Friday, January 7, 2011

Bullies Suck

Bullies suck.  Sorry to be so blunt, but, well, I'm afraid that's been on my mind a lot lately.  Our son has been having trouble with some kids at school, and it makes me very sad that he's going through some of the same bullying garbage that I went through as a kid.  We've talked with his teachers before about this, and they've been very vigilant and helpful to our son.  The tough fact is that the teachers cannot be everywhere and see everything, and in spite of their best efforts, some crap is still going to happen under the radar.  This has not been a good week for our son.

My husband and I had a long talk with him last night, after he got upset while doing his math homework.  Math is his weakest subject.  With his math learning disability, he's way behind, and has no confidence in his abilities.  He's made progress this year, good progress, but it's still slow and irregular.  He's frustrated and down on himself, and adding a bullying problem isn't helping.  We did our best to build him up about his strong points (social studies, science, reading), and to encourage him about his struggles with math and with other kids.  We shared some of our own childhood struggles with bullying with him, all three of us lying on the bed and really talking it out.  It was, frankly, emotionally exhausting for me, but by the end of the conversation our son had calmed down.  Then he finished his math with my help, and moved on to other things.

 Our son marching in a parade with his Boy Scout troop last summer.

Our son's Asperger's issues mean that he's great fun for other kids to tease, because he reacts (overreacts) so magnificently to their provocation.  I dreaded this very thing when we decided to return the kids to public school last year.  It was the biggest hurdle for me to overcome in the decision, because of my own background as a bullied child - I did NOT want my children to go through the same thing.  So far our daughter hasn't had any issues with bullying, thankfully.  She's no shrinking violet, and has no trouble speaking her mind, but she's also socially skilled enough to navigate the wilds of childhood with some emotional agility.  Not so our son!  He's thin-skinned, quirky, extremely sensitive to his environment, verbally  precocious but emotionally delayed, and to top it all off he's really big for his age.  You might as well put a target on his front, and stick a note on his behind that says, "KICK ME."  The same handful of "frequent fliers" to the principal's office have targeted him for the past few months.  Unfortunately, several of them are in his class; he can't get away from them.

 Our son high in the bucket of the ladder truck 
on a field trip to the fire station last year.  
He was afraid to go up at first, but eventually he went up twice, 
and the second time he let them raise the bucket all the way.

Something has to give, since our son is starting to act out more in school - he's been verbally aggressive toward his teasers, and lately he's been physically acting out too, in the form of self-injurious behavior when he's extremely upset.  This is so, so hard to watch, knowing that our son is a bully-magnet, and that he'll always struggle with understanding why others act the way they do.  I worry that his overreaction will get him into trouble, I'm sure more than once in his life.   That's very distressing to think about. 

Days like this I struggle with our son's Asperger's.  Why would the Lord allow our son to have this issue, this "special need"?  It seems as if our son has been set up to fail, in so many ways, and it's heartbreaking.  I have trouble looking at his differences as a burden to be borne with grace by God's help.  I don't feel like a witness, I don't want to have to try to be a good witness to others through this, I don't like this at all.  It's unfair, and I've been angry.  But we live in a broken world, and many people have far more serious burdens to bear.  If not Asperger's for our son and our family, then what else?  Everyone has something to deal with.  I try to be grateful that his issues are comparatively mild (what if he had classic autism?), and not life-threatening (what if he had cancer?) or degenerative (what if he had Lou Gehrig's Disease?).  God never promised me an easy life.  He promised that He would be with me when life got hard, and never leave me no matter what.

So I remind myself to walk on, that this part of the road is rough, but it's a long journey - there will be good times too.  Walk on, the Lord is with us, even though we don't understand and can't see far ahead.  Walk on, there is hope even through the hurting, and healing at the end.

Walk on.


  1. Yes bullying does suck. Our son was picked on greatly as well. He has not been diagnosed with Asberger's but he has always been a little immature for his age socially and has other disabilities that made him so tempting to bullies. We too talked to the teachers and the principal at the school, but, as you've said, bullying happens when they are not always around. We are Christians and our hope was that our son would turn to God in his times of need. While he did that at times, we constantly encouraged him and had heart to hearts with him so that he could vent. He got depressed after several boys came after him at school and he even had to have counseling for some time. (Thankfully it was his friend with Asberger's that clued us into the fact that Scott was thinking "dark" suicidal thoughts) He still struggles - even at college but not as much.

    Keep doing what you are doing and help your home be a haven for him. Encourage friendships with friendly boys he has some contact with - I know it is hard because his disability limits him in that area, but even finding one friend will help him. I can't pretend to be an expert on asberger's (I can't even spell it... LOL) but I am a mom of a boy who has been bullied and It does get better in small steps. I think that bullying really undermines their self confidence so if you can build that in your son, it may help. I'll be praying for you and for him. I was on my knees alot (and I still am) regarding my son and those who bullied him. One boy even came and apologized. You might, if the school is receptive, ask for the contact information of the parents of the boys who are causing the trouble, and clue them in to what is happening at school. Of course, if the boys are offenders anyway, the parents are probably already aware. Bless you!

  2. O.K., so I'm reading this post and feeling your pain with you, but all the while I can't get past this image: "all three of us lying on the bed and really talking it out."

    This is a really, really, really big deal. This togetherness, this bearing each other's burdens. This means something far more weighty than the "momentary trials" of the times your son is alone and being picked on. You are embodying Christ to him. And, then sharing your story, so we can carry the image, too.

    It's a big deal, what you are doing.
    Thank you.

  3. P.s., Natalie had a terrible issue with a bully two years ago. It was extremely complex walking through that with her and with her teachers and her principle. Our hope was to teach her the fine balance between defending herself, allowing others to defend her (even, if imperfectly) and not giving in to hatred for the bully. The kid ended up being suspended; I admit I was grateful even though a part of me felt devastated for him. He's a little kid after all -- acting out in his own way, for his own reasons. It's a horrid cycle.

  4. I am so sorry to hear this! *tears*

    Please tell my good friend "I" that Miss Jenny thinks the world of him, and is very sad to hear that some bratty kids aren't realizing what a phenomenal kid they are hurting. I was picked on relentlessly in school too, so I do understand how awful that feels.

    When you first moved here and he was so leery of getting to know us, I could see how he struggled. Bit by bit he let us in, and we are so honored and blessed with his friendship. He has come so far, but situations like this can undo so much good progress so quickly. :(

    Please remind him of his friends at co-op, even though he hasn't seen them in a while, real friends don't have to see each other all the time to still be friends. I wish I could do something to help him. Sadly, it's the bullies who truly have no friends, and maybe that would empower him a bit. He *does* have friends because he has a good heart...and I am proud to say that we are friends.Please give him a hug from me, let him know I am thinking of him.

  5. Thank you, ladies! Your encouragement has really lifted me up at the end of a trying week.

    Our son had a decent day at school today, after a very rough start (dawdling, unfocused, forgot some homework, didn't pack a lunch and had to buy it [another trauma], missed the bus, and got mad at us). I went into the school with him and left a note for his teachers, to give them the heads-up that he was having a hard morning. I also saw his guidance counselor, so she's aware. His day did get better: he found time to finish the forgotten homework, discovered that the school lunch today was actually pretty good, the bullies left him alone, and it was FRIDAY, so he didn't have to stay later for math help. Thank you for praying for him!