What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Big Week - Tuesday

Tuesday was the last day of school for this term. It comes quite a bit earlier for our kids than most others, it's one of those quirks of the school we have to put up with – thankfully, it's more than compensated for by all the other positive things.

The boys were ready for a break, they were both getting very tired. After all, at 7 and 5, they are still just little boys in my eyes (but please please don't tell them that) and they need time off to play and muck around and do nothing.

So both the boys were very much looking forward to their last day. Unfortunately, it didn't go too well for Beaver.

At about two thirty that afternoon, Beaver's class teacher rang me. There had been an incident at school, and she wanted to brief me on it before she packed up for the day, for the holidays, and to fly to South Africa the next day to visit her dying father.

During lunch time play, Beaver had been pushed down by one of his class mates and two younger kids from the kindy class (i.e. Possum's class). Then, every time Beaver tried to get up, they pushed him down again, and again. When Beaver started crying, they kept going. At one point, one of the children pushed Beaver's play hat into his face, pushing his head into the gravel. By then, the supervising teacher came running down, and pulled the whole lot apart.

The children all got a serious talking to there and then, and then another one by the deputy head (a lady they all respect highly). They were told this was a very serious incident, and the school was going to ring their parents to inform them of their behaviour. Then, the two classes involved got a serious bollocking, not only about the behaviour but also all the other children were chastised about not intervening earlier; stressing the point that not acting to help is just as bad. And then the teacher called me to let me know about it all.

About ten minutes later, I received the first phone call from the parents of the children. They were devastated and very apologetic. I told them it was ok. Some of them wanted to bring their kids over in the holidays to come and apologise again. I didn't think that was necessary – as far as I am concerned, the school dealt with it swiftly, and dealt with it appropriately.

Possum and Beaver do this at home quite often, where mainly Possum jumps on top of Beaver, and then they have a good old rumble. Possum learned when to stop after one day Beaver (with our explicit permission) jumped on top of Possum and showed him who is the older and stronger boy. So I'm not surprised this happened. I am fairly confident that the whole thing started out as a perfectly fun game that went to far. And this is what growing up is all about – kids need to learn where the boundaries lie. When someone is clearly weaker (i.e. not able to get up) or upset (crying) they need to stop. And pushing someone's head in the gravel is definitely mean.

But kids are kids. They do these things. And then they learn it's not OK.

Doing these things does not mean they are bad kids. Doing these things does not mean they have bad parents.

What happened is not OK. But it's normal. And it's a good learning experience. For the kids, and for Beaver.

This does not mean that I'm happy it happened. Or that I wasn't upset it happened. It does not mean that I did not quietly have a little cry in bed that night.

It saddens me that Beaver was pestered like this. It saddens me that he did not know how to respond to it. I think any parent would feel that way.

But it did make me realise that I need to teach Beaver some survival strategies. Because, let's face it, this sort of thing is going to happen again. He will always be an easy target. And this is just the physical side of things. On a daily basis, Beaver is aware that he's not one of the guys. There are minute little moments every day that he is excluded. It's part of Beaver's life, and it will always be. So as a parent, I need to teach him how to cope. We've got a martial arts place up the road, and I'm going to have a chat with the Sensei about maybe some one-on-one basic survival techniques.

And for those who are wondering – Possum was blissfully unaware of the whole thing, playing soccer with his mates at the other end of the playground. He told me that he was the one who went and got the teacher, but I think that's wishful thinking (after the talk from the teacher about the need to act) as two independent sources tell me he was nowhere near the incident.

And Beaver – how did he deal with it all?

I said nothing at first when he came home from school. I asked him how his day was, and he said "ok" and went off. Half an hour later he still had not said anything, so I called him aside and told him his teacher had called me about what happened that day at lunch play, and would he like to tell me what happened. To which he responded "oh, yeah, I got bullied today" and went off. He tried very hard to pretend nothing had happened, but I kept bringing it up, since I wanted him to know that the school took the incident very seriously, so that he felt safe and school. Then, over the next few hours the whole story came out. And then it became his favourite thing to tell people for a few days, And then, it settled down – he is currently obsessed with the plot and various sub-plots of the movie Curious George, and who does which voice. But it's still there. Yesterday, out of the blue, he told me he still the boy from his class who was involved is still his friend.

Hmmm. Just another day in the life of rollercoaster parting.

1 comment:

Fiona said...

Painful as it must have been for Beaver and you, I imagine it was boisterous boy play that got out of hand, as it often does. We often don't know when to stop "hurting" - kids with physical play and grownups with words. The school sounds like it acted well and teaching Beaver coping strategies should strengthen his confidence to deal with future challenges. But I felt sad too.