Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Alternatively titled, "How to score points with teenaged boys, undermine your own parenting and guarantee yourself a trip to hell...all in one fell swoop."

While waiting for a ballgame to start, eleven 14 year old boys gathered in a sweaty, odiferous group trading witticisms, barbs and fish stories. On the surface it seems innocuous enough, but if you watch closely, you'll discover that what's really taking place is the establishment of a rank system within a newly formed pack.

The problem with this pack is that they are all alpha males. They are the best of the best; chosen for their skill and experience. They know they are good and all of them are used to being superior among their peers. But in this group, the margin of superiority is smaller, the distinction from one to another is harder to recognize. Nobody is the "star" of this group because they are...Allstars.

I sat and watched and listened. Parents like to talk a lot, yannow? And I'm no exception. I'm often terribly guilty of that myself. But I've discovered that I learn the most when my mouth is firmly closed. If I'm really quiet, they sometimes forget I'm there. They are genuine and unguarded. It's a goldmine of insight for anyone who cares to avail themselves of it.

My son is the newcomer. So they quizzed him on all manner of things; where does he go to school, who are his friends, what girls has he dated, what other sports does he play, is he in honors classes, does he associate with so and so....

He answered good naturedly, not at all affronted by being given the third degree.

One kid, with whom my son formed a fast affinity, asked him..."So, dude, what bus do you ride then?"

And I, without thinking, quipped..."The short one."

They cracked up of course. It was a witty remark, but it was more the fact that Pubescent One got burned by his own Mom. He endured a lot of ribbing over that, again, good naturedly.

Shortly after that, they took the field and I was left alone with my thoughts.

That's when the shame came creeping in.

What a horrible thing to say. What a horrible example to set for these almost men. What a sorrowful thing for any Moms who might have been listening, whose children might ride short busses.

My own youngest son is "different". I know the heartaches that brings. I have friends whose children struggle with disabilities; children who are sweet and kind and full of joy.

I thought too of my talisman man.

I diminished all of them with that comment.

And I was ashamed. Deeply, grievously ashamed.

Later, I talked to my son about it. I told him I was ashamed of what I had said. I told him it was cruel and that it went against everything I feel about tolerance, embracing differences and loving all humanity in its perfect imperfection. I told him I wished I could take it back.

"I let myself get caught up in the moment and my judgement just went right out the window."

He looked at me solemnly, unsure, I think, about just what he should say, or if he should say anything.

"I still think you're a good person, Mom. You didn't mean it."

"It doesn't matter if I meant it or not, babe. The hurt is just as bad. I'm ashamed of myself. Truly."

He grinned then, which ignited a little spark of irritation.

"Why are you grinning like that?" I demanded.

"I'm sorry, Mom. I just like knowing you screw up sometimes too."

"Oh have no idea."

"I do now." he said, grinning even more widely.

He hugged me then, which is becoming more and more rare these days. Something clicked with him. He got it, I think. All of it.

I thought back to my own adolescence. My mother and I nearly killed each other, though today we are very close. My mother was an amazing and wonderful mother in many ways. I feel fortunate to have been raised by her.

But I don't think I ever saw her admit to weakness or wrongdoing. I don't think I ever knew my mother as a person; a fallible being. And I think that set the stage for some major conflict when my sense of self was emerging. I don't think that I ever felt as if I measured up to her standards.

So perhaps my shame has served a purpose in this instance. If it means my son can see me as a human being and take something from that..well...I'll suffer it gladly.

Is there ever a silver lining in the dark cloud of intolerance?

If so, let this be it.

Lesson learned, by both of us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009



It's a thing I relish. I am not a person who embraces change and habit is my own personal talisman against chaos.

There are very few constants in life, however. So I tend to cling to those that present themselves with special fondness and ferocity.

Every morning, as I return from dropping off the elementary kids at school, I am greeted by the sight of a gangly young man child sitting on the corner. He waits for a bus to take him places I will never go.

Always next to him is an enormous back pack. His hair is clipped short in a utilitarian style. His clothing is very tidy; tightly buttoned and neatly tucked. His face has the guileless look of a child, though his upper lip is fuzzed and his cheeks stippled with acne.

Sometimes he paces, sometimes he skips. But mostly he just sits, with his angular legs crossed upon themselves and his jutting elbows resting upon his knees.

He smiles and waves to all the passing cars.

By that time, the suburban rush hour exodus is in full swing, and it's a prodigious number to be sure. But he never tires. It's as if he considers it his personal duty to ensure that everyone starts the day with a cheerful send off.

I always wave back to him. And always, his smile widens, though he beams so broadly, that scarcely seems possible.

I can't remember a time when he wasn't there. Unlike other children, he will not graduate and leave home. He will be sitting on the corner waving long after my boys have started lives of their own.

It's as if he is suspended in time somehow, and I with him. We will wave to one another for many years to come. He will age but not mature. I will grow old in both body and spirit.

But still we will wave to one another. And smile.

That comforts me in a way I can't quite describe.

Good day to you my talisman man. Safe journey and safe return. I'll see you tomorrow and every tomorrow after that. Save for me your brightest smile and I will save for you my most majestic wave.

Both are in endless supply.

They are...constant.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Things You Forget Until You Remember

One reason I write, is to chronicle the mundane little details of life that get losts to the mists of time. Even the big things we believe we will remember forever, grow fuzzy and indistinct. Because a lot happens in the course of a lifetime, and Moms espcially, are consumed by the details of here and now.

There and then are pushed aside to make room.

I hate to think of all the sweet little sounds, gestures and moments I've forgotten to remember.

Recently, my mother was telling me how my new (ish) neice, who is 6 months old, is struggling to find her thumb. She eschews pacifiers most vehemently, but she needs something with which to soothe herself. Somehow she knows that the something is right there at the end of her hand. But she lacks the dexterity to maneuver it into her sweet, kissable little mouth.

And suddenly, a memory returned to me, as often happens; triggered by a thing in my present.

Pubescent One, from birth, was a voraciously oral child. But like my neice, he disdained anything not composed of warm, pliable flesh. As soon as his hands were freed from the confines of my womb, he began searching for his thumb.

This was enormously frustrating for both of us.

I would guide his tiny fist to his grasping mouth and he would latch onto it greedily, sighing through his nose with pleasure, his little eyes rolling back in his head as his eyelids drifted shut. Bliss.

But it never stayed there long. His little limbs were subject to random movements that he was powerless to control. And once lost, he couldn't retrieve the coveted digit by himself. I can't tell you how many times I ran to the nursery to help him find his thumb before he woke himself completely and realized he could do with a snack.

When he was about 8 weeks old, he developed a method that was very effective and surprisingly ingenious.

He would raise his arm in front of his face, peer at it with great concentration, drop it onto his forehead and drag his fist down until he had located his nose. From there it was simply a matter of following his nose until he reached his mouth. It worked like a charm.

I always knew when he was getting sleepy, alerted by the SMACK as his little fist struck his tender brow.

I had forgotten all about that. How could I?

The same way I've forgotten countless other things, I suppose.

I like that memory. It speaks of who the person he is today and was even then; determined, resourceful and smart.

I don't want to forget it again. And now I won't.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Rise And Fall of A Tyrant

You may have gotten the impression from my posts that the bullying has stopped.

It hasn't. The bully has simply taken a new tack. He is sneakier, subtler, and more cautious. There have been three incidents since Diminutive One has been back at school. He may be obtuse, but he's not stupid, so the things he is saying are seemingly innocent. And really from any other kid, they would be. But not this kid.

The difference is, the school is now falling all over themselves to protect my son. On each occassion, the bully has been immediately and unceremoniously hauled into the Principal's office. I am not allowed to know how they punished him, because it's a "confidentiality issue", but I'm wondering how effective these consequences could be given the fact that he's still up to his old tricks.

The lawyer has advised us to let the school handle it...for now. We got everything we asked for, and now we have to demonstrate some willingness to work with them.

There are ten days of school left, and there are lots of special activities planned for the graduating 5th graders. I know how devastated my own kid would be to miss those things. And even though I kinda hate that kid, I don't want to be the one responsible for him missing them. I don't want to take that from him just for spite.

We are only willing to put up with it to a point, however. We've discussed with the attorney just where the line in the sand is drawn and we're agreed about that. Once it is crossed, we will move forward with legal proceedings, regardless of how many school days are left.

The boys will be at the same school together next year, and although it's been noted on both student's records that they are not be in any classes together, there are bathrooms, hallways, lunch rooms (no monitors in Middle School) and common areas where my son could be victimized.

So if the kid can't get it through his thick skull that he is not to so much as glance at my son, he will have to pay the price.

But an interesting thing is happening. Word has gotten around. Parents are calling me, emailing me, approaching me in public to find out if what they've heard is true.

But most importantly, they are talking to their children about it.

As a result, these kids are getting wise to the fact that they don't have to just lie down and expose their bellies to the slavering beast.

Yesterday afternoon Diminutive One came crashing through the front door, flushed and nearly bursting with the story he had to tell me.

"Guess what happened today Mom!"


The words tumbled out of him with scarcely a pause in between.

"At recess, we were playing kickball and when it was my turn Bully said get out of here because you're not even on this team and then the team captain said yes he is cause I chose him and then Bully said he wouldn't be on a team with anybody who sucks so much so the team captain said fine you're off the team and then he tried to go on the other team and they said they didn't want him and then he tried to play anyway but nobody would let him get the ball or take his turn kicking and then got mad and said why are you all taking his side I didn't do anything to him and then the whole class was like WHAAAAAT? you are such a liar we all know what you did and then he stomped off and sat by the door by himself for the rest of recess."

His eyes were bright with excitement and gratification. Somebody had stuck up for him. An entire class of somebodies.

And it's spreading. Kids on Bully's ball team, in his Target class, at ASP...they are all, suddenly, standing up to him.

One Mom with whom I spoke, who is a teacher at the school and whose daughter has had the misfortune of being seated next to him at lunch now that they are assigned seats to keep him away from my son, said to me...

"I told Girlie Lou that if that kid says ONE THING to her or touches a single hair on her head, she better let him have it. I told her to knee him where it hurts if that's what it takes. And then tell the teacher immediately and then tell me. None of us are happy that he's still in the classroom. He is a terror and a delinquent and we don't want OUR kids exposed to him either."

Truthfully...and you will think I'm crazy here...I feel bad for him. There is something wrong with this child and he isn't getting the help he needs. And now he is suddenly, after reigning supreme in his little elementary kingdom, finding himself shunned, reviled, and....accountable for his behavior.

I don't think he understands that he has brought this on himself and I don't think there is anybody to help him understand that.

He is going to be a lonely child if he doesn't mend his ways, and likely a lonely adult as well.

But I can't worry about every other kid in the world. I can hardly stand the stress of worrying about my own.

I just hope somebody starts worryiing about him soon.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Best. Weekend. Ever.

His, not mine, although mine wasn't bad either.

Diminutive One, as you know, has had a pretty rough time of it lately. I've tried to make it better, but there's only so much I can do to make this situation suck less for him.

This weekend, life stepped in and gave a mutha a helpin' hand.

Friday night, he was invited to a friend's house after school to play. I know, your kids have playdates all the time and it's no big whoop. But for my socially awkward child who has difficulty making friends, it was a HUGE deal.

Another boy from his class was invited as well, and the three of them played airsoft (like BB guns, but slightly less injurious. YES, yes, yes...they were all wearing proper protective gear.) for hours, stalking one another in the heavily wooded yard. For Diminutive One, this was nothing short of bliss. He proudly displayed several red marks on his forearm where he had been pelted.

Friday morning he had a baseball game at 9 a.m. It's the playoffs, so the outcome of the game was important. But we quickly gained a pretty comfortable lead and the pressure was off. So the coach decided to put him on the mound.

Oh boy. The last time he pitched, it did not go well. He's still a novice, and not terribly sure of himself. He hadn't expected to pitch that day, and hadn't practiced or even warmed up properly. It was a disaster. One child on his team was loudly critical and accused him of losing the game. It was a real morale buster.

He hasn't pitched since that day.

I BEGGED husband, who is an Assistant Coach, not to let the Head Coach put him on the mound. Not because I gave a flip about how many runs he gave up, but because I didn't think, given what he's been through, that he would be able to endure the humiliation if he did poorly. But he wanted to do it, and Husband thought we should let him. I deferred to his judgement.

Now, it's hard for even the most experienced kid to get out there on the mound. The pressure is unbelievable. But Diminutive One stood up there looking fearless and resolute. I thought no kid had ever been more brave than he was at that moment.

He squared his shoulders, took a deep breathe, and threw.

He struck out two batters. The other got a short line drive and was easily thrown out at first. He didn't hit anybody, walk anybody, or give up any runs.

He walked about six feet off the ground the rest of the day.

Later that evening, he and I attended a "lock in" at a local entertainment venue. Because Principal Dragonlady cancelled the traditional fifth grade trip for no good reason that anybody could ascertain, some Moms got together to organize a special event for them outside of the school.

We arrived around 11 and he capered and cavorted with some of the other kids while I and several other Moms got things set up. He was very light of heart you see, because his nemesis was not attending. Why?

"We talked about it...." said my friend, who was largely responsible for coordinating the event. "And he's not going to be invited. Don't even argue because we already decided. Diminutive One deserves this because of all he's been through. We've got 16 adults to supervise 115 can't be with him every second! He shouldn't have to worry about it. Besides, Bully is mean to every one and nobody needs that tonight. Tonight is about FUN."

I could have kissed them all right then. I was very touched. But I did feel bad for that kid. It's not fun to be excluded, although he certainly wasn't the only child that didn't attend. Only about half the fifth grade students participated.

We had an amazing night. Exhausting, but amazing.

At midnight they watched a movie, ate pizza, socialized and goofed off in a private room. At 2 a.m. when the venue closed to the public, they were turned loose in the building. They had unlimited bowling, billiards and video games until 6 a.m.

I bowled several games with Diminutive One and his friends, played some air hockey, drank soda, ate cake, and watched them all enjoying themselves with a kind of abandon that now exists for most of us only in our memory.

I held wet paper towels to the head of a child who had overindulged. I wiped the tears of a little girl who had tripped and fallen onto her plate, ruining her lovely outfit. I untangled an earring that was hopelessly snarled in strands of sweaty, silky hair and patched a scraped knee. I located lost shoes, purses and phones.

Breakfast was serverd to the ravenous hoarde at 5.

At 6, bleary eyed parents began arriving to pick up their offspring and by 7:00 we had everything cleaned up and loaded in the van. By 7:30 we were at home. I tried to usher Diminutive One up to bed, but he pleaded with me to stay up. He was high on sugar and fun and wouldn't have been able to sleep anyway, so I acquiesced. I figured he would crash on his own when he finally came down. Until his Dad and his brother arose, he had the television all to himself, a rare treat indeed in a house with only one.

Later that afternoon, a neighborhood chum came to call and they spent the afternoon working on a video production in his room.

At dinner I commented that it had been a pretty fun and exciting weekend.

He said...

"Are you kidding me? This was like...the best. Weekend. EVER!"

As he cleared the table, I could hear him whistling. And I realized that I couldn't recall the last time I had heard the once familiar sound. He used to whistle incessantly.

Why hadn't I noticed that it had stopped?

I was not annoyed as I usually am. I didn't tell him to "cut it out already!".

I listened to his tuneless little song and thought that it was the most beautiful thing I had heard in a very long time.

Best weekend ever. Yeah. Absolutely.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Stranger At My Breakfast Table

One on one time with my fourteen year old is becoming increasingly rare. He's a busy kid. School, sports, a thriving social life...

That separation is happening. I knew it would. His life is becoming his own, and I don't figure as prominently in it as I once did. That's the way it's supposed to be and I get that.

So I try to give him space and his independance. I try not to be hurt when he'd rather be with his friends. But sometimes it feels like I'm just a waystation in his life; a place to refuel and recharge.

Yesterday, because both boys had games at the same time, husband and I had to divide and conquer. I ended up taking Pubescent One. In the van, I looked over at my ridiculously large son, noting with some surprise how thoroughly he filled the space next to me.

I realized it had been a while since he had been in my front seat. When it's the two of them, they both ride in the back to quash any arguments over "shotgun".

He looked decidedly alien sitting there. He changes overnight it seems, and almost every day I am greeted by a stranger. One morning an almost man with newly broad shoulders appears at my breakfast table. The next, one with a smattering of fuzz on his upper lip.

It's happening too fast for me to take it all in.

I feel the need to soak up every ounce of him in these last few years before he leaves me. But he needs me to let him try his hand at being an independant adult. It goes against every maternal instinct that I have, not to cling to him with desperate ferocity. But clinging is bad. I know that.

Nurturing while fostering autonomy is a fine line to walk; a veritable tightrope act.



"I've been so caught up in this thing with your brother...I feel like I've neglected you a little bit. What's new that I need to know about?"

He shrugs.

"Nothing, really."

"NOTHING? No gossip, no girl stuff, no school drama?"


Silence ensued. I chewed my lip and tried to think of what more to say to my son. He seemed unperturbed by the silence. Boys are not loquacious by nature, I've learned. And sometimes I have to stop myself from interrogating them.

"Okay. Well, I know I've been busy, but you know I'm always here if you need me, right? I'm never too busy to be your Mom."

"Yeah, I know."

He is silent a moment longer, and then he says,

"Thanks for asking though, Mom."

I smiled at him then. He is maturing not only physically, but emotionally as well. He has picked up on my feelings of guilt over the perceived neglect and feels the need to make it better.

When he was just over a year old, I got terribly, terribly sick. I had a deep, barking cough that wracked my entire body. When I would begin to cough, he would crawl into my lap, lay his head upon my shoulder, and pat my back until the spasm passed.

He's a caretaker and always has been. That hasn't changed with his body.

He's going to be such an amazing young man.

P.S. Next week, I'm going to do as suggested and expand upon the issue of parents' rights when things go wrong at school.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Bullying 101

First, thanks to everyone who emailed or called to tell me about the Oprah program today.

I watched. And I won't lie...that was tough.

From the moment it began, I was fighting back tears. It was just too close. Way. Too close. I wasn't sure I would make it through the whole program. But I did. And mostly, it was a good show; very informative and empowering.

A few things I disagreed with.

One psychologist said that kids don't realize how destructive and devastating sexual slurs are.

Sorry, don't buy it. They know exactly how much it hurts to be called a fag or a dyke, and that's why they do it. Even elementary school kids know it's a bad, bad thing, though the younger ones may not know exactly why.

Another psychologist, said that often, if you just demonstrate verbally that you won't tolerate being bullied, the bully will back down.

Again, don't buy it.

For example, she told one young man to say "STOP it. I'm not going to take your bullying any more!" in a forceful manner. You know what a bully will say to that?

"Oh yeah? How're you gonna make me...faggot?"

And then you have to show him, or else you look like a big fat weenie and things go from bad to worse.

When that young man came on...God, my heart just broke. That poor kid. The term, in the biz, is "bully bait". You know the type. Kind hearted, quiet, shy, passive. Different, unusual, quirky, out of step with his peers.

Diminutive One is the same way.

It's just not in their nature to be aggressive or mean. They aren't comfortable with confronation or conflict. They just want everyone to be happy. So they don't understand kids who bully or how to handle them.

They need help.

I had no idea where to get it for my son. But I learned. And I learned other things along the way.

You may be sick of listening to me and my bully issues. But this is a HUGE problem that is having an enormous social impact on our children. It has spread to the internet and become "cyberbullying".

You or I can walk away from a bully, refuse to work with them, avoid places we know they will go.

Children are held captive in a classroom. They can't escape, no matter where they go.

And it's happening at younger and younger ages. You may still be struggling with potty training or binky weaning and I know that when your children are little these kinds of things seem so implausible and improbable, and really, irrelevant to your entire scope of concern.

But it won't always be that way. One day, your little lambs will be out among the wolves.

You need to learn how to kick some furry wolf ass and so does your kid.

One BIG mistake that we make (I did it) is telling our kids to "ignore it". Sure, in theory, it makes sense. If a bully doesn't get a rise out of their victim, they'll stop. But that's adult think. Kids aren't wired the same way as adults. An adult would stop. A kid won't.

Because strangely enough, studies show that bullies, while obviously maladjusted, usually have average or above average self-esteem. They don't do it for attention. They do it for sport.

Also, no kid can ignore a bully completely. They can't control non-verbal responses such as body language or facial expressions that will inevitably betray the fact that they are humiliated, embarassed or upset.

So the only thing ignoring a bully accomplishes is to give them a target that they can harass with impunity. What fun!

And by telling our kids to ignore it, we are dismissing and diminishing the very profound affect the taunting and persecution is having on them. It's like putting a band-aid on a severed limb. It's quick and it's easy, but it's not terribly effective.

We need to let them know we are listening and that we will act when they need us to. We need to let them know that someone will do something to make it stop.

If you'll notice, it's the very first thing on my list of do's and don'ts.

1. DO listen to your child when they come to you about bullying. DON'T tell them to ignore it.

2. DO take reports of bullying seriously. DON'T assume it's typical "kids will be kids" conflict that will go away.

3. DO realize that verbal taunts are just as harmful, if not more so, than physical attacks. DON'T assume that because it's not physical, it isn't really bullying, and it isn't having a profound effect on your child.

4. DO be aware of signs that your child is being bullied. DON'T assume that a seemingly happy child means the problem has gone away.

An aside: Signs of bullying aren't always obvious, especially if the bullying is verbal, rather than physical. Know your child. Often, changes in their personality or habits can indicate that something is drastically wrong. For example: Diminutive One's bully continually criticized his artwork. Diminutive One, who was constantly drawing and sketching, stopped. I noticed, but I didn't realize it was due to bullying. I thought it was just because he had developed other interests.

3. DO expect the bullying to stop immediately. DON'T accept assurances without a written, signed plan of action to address the problem and impose consequences on the bully.

4. DO familiarize yourself with the school's bullying policy. DON'T accept excuses from the school about why it hasn't been implemented.

5. DO use the policy to your advantage, but DON'T make the mistake of assuming it's there to protect your child. It's not. It's a CYA measure meant to protect the schools and administrators.

6. DO know your rights as a parent, and those of your child. DON'T allow administrators to intimidate you into believing you have none.

7. DO empower your child to defend themselves, either verbally or physically. DON'T ever impose consequences for doing so.

Another aside: Bullies are very good and manipulating situations to make it seem as if the victim is the actually the one in the wrong. One thing that Diminutive One's bully would do is whisper to him or antagonize him during times of quiet such as testing, silent reading, etc. When finally Diminutive One would react, and tell the bully to leave him alone, he would be punished for talking. Or, in the case of the infamous "Suck My Balls" incident, a bully will simply provoke their victim until they lash out, then tattle.

I never imposed consequences on Diminutive One for these instances. I made sure he knew I believed him, and that I would never punish him for standing up for himself. I can't always protect him from facing any consequences at school, but in the case of the SMB incident, I did let it be known that I wouldn't tolerate the extreme measures the Principal had taken.

8. DO trust in and believe your child when they tell you they have done nothing to antagonize their bully. DON'T place the blame on the victim.

9. DO remove your child from the situation if necessary. DON'T let administrators scare you with threats about truancy. You have a right to protect your child under the law. If they aren't providing a safe, comfortable environment in which your child can learn, you have the right to remove them. They will tell you otherwise. DON'T believe them. It could be a matter of life and death for your child.

10. DO have your child assessed by a mental health professional. You will need confirmation that your child's emotional state is being drastically affected by the hostile environment and your child will most likely need someone outside the situation to help them cope. DON'T assume the absences can be excused by you, the parent. As far as the school system is concerned, you have no rights. Most truancy laws state that absences must be excused in writing by a medical professional.

11. DO enlist outside help. DON'T try to go it alone. There are people trained to deal with thesse kinds of situations. There are advocacy groups to aid and inform. Our lawyer accomplished in two hours what I had been trying to accomplish for two weeks. I wish I had called her sooner. Which brings us to our next point.

12. DO be prepared for a prolonged battle. DON'T assume that your concerns will be given the consideration they deserve or addressed promptly. DON'T give up.

Diminutive One is doing well. He was anxious about his first day back, but quickly realized that when the lawyer said it would stop, she meant it. Until that point, he had felt utterly powerless and alone. Now he knows there is someone on his side and he doesn't have to take the abuse.

Now that we have hired a lawyer, the school is all about protecting him. They have implemented various measures to see that his needs are met. Assholes.

He is happy. I see my son emerging once again; shedding his victim skin. I wish you could see the difference in the child he is today, and the child he was two weeks ago.

Watching those two mothers, knowing they had just buried their children and knowing they had suffered the same kind of torment and abuse as my son....I felt a very deep sorrow.

But I also felt amazingly happy.

Because my son is not dangling from the end of a rope.

And we can make sure that no child suffers that fate. But we have to speak up and let the bullies of the world know that we won't tolerate it. We have to let administrators know that we won't allow them to look the other way. We have to let our kids know that we will protect them, no matter what.

Thanks for reading.

I'll get off my soapbox now and try to write something not related to bullying.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Notes On A Post


I evoked some strong feelings with the last line of my last post.

I'm a little surprised, but I shouldn't be.

One can never anticipate all the ways in which ones words will be construed. And there have been other posts of mine that went all wonky because something I said was misinterpreted. It's hard, in this medium, because there is no tone or facial experssion to help the reader infer meaning.

Really, I like it when a post sparks some thought and conversation.

So let me clarify.

First, I was absolutely being tongue in cheek.

I'm glad things are easy for my oldest son. Admittedly, as much for myself as for him. He's not nearly as challenging as Diminutive One, and never has been, even when adolescence reared it's ugly head. By nature, he's an easy going, affable, friendly and outgoing person. He's tall and slim, and naturally athletic. Girls love him. He's socially adept and popular.

He has ADD as well, but does well when he chooses to. We do struggle with motivation because he doesn't love school. But basically, he's an easy child to raise. And he's an easy child to be around.

So, resentment? No. Not on my part. But placing myself in Diminutive One's shoes, I worry that there will be some. He thinks his big brother has it all, and he has nothing. He can't see and appreciate his own gifts, which are numerous, because he's too busy coveting his brother's.

You see, I have the unique perspective of being both the perfect one, and the fuckup.

I know what it's like to feel like no matter what you do, or how hard you try, you will never be as good as the "perfect" one, and you'll never be the favorite. I know what it's like to wish that just once, the perfect one would screw up. To hope beyond hope that just once, she would be the one in disfavor. I know what it's like to want so desperately to be the "good" one, even if it's just for a moment; even if it's only because of her fall from grace. I know the turmoil of a love/hate relationship.

But having two sisters, I also know the pressures and frustrations of being the "perfect" one. While I have always perceived the sister closest in age to me as being the "perfect" one, my youngest sister perceives me this way.

I feel her contempt and resentment. I wish she could understand that my life is far, far, far from perfect. I wish she could understand that I don't think she should be like me, I just want her to have all the things she deserves. I know that no matter what I do, she will be bitter, and our relationship strained. That frustrates me and makes me feel sad.

I don't want that for my boys. I want them to love each other for who they are and not be sad or jealous. And I don't want to unconsciously foster the rivalry.

I know that's not a realistic expectation. Siblings will always be rivals, it's just the nature of the beast. And no matter how hard I try to be neutral, one will perceive me as favoring the other and vice versa.

But when you have two who are so vastly different, it's even more of a concern. When one breezes through life, and one struggles so mightily....I worry. A lot. For both of them.

Because being the perfect one isn't all it's cracked up to be. And being the screw up is no picnic either.

I think the only way to avoid the competetive dynamic is to only have one child.

OOPS. Too late.

So all I can do is to make sure each of them knows how much I love them, and how special they are as individuals. I can nurture their gifts and help them realize their potential and make sure that each of them in their own way are successful.

I hope that will be enough to keep the bitterness and resentment on both sides to a minimum. I hope that will spawn a love big enough to overcome the envy.

Maybe, one day, when I'm gone, and they're remembering me fondly (fingers crossed) they'll be having a discussion. And one of them will say..."Well, you always were Mom's favorite." And the other will say, "WHAT? You were Mom's favorite."

And then, looking down from my cloud, I'll know...that I screwed them both up equally.

Brotherly Love

When I was 11, I read the entire Bible cover to cover.

In my Sunday School, those who did so received a handsome Naugahyde bound Bible with their name inscribed in gold letters.

I wanted that Bible. Badly.

I really have no idea why, and I doubt I did then either. Children are not terribly inclined to examine the deeper meaning behind their desires. But I suspect that it was my way of compensating for the feelings on inferiority that I experienced at that church.

We were the poor folks, you see. My sisters, my mother and I wore the same dresses every week, the same kneesocks, the same faux leather plastic clogs with wood grain plastic soles. Our Dad wore the same suit, the same tie, the same tie pin.

Certain other children wore a new, perfectly coordinated outfit every week. They had matching shoes and handbags. And they had leather bound Bibles with their name on the cover.

They sneered at us, nice Christian children that they were.

Anyway....for whatever reason, I coveted that Bible.

So I read.

I read every Chapter painstakingly, stumbling over thees and thous and puzzling over the archaic language.

Unfortunately, it wasn't guided reading. All I had to do was answer a few questions when I was done, for which I received a gold sticker. Who was whom, who did what to whom, what was the moral of the story. If I didn't exactly know, I could usually cobble together something plausible enough to satisfy my inquisitor.

I was not mature enough or worldly enough to extrapolate certain ideals in order to grasp the subtext that is rife throughout that ancient tome. As a result, much of the meaning was lost on me.

But I wasn't after meaning. I was after the goods.

So I received my Bible. And it was wonderful. Oh, it smelled good; fresh parchment, ink and chemically processed pleather fumes. I was in heaven. I carried that Bible proudly for many years. I still have it tucked away somewhere; dogeared and dusty. The binding is cracked and the gold lettering has worn away.

It's a symbol, I suppose. I won the prize, but maybe cheated myself in the process.

Anyway...the point is...

Despite being raised in a Christian home and being made to attend Sunday School every week for years and years, I don't know the Bible as well as some people do.

For example, I know that Cain slew Abel, but I don't know why. I probably did once, but have since forgotten.

So I'm going to offer my own hypothesis.

Cain slew Abel because Abel was so fucking perfect and everything was so damned easy for him.

It's enough to drive a brother to murder, I think, when one brother struggles just to get through each day, while the other breezes through life so effortlessly. It's enought to breed antipathy and contempt when one brother has to watch the other achieve everything his heart desires; to be liked and admired, to succeed in all his endeavors without really even trying, to never stumble and fall.

I believe envy is the byproduct of brotherhood, even if those brothers truly love one another. I believe Cain loved Abel very much. But there's only so much a brother can take.

I wonder, with my sons, when the antipathy will come.

For now, Diminutive One's adoration of his brother is simple and pure, without the complication of envy. But how long will that last? How long can he live in his brother's shadow without bitterness and resentment creeping in.

Already I see signs. And it worries me.

I remember feeling the same way about my sister. She was my mother's favorite and still is. So are her children. She was the "good" one; the one who did everything right, and never screwed up.

For a long time I thought of it in terms of "better" and "worse", she of course, being the better.

But she wasn't really better, she was just easier and more like my mother, which meant that my mother understood her. She didn't, and maybe still doesn't, understand me. I was a challenging child to raise, I think, and I know how that can wear a Mother down.

I get it now. I don't blame my Mother and And I don't hate my sister. On the contrary; I consider her one of my closest friends, my confidant and my confessor.

So maybe, just maybe, Diminutive One won't grow to hate his brother for being perfect. For having it so easy. Maybe the adoration will remain untainted. Maybe they will just love each other.

But it wouldn't hurt if Pubescent One fucked up every now and then.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ray Of Sunshine

You know...sometimes, when things are dark and bleak, it's easy to surrender to the idea that things will always be dark and bleak.

But if you're lucky, a ray of sunshine will break through the darkness to lighten your soul.

Pffft. What drivel, right?

Not really.

You know I struggle with the idea of a divine being.

But yesterday, someone or something put an amazing woman in our path.

She was our ray of sunshine folks.

She was a very expensive ray of sunshine, but a ray of sunshine nonetheless. This woman was a Powerhouse. A Dynamo. A Force of friggen Nature. And she accomplished in two hours, what I could not accomplish in two weeks.

Our problems are solved. Just like that.

After all the worry. All the lost sleep.

After all the...

And now, with one wave of her platinum plated diamond encrusted lawyerly wand....POOF.

But here's the thing that makes her especially awesome:

She is worried about the bully too. Some of the things that we told her set off alarm bells.

She is a disability attorney specializing in student's rights, so she knows her disorders. She was amazingly knowledgeable about and accomodating of Diminutive One's issues. At one point, she tried to role play with him, but that is just not something he can do. She immediately backed off, recognizing that his issues make that extremely uncomfortable for him.

So she arranged things so that the bully is being referred for psychological testing. Now, his parents don't have to comply with that suggestion. But hopefully they will and he'll get the help he needs.

Because bullies are not happy people. We all know that.

I thought she rocked. I want to be her, in truth. Because at the end of the day, what she has done matters. She changes people's lives. She certainly changed ours.

We're going to be okay.

Diminutive One is going back to school on Monday with the knowledge that he will be safe and protected.

He gets to particpate in Field Day, the Fifth Grade dance, the Fifth grade Luau, the Fifth Grade Walk, Fifth Grade graduation. I was trying to downplay the fact that he would miss those things, but he was heartbroken nonetheless.

He will be allowed to make up the tests he needs. And the Middle School has already been notified that next year, that child is not to be in any of his classes, ever.

Does my ass look smaller? Cause I swear I feel like I lost 100 lbs overnight.

Again, thank you. You've been my sounding board and my cheering section through all of this. You may think that the comments you've left are just more words on a screen, but they're not. They have buoyed and sustained me.

And hey, listen, if you live in Georgia and you've got a bully problem? I got a name and number for you.

She can't work miracles, but I guarantee she can make the sun shine brighter in your world.

Peace Out people. I'm going to go have a very large glass of wine.