There are some things in life that are just inevitable. Time is going to pass, you can’t stop it. Prices are going to increase whether we want them to or not. And in elementary school, kids are going to be mean. They fall into two categories; the kids who are being mean and the kids who are being picked on by the mean kids.
As a parent you really don’t want your kids to fall into either of these categories, but it is likely they’re going to. Sadly, Brendan falls into the second category. We kind of knew that was likely to happen since he struggles so much with social norms, but up until this year things haven’t been too bad.
From time to time kids would pick on Brendan, but it would be minor things and most of the time Brendan wouldn’t even recognize that he’d been picked on. There was only one incident when Brendan was in second grade that was pretty bad, and thankfully I was with him to take care of the problem before it escalated too much.
Brendan was still enrolled in the after school care program because I was still working. That afternoon they were having a carnival for the kids and parents. I was up there with Brendan and he was having a blast going from booth to booth. Our last stop was at a bouncy house they had set up in the gym. The line was long, so we settled ourselves in to wait. Brendan was doing well with the wait, just taking in the sights and sounds of fun going on around him. I was bored out of my mind, but happy to be there and witness Brendan having so much fun.
Directly in front of us were a group of boys who’s parents it appeared had not been able to come up for the carnival. They all appeared to be around Brendan’s age, maybe a grade ahead of him. It wasn’t clear at first if Brendan knew who the boys were or vice versa because there was no interaction. But about halfway through the line that all changed.
I’d wandered away a bit from Brendan, trying to get a look at something. When I turned back around one of the boys in front of us had turned to face Brendan and was raising his hands up as if he were about to choke Brendan. Immediately I came back to his side and demanded to know what was going on. My appearance caused the child to drop his hands and not do whatever it was he was going to do. Both he and Brendan said nothing was going on, and the group of boys chose to leave the line and go somewhere else.
I never got out of Brendan what had provoked that boy to do that nor if he was causing problems for Brendan on a regular basis. I chose not to pursue the situation further since technically nothing had happened and honestly Brendan didn’t seem upset by the situation at all. I just vowed to keep a close eye on the situation and see if anything further developed. As it turned out I didn’t need to because shortly there after we took Brendan out of the program since I was staying home.
Brendan has always gotten along well with the kids in his class. Some even go out of their way to help him out when he struggles to do certain things, like cutting or writing neatly. He’s never had to deal with any problems from his direct classmates, it’s generally been students who only have occasional interactions with him.
Fast forward to fourth grade. A few months ago, somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving if I recall correctly, I got a phone call from Brendan’s teacher saying there had been an incident at school. Long story short, Brendan had been picked on by a group of boys in his classroom. The teacher thought she had taken care of the situation in class that morning but at lunch the same group of boys convinced all the other kids in the class to move away from Brendan and leave him sitting at his lunch table alone.
I’d already had some inkling that something had happened. Brendan was distraught when he came home from school that afternoon but hadn’t been very forthcoming with information. Armed with the information from his teacher I was able to get the full story out of Brendan. The school took care of the situation, disciplining the boys involved (though I wasn’t informed of what those disciplinary measures were), and taking time to educate Brendan’s class on respecting people who are different. They even went so far as to have Brendan work with one of his special ed teachers on interacting in social situations to better improve his technique and hopefully prevent him from being a target in the future.
We were satisfied with the results, and thought no more of it. A few days or weeks later (I’m really having trouble remembering the exact timeline for this) we had one of the unseasonably warm winter days that have been pretty frequent this year. The kids were dying to go outside and play with one of our neighbors so I gave them permission.
They first went to the girl next door’s house. She wasn’t at home so they tried the little boy across the street. He was home but unable to come out and play. Discouraged they trudged back home to break the news to me. Brendan was way more upset than he should have been so I asked him about it and he said that our neighbors two doors down were outside and he didn’t understand why he couldn’t go play with them.
Now let me explain. Brendan is not, nor never has been, banned from playing with those particular children. As a general rule my kids don’t play with those kids, but not because I have said they can’t. Our neighbor doesn’t really understand the whole situation with Brendan and a few years back indicated that he didn’t want Brendan playing with his daughter (who is around Brendan’s same age). Because he was so close minded we never encouraged Cameron to play with their son who is just a little older than he is.
The boys don’t ever ask to play with those neighbors, and we don’t encourage it, so it never really comes up. But since Brendan had asked I told him he could go down there and play. He was back within minutes still more upset than he had been before. As it turned out the little boy had a friend over and when Brendan came over to play they went inside the house. Or at least that’s what Brendan told me. What they actually did was go into the backyard to avoid him.
Overall I wasn’t too surprised. Kids learn from their parents, and if the dad had issues with Brendan he was going to pass those along to his kids. So I sent the boys into our own backyard to play. I was frustrated with the situation and vowed to just avoid any further interactions with that neighbor or his family. Unfortunately, that was not the end of the situation for the day.
I had the back door open to keep an eye on the kids and to let the fresh warm air blow through the house. I was washing dishes and so didn’t hear everything going on in the backyard. Soon though the shouting became so loud it could be heard over the top of my sink running. Preparing myself to break up yet another fight between my two boys I headed over to the back door. And there was definitely shouting happening but not between Brendan and Cameron, but between Brendan and a faceless person on the other side of our fence.
As soon as I came to the door and hollered out, “What’s going on?” The person/people on the other side of the fence took off running. I called the boys inside and began hounding Brendan for an explanation. As it turns out the little boys from two doors down happens to be friends with the little boy who had been the leader of the group who picked on Brendan in class. The two of them thought that it would be a good idea to come over and begin picking on Brendan through the fence.
Livid as I was I am not one to go and make a scene with parents. Had the boys not run off when they heard me I would have confronted them, but I’m not comfortable doing so with other adults. Matt wasn’t home at the time or I’m sure he would have. I brought the boys inside and spent the rest of the afternoon making sure I did things to cheer Brendan up.
I hoped beyond hope that this would be the last incident we’d have to deal with concerning this bully, but that was not the case. Things died down for a while, but then last week the can of worms was opened all over again.
To be continued…