Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sometimes it sucks to be the kid

This year, Ashlynn decided she wanted to switch school to be part of a dual-immersion Spanish program.  We were all excited about it. Sounded like a great opportunity, expand cultural boundaries, have a new and exciting talent, blah blah blah.  The new school wasn't far away and we were able to arrange a carpool, and so I switched both girls over.

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 and flush his head down the toilet give him a stern talking to, we talked with her teachers several times and things seemed to be going better in that regard.

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.

15 comments:

  1. Oh, I'm so sorry this happened. I hope the new school makes a difference for her friend-wise. I feel powerless to keep my kids safe from these types of things.

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  2. That does sound like a grueling affair. Can I just tell you that before our oldest started kindergarten, we started having talks with him about the sacredness of our bodies and that NO ONE should ever see his private parts except for us and a doctor if we are present. We have continued to have these talks with him since then. I was exposed to similar when I was in 1st grade, and that was 24 years ago. It is definitely a hard world to live in and raise children in. I think you did the right thing.

    And yes, that boy had to have learned it from somewhere, but at the same time, I have noticed that boys are much more interested in that stuff than girls are, even from a young age. We have had to have several talks with our boys about certain things that are inappropriate that we've caught them doing, and I'm pretty sure that our home is a pretty good place and we don't expose them to anything like that here.

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  3. Oh Stacy, I think I would be out for blood! So would my husband. How awful! I am grateful that things weren't worse but still... *shudder*.
    I had a few incidents happen to me when I was a kid. I feel thankful for parents who had the spirit with them.
    I hope things go better at their new school.

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  4. That's awful! I hope things start going better for you and your family. It's to bad something more couldn't be done. I don't know what but something would've been nice. It's scary that things like that are no longer happening to just the older kids. Prayers will be sent your way because after something like that you need all the support you can get.

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  5. omigosh, i'm so glad you caught that in time. it shows how important it is for us to listen to our kids, ask questions, and make it safe for them to talk to us about anything. we also need to ask them periodically - just bluntly ask "has anyone touched you where they shouldn't?" ... you never know, and it's important to catch it asap. i hope the new school is better.

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  6. Ugh. I wrote about the same kind of thing over the weekend. It really is so hard to watch our children struggle. I hate it.

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  7. Wow! I think it's awful that there is nothing the school can do about it. It sounds like you've made the right decision, and it's good that you at least have options. I hope things start looking up for both girls! They are beautiful girls!

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  8. Um - can I just say SPEECHLESS! So sorry about all of it. It's so hard when kids are struggling with finding friends. It breaks my heart. But the other issue is just horrifying to say the least. I can only imagine how your heart dropped. I, too have noticed that boys are so much more curious than girls seem to be and it scares me for other reasons entirely. I'm on the other end of that story hoping and praying neither of my boys ever does anything like that!!!!!! Uggg! When did raising kids get to be so hard?

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  9. Oh my goodness! That is so scary! I'm so grateful you're a mom who talks with your kids and asks questions. Hang in there!

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  10. geez! You probably already know how strongly i feel about what happened to Ashlynn...you're such an awesome mom! Coming from someone who knows sexual abuse as a child way too well, all I can say is that there is a bigger problem behind the boy with the toy...his wording to Ashlynn says it all. Hang in there, and yes, hug them closer. I hope the principal and teachers are more aware so that this doesn't happen again. Again, I think you reacted so well! luv you! trina

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  11. How horrible! I'm glad you had an option with them so they didn't have to stay there! I'm going to have nightmares, I think.

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  12. We have schools sending kids home for bringing a lego gun to school and there's nothing they can do about this boy? Yes, bringing them out of that school is the right thing to do!! I am very sorry about the fear and heartbreak.

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  13. Oh, Stacy, so many thoughts going through my head right now. Totally understand you and your frustration. Just remember that no matter what school they attend, there are curious boys EVERYWHERE, and the ONLY way to protect your girls is to teach them what to look out for, and keep talking and listening to them, and ask questions. It's unfortunate that we as parents need to arm our children with information like this at such a young age, but the consequences are far worse! So glad it ended there, and hopefully the parents of the boy will have the courage to get him help and this won't happen to anyone else.

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  14. wow, that's not even cool! I have these talks with my boys but I will be having another one. sorry you had to remind me of the things that can happen with our kids at school. I hope things will go better at the other school.

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