For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter, we just pulled Bet mostly out of school. It has become overwhelmingly clear that the school is both unable, and unwilling, to protect him from being bullied.
It has become clear, too, that Bet has difficulty reading social cues and controlling himself: he responds aggressively to neutral things that other kids do, which were never meant to bother him. But there is no doubt he is also being repeatedly, intentionally harrassed. Even if it weren't emotionally damaging him to stay in this environment, it would be pointless. We can't possibly teach him to behave like the other kids are not out to get him, if they actually are out to get him.
Putting this decision into action was way too many things I hate - heartbreaking, enraging, confrontational - and I knew I would be relieved when it was over. But I didn't fully understand why.
I guess it should have been obvious; I've been so focused on what Bet needs - he needs to feel safe, he needs to be safe, he needs to get out of there. I spent a while just holding him, the day I picked him up sobbing after he was ganged up on by almost his entire class, holding him and saying, "You don't deserve this. You don't deserve this." And yesterday I told him why he wasn't going back: "Some boys in your class keep being mean to you, and it seems like the teachers can't stop it from happening. If they don't stop it, then Eema and Abba have to." He needs to know he can trust us to stand up for him.
I just didn't realize how badly I needed to show myself that, too. Even I - too weak to tell someone what I think of them to their face, too quick to defer to authority and experience, too doubting of my own instincts - even I can stand up for my kid. To the administrator who pleads with us to try again, who promises to do it better the next time, I can say in a voice shaking but clear: "There is no 'next time'. We're done."
Over and over, since they were babies, it comes down to this lesson I need to learn most: feeling helpless is poison to me. It's not true, anyway. I am not powerless. I can make it stop.
I can be what they need.