Today I had the most eye-opening experience I have ever endured as a parent. Today I was astounded beyond words as to just how much you could not really know or understand the behaviour that comes from someone you made, someone who is a part of you, someone you moulded into the human being they are and will be. Today I was shocked to discover that my child, is the bully.
I detest bullies, always have. I was bullied at high school for no other reason than I was an easy target and was so eager to please. I hate the way kids (and adults) can manipulate and demoralise someone else until they feel worthless and alone. Bullies say things in mere minutes that take years to unhear, they do damage in a single push that takes forever to recover from. So I have always instilled in my own children just how hurtful bullies can be, that I have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullying, that I would rather they walk away from someone being bullied than contribute to the bullying just to be part of the crowd. I have told them from day one that it is my ‘one thing’; the behaviour I will not accept. So where the hell did I go wrong with my son?
He’d been whingeing that he’d been made to swap seats in class, that this kid had chosen him to sit next to and that the teacher had made him. I asked if the kid was mean, if he was a bully or if he was just a bit different. My son said no, he just touched all his stuff and was always talking. He couldn’t come up with more of a reason other than he just didn’t want to sit next to this kid. So I approached the teacher and asked about the situation. I didn’t want my son to be moved, (my husband and I had already told him he needed to suck it up, that life sometimes meant you needed to sit next to people you didn’t really like) but I wanted to make sure this kid was not, in fact, bullying or intimidating my son. I guess I should’ve stayed out of it, because what I was told took me completely by surprise.
The boy sitting next to my son has ADHD, a mild form of autism and a global developmental delay. Everyone in the class has a turn at ‘buddying up’ with him to help him out, enhance his social skills and boost his confidence. He occasionally picks someone to sit next to him that he would like to get to know, and he had chosen my son. But apparently my child did not like this arrangement, for reasons he was obviously too embarrassed to share with me, otherwise he would’ve told me about the reasoning behind his new seating location. I was taken aback; my children have cousins with autism and have been exposed to children with special needs their entire lives. What on earth was going on?
I entered the classroom and approached my son. He wore a smirk on his face, like he had gotten what he wanted, until I opened my mouth and said “Did you know you’d been chosen to sit her? Do you know why? What exactly is the problem?”, to which his smug little smirk was replaced with the all-too-familiar look of “f*%k you”.
“Well you can leave then. Get out of my classroom. Go home. You didn’t help, you didn’t do what I wanted. Go home and thanks alot Mum” was all I got.
It took every ounce of my willpower not to drag him up, take down his pants and smack his bum right then and there, but I was not to know the worst was yet to come. I turned and walked out of the classroom, stopping at the doorway to check he wasn’t burning down the classroom or throwing chairs in a demonstration of defiance. I think I would’ve preferred he be doing that. He was teasing the other kid, picking on his delayed speech accent and chastising the game he was playing on his ipad. My son was laughing at the other kid, smaller and quieter than my boy, and getting others to join in. My blood boiled, I caught the eye of the teacher and signalled that he needed to intervene but he was already on it. I actually wanted my child to get into trouble, to take responsibility, to be punished for this act. Because my heart broke for the other little boy, whose day had started off horribly, because of my child!
Where on earth did I go wrong? What have I done/demonstrated/instigated in my household that would make my child think that this kind of behaviour is acceptable, to me or the other kid? How many times has he done this? What can I do to fix this? I haven’t had a chance to deal with this situation yet, (believe me I have mapped out a strategy for when my son gets home from school) but I am still trying to wrap my head around the entire occurrence. Bullies are supposed to come from parents who don’t care, who aren’t present, who don’t discipline their kids and who show bully-like behaviour, aren’t they? I openly show my kids love, I’ve dealt out my fair share of smacks and time-outs, I do canteen duty for Christ’s sake! I’m at a loss, how the hell did this happen?
One thing this morning taught me is, don’t always think that the bully comes from a place of torment and belittlement. Don’t always judge a parent by their child’s actions. Sometimes the mother of a bully’s heart breaks for the child that is bullied just as much as their own parent’s. Sometimes it’s not about the parents, but the child. And sometimes, when a child comes home in tears from being bullied, the mother of the bully is herself in tears, wondering where it all went wrong.
Wish me luck!