Friday, May 25, 2012


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.


Tine said...

I have been following your saga on Twitter. But I haven't had a good way to respond b/c I'm not on Twitter myself. I just want you to know that I am enraged and sad (at the school, which is shockingly incompetent) and amazed (at you at your family, who are staggeringly awesome). And I'm rooting and praying for you every day from half a continent away.

electriclady said...

I'm never on Twitter anymore so I missed all of this, except I remember you talking about school issues a while ago. Good for you. You are one tough mama.

Same Nice Person said...

Kol hakavod for removing Bet from a harmful situation.

It totally makes sense that the behaviors Bet has been exhibiting were all prompted by that awful environment.

Wasn't there something a while back with Bet becoming upset that some kids weren't wearing coats? Well, if kids aren't following rules about wearing coats, they might not follow rules about not bullying him (and about not exposing his brother to allergens). I can see someone smart and anxious like Bet putting that together.

Working to make Bet feel and be safe is a great thing on which to now be focusing. May these efforts prove fruitful and also result in new confidence for both you and Bet.

Is it weird that I kind of admire and envy Bet for responding aggressively? Aggression may be more extreme and less productive than assertiveness, but I'm feeling it's more damaging to one's personality and self-image and approach to the world and daily functioning to withdraw and allow it to happen and accept that that's how it is.

Again, kol hakavod. Standing up for one's child is so important. Good job.

Stephanie said...

Good for you! Sounds like a terrible environment for him to be in- I'm sure it's not an ideal situations, but kudos o you for being the mama he needs.