It hasn't been what you would call a banner year for either of them. While it's been fun to hear Ashlynn count in Spanish and hear the funny phrases and songs that she comes home with, neither one of the kids have loved it there. Ashlynn, who is normally a cute, charming fireball, has been in tears several time because she's been targeted by a certain boy in her class. After stuffing my inborn mom urge to find the child
Enter yesterday, a bad violin lesson for Abby, and a hour's drive back to school. My beautiful, talented oldest daughter sobbed her guts out for forty-five minutes yesterday, telling me how much she hates school because the kids are mean to her and she has no friends. There is no feeling more hopeless in the entire world than seeing your kid in pain and not being able to do a thing about it. There's a pair of girls who are best friends, and Abby wants desperately to be included, but these two girls have no intention of adding to their pair. One of her other friends has committed the ultimate betrayal, and instead of playing house at recess with Abby, has decided to go play basketball with the boys. (And Abby let me know, in no uncertain terms, that she was NOT interested in learning how to play basketball. "It's a boys' game, Mom!")
We talked about other kids in her class she could play with, and she told me that "The brown-skinned girls won't play with me because I have white skin." I wanted to cry at this. She's eight years old, and having to learn difficult, painful, unexplainable issues of racism? But this was the kicker: she burst into a fresh round of sobs and told me that a boy in her class told her at lunch that she was "as fat as a lunch table," and she hated that she was the fattest girl in the class.
Wow. I knew kids were cruel. I had a difficult time in school and felt very much like that until fourth grade, when I was placed in a accelerated program and finally found some friends. But I hurt for my daughter who is so obviously taking an emotional beating at school. After a talk with her teacher, I found out that what Abby really seems to want is a best friend, someone she can stick to and giggle with. Most of the kids are playing jumprope or cops and robbers at recess, and I think Abby would much prefer to have someone to play house with. I talked with Abby a lot about reaching out to other kids who might be lonely, and how she needed to be friendly in order to have friends. You know, all those mom things. But I still ached, and cried, and prayed, because it seemed unfair that she should be so sad.
Today's lesson? Even when things are bad, never assume you've been through the worst.
I was brushing Ashlynn's hair this morning while she and Abby were talking about how Ashlynn was getting a new toy today.
"A new toy?" I asked, skeptically. "Why are you getting a new toy?"
"Ummmm," Ashlynn hestitated, "A boy in my class is bringing it to me?"
"Why is he bringing you a toy?"
"I can't tell you."
Well, as any mother knows, "I can't tell you" really means they need to tell you right now. I pestered her for a minute, and finally it came out.
"A boy in my class lifted up my shirt to look at my panties and then told me he would give me a toy if I didn't tell anyone. He's always talking about boobies too."
My heart fell. Then a few seconds later, I was ready to raise HOLY HELL.
I called the principal on my way to drop the girls off at school, who promised to pull the boy out of class and have the counselor talk with Ashlynn, then call me back to dicuss it. Then I called my husband who hit. the. roof.
Needless to say, we spent the morning calling back and forth, debating our options. Do we pull them out of school? Transfer them back to the neighborhood school? Do we call the police? And what about this little boy who did it? Obviously, the poor child has seen or learned this behavior somewhere.
It's amazing the sheer numbe rof emotions I cycled through in a few hours. It sounds silly to say it this way, but I felt a little violated, knowing that this happened in the classroom of all places. I was frightened knowing that not only was my daughter not safe at school but she was actually in real danger. I was horrified to know that at six and seven years old, she's been exposed to something like this. And I was incredibly grateful that first, it wasn't worse, and second, that she actually told me what happened so we could get a handle on it before anything else happened.
After a few hours, both my husband and I had calmed down a bit, and we met with the principal at the school. There's not a lot they can do about the boy, unfortunately. They can keep a close watch on him, they can talk with his parents, but because he's so young, there's no point in even filing a police report. The principal was very kind, respectful and apologetic, and offered to do anything he could to make it right. But we went into the meeting with our minds made up- it was time to transfer them back to our neighborhood school. He understood, and we walked out with forms signed. Our girls will either be at a new school tomorrow, or at home, hanging with me until their paperwork processes.
So yeah, sometimes it really sucks to be the kid. My head is still spinning with all the "what ifs." My husband and I are shaken, realizing in a way we haven't before, how very hard it is to keep our kids safe. The only thing we can do now is pray, and hope, and watch, and hug them a little closer from now on.