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.