Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Joy of Parenthood

Meeting tomorrow at David’s school. Stressing out.

I hate it when parents won’t accept that their kid might not be perfect. Don’t want to be like that. From what I can tell, the situation is this:

The jocks and the skaters at this school have been in constant conflict for the last two years. In the words of the principal, “There’s always these kind of tensions, but I’ve never seen it as bad as it is with this group of boys.”

David is a skater punk. He dresses in ratty-looking jeans down around his butt, he has long hair, he wears dark T-shirts and an army jacket and wool cap. The principal has made no secret of the fact that she doesn’t like his hair or his clothes.

There are a several jocks who pick on David and on his friends. They’ve had run-ins in the past, including a couple of fights. It appears the jocks are under orders lately from their parents and/or coaches regarding their interactions with the skate punks, but that doesn’t stop them from talking *about* them. It’s all very well to say they don’t fight or call them names to their faces, but it’s small comfort when to everyone *else* they call you “fag” or “fat f**k”; when they smirk and snort at you in the hallway; when they sign your name in childish script on the basketball sign-up sheet, whatever. Some of it seems like such insignificant stuff from an adult’s POV, but it’s not to a kid. I remember what it was like when middle school was such misery; when getting ready for school made me feel sick to my stomach because of how I was treated.

David has made things difficult by adopting a tough-guy attitude, by not backing down when the jocks harass him, by taking things personally, by giving as good as he gets, by reacting to their put-downs, which is exactly what they want. But I think all he wants is a little respect – I believe him when he says he just wants to be left alone – I don’t think he goes out of his way to make problems with the sports kids.

Because I remember jocks from when I was his age. Broad brush: after military people, jocks are the least empathetic, most competitive group of human beings I know. It’s an aggressive approach to life; it’s about winning, about competing against yourself, against each other, against the world. Later in life, I became part of that group at times. It definitely has its benefits – it’s healthy physically, it teaches discipline, persistence, etc – but it has negatives, too. Jocks tend to harass and belittle and each other regularly, and it works for them – if you’re in that world, it’s all part of the game – but they have no idea how that feels to people who aren’t in the group, and usually, they don’t really care.

Anyway, the other day David shoved one of the jocks who he says picks on him a lot; I guess the guy was standing in front of the water fountain and refused repeated requests to move so David could use it. And they had words in the locker room, where David also didn’t help himself…
David looks at Nemesis Jock (who appears to be under wraps lately, other than the water fountain thing and calling him “fag” and making jokes about him behind his back)
Jock: What are you staring at?
David: Well, watching you get undressed makes me feel good – I’m a “fag”, isn’t that what you’ve been saying?
Jock: You’re a…
David: I’m a what? Go ahead and say it, b****.

I’m sure Nemesis Jock has no idea the depth of resentment David still carries about all the previous harassment. I’m sure he feels he’s bending over backward lately to accommodate David’s aggressive belligerence. And I’m sure he tells his dad David is a menace to society since apparently the father has now written a letter to the school threatening to call the police if they don’t control David.

So tomorrow should be a fun meeting; can’t wait to hear what they have to say…


At Wed Jan 31, 07:08:00 AM PST, Blogger Lisa said...

o boy. I'll be sending good thoughts your way. Take some deep breaths!

At Wed Jan 31, 10:50:00 AM PST, Blogger Connie said...

I had a bully who followed me all through middle school. It was a miserable three years, but somehow I managed to make it to high school. Since we had just moved to California from Kentucky, I was alot different from the other kids, which made me an easy target. Tell your son to hang in there. He'll probably come out of this a very strong young man.

At Wed Jan 31, 11:05:00 AM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

Thx for your kind thoughts.

The bottom line is:
Because he's been physical twice in the last week (shoving the kid at the water fountain, and bumping shoulders in the hallway with the kid who calls him "fat f**k"), he's being placed in a temporary program where he does his schooling at the high school with a lot of one-on-one, plus counseling.
The principal and teachers conceded there can be verbal aggression that's worse than physical aggression, but since David's responded physically, this is the result.
He seems content with it. I hope it helps. He *does* have a lot of anger, and I imagine some of his responses have been out of proportion to the original insult sent his way (I've seen that between him and his sister at home). Anyway, he's going to stay home with Hannah for a cpl days, then hopefully begin his new program next week. He's happy today, which is good...

At Wed Jan 31, 11:21:00 AM PST, Blogger jay are said...

sounds a bit nightmarish...we'll be looking forward to an update.

my sweet, vulnerable N. starts middle school next year and these are the things that keep me awake at night. He doesn't have any sort of "image" or anything that's easily targeted in that way, but he's different in other ways (has cochlear implants, glasses, etc.). Jerks and bullies will find anything at all---but they'll have to mess with momma bear, too. That's for absolute certain.

Anyway, keep us posted. Good thoughts to you and David.

At Wed Jan 31, 12:12:00 PM PST, Blogger blogball said...

Not sure who said this.

"Show me a man who has enjoyed his school days and I'll show you a bully and a bore"

Tell David from Blogball
to hang tn there.

At Wed Jan 31, 12:27:00 PM PST, Blogger blogball said...

When I was looking around to find out who said that quote from my previous comment I found another cool one about bullies.
Not sure if you want to tell it to David though

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers”

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

At Wed Jan 31, 02:31:00 PM PST, Blogger si said...

a little late...but sorry, bryan, for this.

hope this new program works out and is of some help for him.

keeping my fingers crossed for david and you.

At Wed Jan 31, 03:48:00 PM PST, Blogger Left Coast Sister said...

hang in there, both of you. I think that's the hardest time of life, when working out your own being isn't as easy as breathing. (And I thought toddlerhood was hard.)

At Wed Jan 31, 04:47:00 PM PST, Blogger dkgoodman said...

I'm not sure what the answer is to bullies. I was bullied when I was a kid. I wish I'd been more like David and stood up to them. I kinda applaud his stubborn independence instead of being a sheep. :) Sorry.

At Wed Jan 31, 08:06:00 PM PST, Blogger bfoxy37 said...

Bryan, I definitely disagree with your comment about adults finding some of these things childish etc... (I paraphrased sorry).

I think it is quite the opposite. Adults wouldn't put up with 1/10th of the crap that kids are expected to deal with in many public schools. I was teased in grade school and if those comments were made to me now in the work place I'd have an easily won law suit! Not to mention the fact that you are supposed to have more self-esteem as an adult to get you through if you do happen to be insulted! Kids are still developing that self-esteem, many of them.
Tell David I'll pray for him and for his parent's sanity too!

At Wed Jan 31, 08:22:00 PM PST, Blogger Kylee said...

oh man....that stinks...I hope the new program works out good.
Being one who was teased and outcast by the "jocks" as well as many others, I understand the anger and the resentment.

I was one who let it all sink in and live inside of me, believing it and never stuck up for myself. I know being physical is not good...but sticking up for ones self is good. I think it shows self respect. I guess the challenge is then how to do that without being physical – I don’t care what the “experts” say the verbal abuse is just as bad if not worse then the physical.

My thought is that if you “respect” someone for some reason, even if you don’t understand it….their words hurt you. If you no longer respect them or feel anything for them it doesn’t hurt or at least not as bad.

At Thu Feb 01, 02:52:00 PM PST, Blogger unca said...

When stuff like this happens you wish you could take the pain and hurt away from your child. There's such a feeling of helplessness. I hope that things will work out with the new arrangement and that David is comfortable with it. My thoughts are with you.

At Thu Feb 01, 11:34:00 PM PST, Blogger anya ransuns aka Roxy said...

Aw, my sweet David. :( I feel like shoving the stupid jocks myself. Although I know that's not the right thing to do or for him to do. Well, the new thing sounds kind of cool.
Middle school = evil. Among many other awful things, there was one kid who said "Hi, ugly," everytime he saw me. Things like that were not only embarrassing and humiliating, it made whoever actually WAS your friend not want to be your friend anymore, because you were like a blood in the shark tank -- dangerous to hang around...
Interesting point that bfoxy makes...I think she may be on to something there. Argh, anyway. Keep us posted.

At Sat Feb 03, 08:29:00 AM PST, Blogger gnightgirl said...

I hope it went well. If it's any consolation, my son had a similar "relationship" with one kid in high school. He'd caught the kid grabbing a dollar from someone in a wheelchair, and when he came to his rescue, the two were instant enemies for the next 4 years...in school, and out of school, and even a showdown in the local theater. We were called into the school to straighten these two out several times. It was a miracle when we got them to agree to just let the other alone.

I was shocked then, a year or so ago, to find that they both amicably attend some of the same functions and have friends in common. Apparently they've both grown up a bit, admitted they were both assholes at times, and let bygones be bygones.

Those are tough years, I wouldn't ever want to do it again.


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