Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Worst Year of my Life, or How I Failed My Child

Yesterday I told part of my story of my child's worst year of his life and I was reminded that I have always intended to write about it. So, here we go.

When my child was in fourth grade he would come home and tell me he was being bullied. The things that he was initially telling me did not seem like bullying, but rather just kids being kids. Jerks yes, but still age appropriate kid crap. I told him that he needed to talk to his teacher and that I would also talk with the teacher. She assured me that there was nothing extraordinary going on, and that the kids were working it out amongst themselves. I left the conference feeling much better and resolving to not be "that mom" and to let my son work through some of these things himself.

He started coming home from school in worse and worse moods. He constantly complained of stomach aches, headaches, and was throwing up almost every morning before school. I was still trusting an adult more than my own child and would give him advice on how to handle these kids. He would assure me that he had told the teacher about what was going on and I'm ashamed to admit that I told him to toughen up. You guys, I even bought him a book of Aesops Fables so that he could read the story of The Boy who Cried Wolf as a way of explaining to him that constantly tattling could have not so great reprocussions.

Then the story broke wide open. I was up at the school volunteering and the counselor grabbed me into her office and let me know that my child was indeed being bullied and was the target of a particularly malicious campaign. I won't go into specifics here because that is his story. I can only tell you my story and how I as a parent was affected, am still affected.

I cried. Oh I cried and cried for months. I cried myself to sleep, I woke up and cried in the shower. I
berated myself for not listening to him, for not picking up on his physical symptoms of pain and
emotions. I was angry, I was hurt, I felt worthless as a parent, I felt worthless as an adult.
I also put on my big girl panties and took care of business at school for my child. The administration took care of things in a very swift and effective manner, but they couldn't take care of my failings and feelings as a parent.

This story is awful, but that is not what we concentrate on now. I learned a lot about my child, myself, and other people through this experience. This is what I want to share with you now. Beautiful things can come from horrible situations and these are the things we look at now.

The story was brought to the attention of another 4th grade teacher by one of my son's friends. She listened to what he said and immediately sprang into action and alerted the counselors and administration. I am forever in her debt for not just brushing her student aside and writing it off as kids being kids. I love her to this day for this.

The students, when interviewed apparently named names faster than a jailhouse snitch looking for an early pardon. There were kids who continued to give my son crap, but there were more who came to his side. He had a friend who came home and told his mom what was going on and asked her permission to "kick the butts of anyone who bothered his friend". She reached out to me and invited my son over that afternoon so that he could see the power of friendship and see what real friendship is all about. I love her for this to this day.

Another wonderful fourth grade teacher stopped me in the hallway and just grabbed me and hugged me. She whispered in my ear that her kids told her what was going on and that THEY asked if my son could join their class, their family so that they could have his back. There I was in that hallway, me a non-hugger, in the wonderful embrace of another woman who was offering to help save my child. I love her for this to this day.

She did not have room in her class at that time, but she assured me that she wanted that too.
I want that to sink in a little for you. A group of fourth graders asked if they could welcome another
child into their classroom family.

It worked out within the next few weeks that my son as able to move into her class and he opened up again. I had my child back. I saw my beautiful, vulnerable child happy again for the first time that year. I never knew how much I missed him until I had him back. He flourished in this classroom and blossomed again under the guidance and in the love of this class and their wonderful teacher. Words cannot ever explain the debt that I feel I owe her and all those kids who had his back for the remainder of his time at school.

Another wonderful thing happened from this experience. I found out later who the child was that brought the entire story out into the open. I had been told that this particular child was diagnosed with
Aspergers and that for him to bring the situation to his teacher was highly unusual.

I was at my child's basketball game one Saturday when I saw his mother in the stands behind me. I introduced myself to her and told her what her son had done for my child. She looked at me with amazement and began to cry. She hugged me and told me that he had never shown such empathy for another person before and had not ever put himself 'out there' like this for another person. We sat in the stands and cried together for our children, our little heroes. I love her for this to this day.

Another big lesson was learned in our house through this whole ordeal. My child learned that his parents can make mistakes. He also learned that his parents can own up to mistakes and learn from them. He and I sat on the couch together one afternoon and he finally saw me cry. Before now all that crying I did was in private, but now he saw. He also got to hear the most heart-felt apology I have probably ever said to another human being. He got to see that we are all fallible, but that it's how we react and what we do next that is the measure of a person.

So there it is, my worst year and biggest failing as a parent. We all have these moments be them big or small. I learned more that year about love, about human nature, about life in general than I had in most of the years before this one. I have my heroes from that year and I have my villains. I am happy to say that the heroes far outweigh the villains and that love truly conquered hate.

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