On Bullying

Bullying. 

Every time there is another shooting someone brings up bullying. And I hear about horrible things friends have gone through in their life, things I wish I would have seen but didn’t – with some friends. Just plain horrible things no human should have to go through with friends I didn’t know during those years they were bullied. 

Recently I have also heard about two friends’ children being bullied. 

Here’s the thing – people say all the time “kids are just mean” or “what can we do about it?” There ARE things we can do about it.

Every one of these children has a parent or guardian. Every single bully. They all have an adult that is supposed to be in charge of the rearing and raising of the child. 

Now. Sometimes the parents don’t know what is happening. Sometimes it’s never been brought to their attention. Sometimes they don’t see ANY signs at home and they haven’t gotten in trouble and they just can’t believe their poor sweet Billy would do such a thing. But the thing is, I don’t really believe that. I believe there are signs that people are missing. 

Friends, I want to encourage you to do the hard work. Even when it hurts. Even when you aren’t sure or don’t believe it. Even when it seems like the school/other parent is picking on your child. Do the hard work. Open your eyes.

When my son was in preschool I was told almost 4 months into the year that my son was having behavior problems. I truly was floored. we didn’t see that behavior at home. Truly. He wasn’t hurting children, but he was getting very angry, lashing out, yelling at other children, being mean to other children. I didn’t say “not my child!” I asked what we needed to do to work on it. I asked to have the specialists brought in. I asked how could I help. I went to the school and observed from outside the classroom through the window. I did NOT say “oh, he couldn’t do that” and forget about it. I was actively part of a plan to help him learn that this behavior was not acceptable. I talked to him at home every single day about what happened and how we can do better. Now, when the school calls (only twice this year) to tell me something has happened, I never assume my child is on the “right” end of things. And I do the hard work of digging through what happened with him to get to the bottom of it. I try to figure out what the real story is and how we can stop it from happening again. The time to do it is at this age. Preschool, Kindergarten, First grade. The time to do it is before they are 17 year olds, smashing someone’s face into the bathroom wall. 

Let me back up a bit, because I know some of you are thinking “sometimes you really don’t know until then.” 

I have a relative. When her child does something wrong the first thing she does is try to figure how some other child made her son do whatever he did wrong. She asks the other children what they did. She asks the other parents why weren’t they in the room with the children. She makes a big deal out of what OTHER people did, all the while not conversing with her son. She doesn’t try to figure out what the son did wrong. And for weeks or months she may continue to defend her son. She will bring up why she doesn’t like someone else’s kid because they “got her son in trouble”. We had a get together and this child hurt several of the other children. Several times. When we asked her to intervene she didn’t. She said “oh no, I am sure he isn’t doing that.” Even though several kids came to us at different times telling us the same story. 

This mother refuses to teach her child that you can’t hurt others. That you can’t just lie and get out of it. That’s what the older kids do, you know. “Oh mom, I would never do that. I would never hurt someone else – that person just wants to get me in trouble because they are jealous.” And that mom has never done the hard work. She has never stopped and said to herself “my child is a person. They make mistakes just like anyone else. That doesn’t mean they are a bad person, it means I need to get to the bottom of this behavior and try to help them stop doing this.” So, yes, when the high school calls and says there is a problem, they aren’t prepared. They don’t believe it. This IS the “first they are hearing about this sort of thing.” This is the first they are hearing about it because they haven’t been listening. They haven’t been trying to figure out what their child needs. They haven’t been talking to their child and digging out the real story. They haven’t been doing the hard work.

I believe the thing to do is to pay attention to what the people around you are saying. Is there a house or two your child isn’t welcome in? Maybe it really is your child’s fault. Figure it out. Sit down with the parents. Ask what happened. Put down your defensive thoughts and actions and find out what is really going on. Are the children in class unable to sit by your child? Why? What is he/she doing that makes them undesirable enough that they have to get moved a lot. Maybe it’s just that they talk too much. Maybe it’s that they are mean. Find out. Do the neighborhood children refuse to come over and play? Why? What is going on that they don’t want to. Maybe your child isn’t being mean, but you need to figure out WHY they are being ostracized either way.

When another parent comes to you with an accusation that their child has been bullied by your child, do not assume. Don’t assume that is the whole story, but more importantly don’t assume that your child is innocent. That is one of the most dangerous things we can do these days as parents, in my opinion. 

And if your child is the one being bullied, bring it to the attention of the other parent. It’s uncomfortable. We want to stay in our own little homes and not say anything and hope it goes away. But we can’t. We need to talk to someone else about it. The worst that happens is that the parent is a jerk too. They don’t believe you. The behavior is continued. But at least they can’t say “this is the first I am hearing of this.” Hopefully that will help in dealing with the situation with the school or coach or whomever is also involved, if indeed the parent denies it too.

Do the hard work. Don’t let it slide. It really DOES matter.

 

 

 

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Draw your lines, dude.

Today was a difficult day. My son’s sensory problems were overwhelming for both of us. It doesn’t matter that we do home therapy every day and that we have come through a year of professional OT services and that he has improved so much. Some days are still just difficult. And I suppose that is ok. We all have difficult days. I try to remember that, I really do.

Today started out bad. Socks didn’t fit right, waffles didn’t taste right, there was too much sun, too little sun. Everything was stinky. His friends came over and jumped on the trampoline with him. One of the friends accidentally tripped over him and he thought his arm was broken because it hurt so badly. I made him come inside to rest and lay down.

Days like this, I don’t know what to do. Screen time makes him feel worse, but that’s all he wants – to rest in a cool dark room and veg out watching movies. Taking him anywhere (I have learned) is useless – nothing will turn a day like that worse faster than going in public. So, we melted into a pile of his tears, my hair and snuggles. It didn’t make everything better, but I was able to show him I am here for him, anytime – every time.

Maybe that’s the key.

Maybe I can’t fix everything. Maybe I can’t make it all better. I know when I am having a bad day no one else can make it right. So, we did some OT. Then I threw him in the bath. Then when he couldn’t eat more than a couple bites of ANYTHING, I just let it go. I let him munch a little on what he asked for all day. He snuggled with the dog and with me. I took some time for myself on the computer.

At some point it hit me:

Why do I expect more out of my son than I do myself? No, I don’t have his sensory issues. But I have anxiety and fatigue and pain and some other issues. Do you know what it’s like to go out into a loud, public, crowded place when you are anxious? I do. And I think my son feels similarly when he is having a hard day. I don’t expect myself to do things that are too overwhelming. I have very well defined lines that I won’t make myself cross for much of anything. Maybe my brother’s graduation or a cousin’s wedding. But for the most part I do what I need to to help myself. So why don’t I allow my son the same?

And right then and there I decided that might be the best thing I can teach him on days like this.

Draw your lines, dude.

Stick to it. Don’t let anyone make you do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or hurt, even your mom. If you can’t play with your friends, I will tell them you don’t want to play. (Not that I said you can’t, not that you aren’t feeling well, but that you don’t want to, because that should be all it takes for you to not have to do something. Saying you don’t want to should be enough. No excuses. Do what makes you feel best.)

Tell me what you need. Tell me your frozen gogurt sucks today. Tell me you can’t stand the smell of the dog’s breath. Tell your dad he is wrestling too hard. Tell us what you need.

Maybe THAT is the point of these days.

Maybe THAT is what you need to learn.

That you can’t always do it all.

No one can.

And THAT is ok.

 

 

*this is part of a “blog hop” for talking about Sensory Processing problems. I wrote it before I was invited to that, but it seemed to fit, so I waited to post it.*

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National Cancer Survivor’s Day

Today is, apparently, National Cancer Survivor’s Day.

I heard about it a few days ago and thought “oh, I will change my facebook profile picture or something on Sunday.” 

Then I went to change it and I realized a doodle can’t explain what it means to me to be a cancer survivor. 

When I was in an IRL women’s cancer support group, the leader always said that if you have been diagnosed and are still living, you are a cancer survivor. It doesn’t matter whether you are in recovery, in remission, waiting to start chemo, or just diagnosed an hour ago – you are surviving. And you are a cancer survivor.

I liked that thought. Instead of enduring through it, or trying to beat it, or fighting a hard fight, I was a survivor. I had survived.

I had a really hard fight – an unusual case. A lot of pain and worry. My life changed – more than I can explain. And my cancer (thyroid) has the highest rate of recurrence. But today I am doing well. I have not had to have surgery for four and a half years. My blood work and follow up ultrasounds have, so far, been very good. I am optimistic about where I am in my journey. My quality of life is even changing for the better.

World Cancer Survivor’s Day is supposed to be about telling the world what life is like – after cancer. After you have survived. So, this is what life after cancer means to me. 

I am happy. I am happy most of the time. I am more optimistic than I was before cancer – which is kind of weird when I think about it… I have realized that life can be good no matter what problems you have in life. Yes, it might be hard to function with chronic pain, or constant nausea, or constant fatigue (all of which are getting better). But, I always have my family. I always have my son to put a smile on my face. I always know that I am loved and cherished no matter how I feel or what my life is like right now. To know people love you, unconditionally, that is a wonderful thing to realize. I have learned that some days are good. Some days suck really bad. But all my days are better than a day in chest surgery or the week after swallowing radiation. I have found even more empathy for people who are sick or have other challenges. There were times when I could NOT do much. Where if I wanted to go out with my son I needed to plan ahead very carefully, not spend too much energy on anything else – conserve all I could. Even the drive to where ever we were going could completely exhaust me. I didn’t do my hair or makeup much. Often dishes were left in the sink that day. I did what I could – but I had to chose which activity was important. Wearing makeup was not the priority. So, when I see someone who “looks like” a frazzled mess, I am reminded that I have no idea what that person’s life is like. I learned that family (or friends you have made your family) are very important. I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to let others help. Which are two different things. I have learned things that really do help – for most people at least. I have learned to slow down. To enjoy moments, the little things. I have learned to reconnect with my inner being – the part of me that makes me me. To listen to my body and my “heart” and find what I really need, instead of plunging head on with no thought as to what will happen when I do. I have learned to deal with hormone changes. Or at least to tell those around me that I am going through some hormone changes, so if I seem like I am losing my mind, to try not to hold it against me. I have learned to deal with pain. I have learned that pain can be clarifying. And it can also affect every part of your life. 

More recently I have learned that being social helps. Instead of hiding in my basement with movies/tv, getting out with some friends – even for a while – makes life a hundred times better. I have learned that no matter where you are in life, it will change. It may not change the way you hoped, but it will change – that is the only constant in life, as Heraclitus said. I have learned to try to connect with my son on a one to one level every day. Check in with him. Talk. Ask him what he thinks, what he feels, what is happening inside his little mind and heart. I have re-learned that there is pleasure in simple things. I have learned that a challenge can be the best thing that ever happened to you. I have learned that this is NOT the worst thing that can happen to you – whatever “this” is today. There is ALWAYS something worse you could go through. That might not diminish what I am feeling, but it does help me realize that I can make it through those feelings and situations. I have learned that when you are feeling your worst you should help others. It helps you find your balance and get outside yourself. I mentor some cancer survivors, I am in online thyroid cancer support groups where I try to share what knowledge/experience I have, and I am going to start volunteering for an organization that helps survivors of sexual slavery all over the world. I found a way to help others from my computer desk or phone. Anyone can help others – you don’t have to have a lot of time or energy or space. You just have to have love in your heart. 

I have become a different person. A person with new obstacles, challenges, ways to deal in life, and a new outlook. I have become someone I am proud of (most of the time) and someone I think I would like to hang out with. I have been through a lot, but I did get a lot out of it too. 

I guess life after cancer is looking pretty good for me lately. 

I am thankful for that.