
I asked him questions about which class it was, and who the kids were who were doing it. I made a mental note of the names. I texted the commune and confirmed what I already knew: That it was not okay to out these kids to a parent social group on Facebook. But, I thought: What if I just said to the group, “Hey, if your kids are on this team, and they are in this particular Math Class, please talk to them about bullying. My child has witnessed this happening.”
I sat on it, finished my margarita. I talked to my son on the way home. I told him that maybe we should say something. He begged me not to. I explained my plan, to just put it out without naming names. But he’s not stupid, my kid. He said, “But they will know you are my mom. They will know I am the one who said something about it to my mom.”
I told him I’d think about it, and I wasn’t going to do anything without talking to him, and I wouldn’t post anything. I told my husband. He said I should talk to the teacher first.
So, I decided I’d sit on it tonight. Let it rest in that place of patience where things sometimes work themselves out. Sometimes that place doesn’t achieve a damn thing, and the pain just sits, but at least in my old age, I know that there are some instances where patience and doing nothing actually contribute to solving everything.
And then I have a beer, talk to a friend, and then check Facebook. And what is the first thing that I see? This post about a thirteen year old who commits suicide after being mercilessly bullied. My son will be 13 in 12 days. I don’t really believe in religion, or God, but I do believe in Karma and in The Universe. And I often wonder, when I’m grappling with something, how The Universe can know to serve me up something so fitting?
This is long, but if you are a parent, I think you should watch it. I haven’t decided what to do yet about my son’s revelations, but I felt like I needed to share this parent’s grief. I need to do something. I can’t just put this one in the patient place.
And in the meantime, my son and I discussed the art of the withering stare. The one that says, “You, buddy, are a fucking jackass, and everyone in this room sees it.” Baby steps, I guess, in the Stand-up-for-what-you-believe-in classroom ethics lessons.
Note: This is fucking brutal as a parent
Curious what other parents would do in this situation. (My gut: I think I will probably contact the teacher first.)