Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October is a lot of things

The month of October is known for a lot of different causes and awareness issues.

I want to share a little bit on October as National Bullying Prevention Month.

It's no secret that one of the reasons that we chose to homeschool in 2010 was because of the bullying that Cody was experiencing.  It wasn't even just in school, like the physical building, it was on the bus and in the neighborhood.  It was ridiculous.

It just kind of seemed like our son was "that kid", the one that bullies targeted and picked on. Which, was and still is kind of shocking.  Being the tallest kid, heads above those who tormented him (and they were a full grade older than him), you'd think that his size would deter it in some way.  It didn't.

It started in kindergarten.

How sad is that, it started in kindergarten.

We talked to his teacher and we enrolled him in a karate class that focused on self-defense.

We encouraged him to not take it, to not allow anyone to physically hurt him by pinching or hitting or kicking.  We encouraged him to tell a trusted adult at school immediately when it happened.  That he was not someone else's punching bag.

We even told him that if he defended himself, and fought back that he would never be in trouble at home and that we would defend him at school, but to realize that the school has rules and if you break them there are repercussions.  BUT, he would never be in trouble with us if he defended himself in a physical altercation.

It didn't matter, it still happened.

He wanted to be liked.

He wanted to be popular.

He wanted to have friends.

But, non of those things, being liked or popular or having friends means that the other person is allowed to treat you like shit, to hurt you.

He didn't understand that, and, it took him YEARS to get to a place of understanding with that.  And, no, I don't know why.

When we moved to a new town with a new school he would be attending in 2nd grade it was a game changer.  It was bullying on steroids.  It was NUTS.  I talk with my friend who has a son the same age as Cody, who attended the same school district (not same elementary school) and we both thinks there was something in the water that those kids were drinking.  That group, that entire 3 year age group on kids, my goodness.  Intense doesn't even describe the level of bullying that was going on.

With this change in group and level, we had to up our game, too.

The worse of it all was the bus.  In my opinion, the school bus is a mobile torture devise, I'm sorry.

The hardest thing that I ever had to do was sit in my van at the end of my driveway and videotape my child being hit with rocks and sticks and get water poured on his head at the bus stop prior to school. Why?
Because the phone calls, emails and visits to the school to express my concern were falling on deaf ears.
Because my child was hating, HATING school.  He would run home from his bus stop to avoid the bullies who were roaming the streets after school looking for him.
No joke...

We had him in karate
We put him in wrestling
We repeatedly tried to reinforce in him that being picked on was not okay.  That standing up for himself was his right.

I don't want to say that non of it helped, but the bullying continued.

The best year of his public schooling career prior to high school was 5th grade.  Because in 6th grade you were considered a middle schooler and attended school in a different building, on a different bus route & on a different time schedule.  He flourished in 5th grade.  He also didn't leave the house to play outside with friends fearing running into the bullies.  He got into his first fist fight that year, he punch a kid in the nose, he met his limit and wasn't taking it anymore from that kid.  The kid fell flat to the ground.  He also never picked on Cody again.

6th grade was tough.  I drove him to and from school.  That limited his exposure to them, but they were still in the halls and still on the streets.  By October we had made up our minds, we were pulling him.  There was more to our decision than just the bullies.  Leadership with the school was floundering.  Academically, they wouldn't push Cody to do more or try harder.  He wasn't a trouble maker and he did what he was told.  He was the perfect wall-flower.

For the first 3 months that we homeschooled he decompressed.  Everything came out.  We sought professional help and he talked more about what happened, what his fears were and we helped him through it.

I realize that homeschooling isn't an option for everyone.  It was for us, and we are for fortunate. What it afforded us was the opportunity to build up our child's self worth.  Let him explore and try new things without fear of being teased or beaten up.  It allowed him to form his own sense of self.  And I will always be grateful for that.  He's a stronger and more independent person.  He knows who he is.

I think that we need to move away from the "ignore the bully" mentality and help those being bullied not feel like it's their fault, they are victims enough. I'm saying that as a mother of a child who was bullied.
Now, what I would also encourage is finding out why the bully is bullying.  Where do they need help?  A kid doesn't just wake up one day and say "Hey, I'm going to throw a rock at Cody." What has happened to lead up to that point? Something else is going on.

We are fortunate enough to have the belief that mental health is just as important and physical health, so seeing a mental health professional isn't a foreign idea.
We were also fortunate enough to have the ability to pull our child and homeschool him.  To allow him that opportunity.
We also teach our children to never, under any circumstances, to allow another person (male or female) to physically or verbally be mean to them or hurt them.  We don't care if it's a "friend" or a family member or some random kid at the park.  It doesn't fly.  We won't tolerate it, neither should they.
We are building our sons up, teaching them to be individuals and leaders confident in themselves, their beliefs and their thoughts & actions, and that they don't have to take anyone else's shit.
They need to be compassionate, just, fair, understanding and show empathy - they don't need to be doormats. To anyone.      

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