Bullies Stand Down.

no bullies

Last week was hard.

The hardest kind of hard.  Not the kind of hard that wipes you out and makes you feel tired and worn out.  It wasn’t that kind of hard.  No, my friends, it was the other kind of hard.  The kind of hard that presses your soul down and, in the process, crushes your heart open wide.  I’d say it breaks your heart but it’s messier than that with lots more tiny shards scattered about.  The kind of foundation-shattering-hard that rips open the gingerly pieced boundaries that normally keep the anxiety contained when you notice the display on your ringing phone spelling out the spectrum kiddo’s school name.

Lately it had been going smooth.

Super s-m-o-o-t-h.

The kind of smooth and quiet you work hard for, for many years, and you expect it to last because, well, smooth is nice.  Let’s face it….you want to believe smooth can last indefinitely because smooth is a good thing.  I’m here to tell you, smooth is often not destined to last.

When the phone rang and the school’s name screamed up at me as though the letters were in neon, it was my son’s dean from the middle school.  It was a dreaded phone call that no amount of kind voice from a kind man could change.  From what the Dean’s voice was telling me, my boy had been in a tussle before school started that morning.  Details were few but the yard aide informed the office my boy had gone after another boy with a stick.  A STICK.  Sounded like crazy talk to me but that’s what I was hearing the Dean say.

My boy.

Aggressive.

A stick.

Talked to.

Reprimanded.

Huh?

Absolute crazy talk.

I can hear his words.  He is a kind man.  I hear his words jumbling in my head but they are slow to settle.  Aggressive and my boy are not often mentioned in the same sentence.  So much so that when I put all three of my kiddos into karate classes, his siblings had no issues with sparring and tussling.  But, despite his yellow and near orange belt, my spectrum kiddo took it personally every time anyone laid a foot or glove on him.

“Hey!” He’d yell to his opponent, not trying to hide his surprise, “That hurt!”

It never changed.  His brother and sister excelled and easily attained their orange belts and sparred with belts two and three shades higher with vigor but not my spectrum kiddo.  He never got used to hitting anyone or getting hit.  It seemed ridiculous to him.

“Why would I want to hit anyone?” He would ask.

Listening to the dean speak, it just wouldn’t settle.  My younger boy?  Sure.  A tussle for him would not surprise me at all but my spectrum kiddo?  It’s just not him…unless he has been pushed VERY far.

“Are you sure?”  I asked the dean.  “It doesn’t sound right.”

“He had a coffee stirrer in his hand,” the dean explained, “and went after the other student.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.  We don’t even drink coffee.  Where would he get that?”

I obviously had more questions than he had answers.  He assured me he was still investigating and that it happened right as school was starting and my boy did not know the two boys involved.  He assured me he would get to the bottom of it all and if there were questions, he would get them answered.  I like that there seemed to be very little ego involved in the Dean and the administrative offices.

At first I am sorry. Sorry my boy went after another kiddo. But then, just as quickly as it all sinks into me, the hard and the hurt that were crushing me just minutes before are replaced by my hackles rising up.  Suddenly I am hackled up as bad as my Labrador gets whenever she sees something she feels could be a threat.  I am suddenly pretty darn sure that everything is not what it seems despite the yard aide’s account.

When I pick up my boy, I ask him for an explanation.

“For Heaven’s sake,” I ask him, “why would you go after another child?”

My boy then begins to speak in his choppy speech that is often hard to understand but Mom always understands because Mom asks LOTS of questions.  In his version of the event, the other boy who my child did not know was telling my boy they were best friends.  Teasing him.  My boy asked him to stop.  He continued to tell my boy they were friends.  My boy again asked him to stop.  My boy takes his friends seriously, real friends are black and white.  You are either friends or you are not.  The other boy claimed my boy and he were “best friends” which my boy knew was wrong since my boy did not know him at all and told him so.  The boy continued and even put his arm around my son’s shoulder.  Another boy then handed my son a stick.

Ugghh.  I think to myself…this is so much deeper than the yard aide can even fathom.

My boy did not know who either of the boys were.  His brilliant sister, when we got home and repeated the story, asked if he had looked through his yearbook to see if he could identify the boys.  Yes, she is brilliant in ways I am not.  I never once thought of that.

Within two minutes, my boy has picked two boys out.  They are a year younger than he is.  They are seventh graders.  He then informs me, “Mom, it had been going on for five days.”

Of course I called the principal and the dean to give them the names as well as the extended time frame.  They let me know they will continue the investigation.  I remark as to whether they have spoken further to the yard aide as to how she only took note of my boy in the situation and apparently let the more socially savvy boys scatter.

He says he is still investigating.

Later I get a call.  One boy has been identified from the names my boy gave but the other one has not.  The coffee-stirrer/stick-giver boy has been found but he was apparently just a timid boy who was trying to “help” my boy and witnessed how the other boy, still yet to be identified, kept on harassing my son.  He was too scared to stand with my boy but wanted to offer “support”?  Misguided perhaps but not mean spirited.

The dean and the principal, when I walk into the office that Friday afternoon for an update, assured me that even though they have not identified the harasser/bully, they will in time.  They have even taken to shadowing my boy during the day to see if they can uncover the identity.

On Monday morning, when I drop my boy off, I give him the same speech as the previous Friday.  If he sees the bully, he needs to go to the office to let them know.  I remind him he does not have to fix this alone.  The principal, the dean, the counselor, the secretary and all the teachers are there to help and support and all he has to do is let them know.  I’m uncomfortable and nervous but he is 13, nearly 14, and does not want mom to walk into school or sit with him all day so I go to my classroom in another district and my boy goes to his school.

That morning my boy walked into the library, his favorite place on campus, before school started.  He saw the boy, the boy who had been harassing him.  Despite enduring five days of bullying from this boy, my boy was focused and undeterred.  He still did not know the bully’s name so my boy, with his very black and white way of looking at life, walked right up to his bully and said, “What’s your name?”

The boy, becoming nervous, asks my son, “Why do you want to know?”

My boy then walks away but the bully follows him and repeats, “Why do you want to know?”  The bully then turns it up a notch by saying to my son, “You better tell me why you want to know or I’m going to tell the principal on you.”

And, my boy, like only he can because his brain is wired more brilliantly than mine ever was, tells the boy who has been bullying him for five long days, “Oh, you’ll know why I want to know when you meet the principal.”

My boy then walks out of the library to go tell the school secretary who then verifies the identity of the bully.   The investigation then revs up a notch as the bully is confronted.  And, of course, like bullies do, he denies everything.  Fortunately, the second boy my son identified has already corroborated the story which means there is no way out for the bully…despite his socially savvy attempt to lie through his teeth and shirk responsibility for his actions.

And that, despite my boy’s choppy speech and less than savvy social graces, is how you not only take on a bully but force the bully to stand down.  It takes a village, it takes compassion and a lot of commitment to keeping a safe school environment.  Have  I mentioned how much I love a campus who steps up to create an environment where all students are equal, where there is a zero tolerance for bullying and where investigations are open until they are solved?  The kind of place where sometimes the boy who is bullied can be the key to the whole investigation.

Two weeks later, there have been no further incidences.  Four weeks later, I get a call from the dean saying my boy was “accidentally” hit on campus.  It was the same boy.  The difference this time?  My boy chased down the bully.  When he caught him, he put him in a head lock and neutralized the bullying.  And, when you are in the right school, the administration applauds the head lock and resolve.  Bullies, indeed, stand down.

Sparkle On, my friends, and be the kind of village where no bully can thrive 🙂

Autism: Ordinary and Awesome

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This.

This happened on our way to school this morning.  Just me and my spectrum kiddo during our five minute drive to middle school.  Have I mentioned he floors me?  Well, this time you could have scooped me up off the floor because I melted.

Mom:  Nonny told me you mentioned to her that you were wondering if something would happen to you because you are autistic.

My boy:  Yeah, I asked her that.

Mom:  Does it bother you?

My boy:  No.  Not anymore. It was just something I wondered about.

Mom:  You know autism just means your brain is wired differently, right?

My boy:  It doesn’t feel any different, Mom.

Mom:  Well, it’s not really, Buddy.  Just means you are capable of some pretty great stuff.  It’s actually pretty brilliant.

My boy:  Mom, not really.  As far as I can see….it’s pretty ordinary.

(speechless at this point and scrambling for some response..)

Mom: You know what, Buddy?  You’re right.

And it occurs to me that most of the time I am in go-mode, in perpetual motion, always trying to stay out in front, put the supports in place, make sure he has what he needs, train the teachers, make sure the IEP reflects his needs, ensure we are not getting lazy or taking steps back….so much so that I didn’t realize that to him, it is all ordinary.  He does not see it as brilliant or spectacular or difficult or any such thing…It is simply ORDINARY.  Today, in a breath of fresh air from my boy, I was given the opportunity to see autism anew..through his eyes.

Absolutely gobsmacked.

And, if you’d go find a snow shovel, I’d appreciate it if you’d scoop me up because flattened and floored is where I am <3.  I love this kid.  No matter how much I think I know him, he never ceases to make my jaw drop and leave me utterly speechless.

Hands Up? Hands Down? YES.


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I sat in church today and inevitably, as it always does, it started again.

That dance she and I do.

It must look comical to those who stand around us, beside and behind, who can see us.  No one snickers out loud that I have heard yet but I am sure we are amusing.  We could not be more different if we tried and the differences are deeper than the blonde and brunette hair on our head.

I am the brunette.

Since this is church related, I’m going to digress at this point, even change up the font a bit, and say, right up front, I do not have all the answers about who He is, how He is and I have not memorized the bible.  This is not a post about that.  You can call Him what you will and worship Him as you see fit or not.  I am not here to fight those battles. 

All I know is I believe because faith gives me strength. 

It gives me a reason to get up in the morning and hope the blackness that filled the day before is gone and I can start with a clean slate with a God who is looking out for me.  I believe because faith gives me hope that the answers I don’t have yet rest within Him and, in time, He will share them with me.  I believe because faith helped me stop beating my head against the proverbial brick wall and it helped me to see that all the head banging in the world won’t change one thing…but having faith will. So, I believe.  I give it up to God.  I rest my head on his goodness and inside the promise that He has my back, sees all, is a loving Father and He will see me through the rough spots.  And, you know what?  It’s good and ever since I stopped needing control and handed it over to Him, a calm has settled into me that evaded me most of my life before that. A calm that says, He has this.  A peace that says that no struggle is bigger than He is but it is bigger than me. 

Okay, I am done digressing.  Back to that dance she and I do.  That’s what this post is about…believe it or not.

When it comes to the dance, today was no different.  I was sure it would not be.  Certainly nothing has changed since last week.  Not in her and not in me.  In fact, nothing has changed in us during the last four years since my kids and I were fairly new to the town we live in and she took us under her wing and invited us to her church.  This woman has, since I arrived in this new town six years ago, evolved into my closest friend here.

Despite the fact that we each have three school aged kiddos…

Despite the fact that we both have jobs that fill our weeks…

Despite the fact that we are both hands-on and busy mommas…

Despite the fact that our time to sit and chat together without kiddos is rare…

…we have Sunday morning and Sunday morning is ours.

Side by side, third row from the front, the time in church is ours.  Well, it’s God’s and Pastor’s time too but, in a week that revolves around kiddos, schedules, schools, activities, cooking, laundry and the ever present cleaning, on Sundays we have carved out ninety minutes of time together, to sit side by side.

Busy mommas will latch on to that.

And, you might think that time in church might be easy for two women to make happen.  You might think it’s just a schedule thing but, my friends, you’d be wrong.  Scheduling is sometimes the easiest part to overcome.  Sitting us together in church…it runs a whole lot deeper than that.

Whew…Oh yes. D-E-E-P.

She and I are different and, like I said, it’s not just our hair color.

The church we share isn’t Pentecostal but it’s a whole lot more animated than my quiet Baptist and Catholic upbringing.  It’s actually non-denominational but with strong animation.  I am used to a hands-at-your-side, quiet voice, church going experience.  My friend, on the other hand, worships with both arms raised up high and her body comfortable in mild movement.  She prays out loud along with the pastor.  I am quiet as a mouse.

Thankfully this church is not as regimented as the one another friend attended.  The one where the pastor actually taught a class on the arm/hand language in church.  He taught that elbows locked and hands held up high was the ONLY way to really show your whole devotion to God.  If you were halfway committed, you held them up halfway with unlocked elbows and if you weren’t ready to commit to God, you kept your hands sadly at your side.  Crazy rules for me who is an iron-arms-down-tight kind of worshiper.  The quiet girl that does not want to be noticed.   (Yes, I have my issues and I own them.)   Thankfully not all church communities believe in predetermined rules for existing in their community.  I am blessed our church does not walk down that road.  In our church, you worship in whatever way you are comfortable and Pastor is clear about that.

Hands up?  Yes.

Hands down?  Yes.

Tolerance of others is mainly what exists in our church community because Pastor believes the experience that made people who they are matters. He even reminds us to value the individual within the community.  Do what works for you, he tells us…not anyone else.  I like that philosophy and that is largely why I have burrowed into this church community.  Here with him, with her, with God…I am enough.  I am not wrong for being different.  Our church community believes it is your relationship and your life and you have to do what works for you…and you are beholding to no one else in making choices that work for you and your family.

My friend and I clearly worship differently.  We stand beside one another, as tight as friends can be despite our differences.  Doing our quirky dance, week after week, year after year because, really, we are the same…despite our differences.

Sound nutty?  To some perhaps but not to us.

In fact, we have never spoken about it.

She has never asked me why I don’t and I have never asked her why she does.

We find no fault in our differences.

She is she and I am me and we are united…in our sameness and our differences.

And we don’t care about arbitrary rules someone else creates because we are us and we do what is right for the betterment of our own lives and we treasure each other completely…different or not.

Whoever you are, whatever you choose for you…your choice is your own… as is your life.  You are the only one who can make the right choice for you no matter what the larger community says.  Only you know YOU well enough to know what is best for you and ascribing to my rules of life does not make you more complete or better equipped nor does it make me somehow better if I ascribe to yours.  That is what individuality and free choice are all about.  In fact, I’d go a step further and say that when you begin to rise and fall according to preset rules set up by anyone else, you somehow lose a piece of yourself and your ability to hear your own intuition.  And, friends, when you stop listening to your own intuition, that voice in your head that agrees or disagrees with what is thrown your way, that crucial voice begins to dissipate and you lose touch with who you are.

Only you know what is best for you and your family and labels and rules only work if they work for you.  I am home here, in this church, in the larger community with my friend, with my children, with this pastor…despite how different we all may be.  We are free to choose as we need to choose.  In fact, about half of the church is animated while the other half is quiet like me and, you know what?  We each make our choices and we each love and respect one another…no matter what.  It works and no one ever takes exception with anyone else.  We simply come together for the greater good.  Period.

Tolerance allows differences the opportunity to become complimentary to each other when given enough time, kindness and acceptance. I kid you not.

Sparkle On, my friends.