Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Standing Up

I'm very proud of Safety Guy lately.  This hasn't been an easy fall for him at school, and he's had his rough moments, but I can see that he's really trying on all fronts.  He's keeping up with the work, even though it's a stretch for him (freshman year in high school is a lot different from junior high), and he got decent grades in the first quarter.  He's also trying very hard to make good choices in how he relates to his peers, with some very mature choices of his own even when it isn't easy.

Probably what I'm most impressed with recently is his self-advocacy.  That's been a long time coming - not just standing up for himself, but doing so appropriately.  We've told him in the past that it's okay to be assertive, but it's not okay to be rude and obnoxious and seek revenge, and he's really doing well with that this fall.  I know it hasn't been easy for him.  In fact, he's really feeling the stress of school and life, and he's frustrated that certain other students keep picking on him or being rude to him even when he's bent over backwards to try to get along with them.

I get it.  This "being the bigger man" is a real bear.  It's not fair, and it's not easy.  I really respect that he's working so hard to continue to make good choices for his own sake.  But, I also respect that everyone has their limits.  Last night he and I had a good conversation, and he was very articulate in describing his feelings about the social situation at school.  He's angry, and he'd like to lash out in some way to make the people hurting him back off.  He says that he feels like he's always the one who has to give in, and that the other students who need to back down don't get consequences that mean anything or stop their behavior.  I can certainly understand his frustration and anger.  I don't minimize it at all.

So, I wrote a short letter to his school psychologist and his primary resource teacher, two very good educators whom I respect.  I told them what he's been saying to me, how he's feeling and what he's thinking.  I know they'll take this seriously.  I consider what Safety Guy told me last night fair warning that he's on the edge, and needs some careful support and judicious intervention in some social situations.  The teachers need to be aware that some bullying is still going on (not as much as before, thankfully, but it's still there).  The last thing any of us want is for Safety Guy to be pushed to the point of reacting aggressively to whatever is "the last straw."  He's doing his best.  He's struggling.  He's told us, point blank, that he needs help.  If that's not self-awareness and self-advocacy, I don't know what is.  It's up to us, as the adults around him, to take him seriously and help him, or our statements of support and praise are meaningless.

I hope he has a good day today.  And tomorrow.  And every day.  And I hope his teachers will be sensitive to his need for a little extra space and grace until his struggles lessen and his stress eases off.