This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Teach Your Children Well

This morning I sent my oldest off on his first overnight field trip.  I did so with much angst and trepidation because my son has a bully and that bully is going on this trip.  They are in the same field group and bunking in the same cabin.  My husband and I called the school and expressed our concerns, and while they tried to assure us that they will keep a close eye on the situation....still.  It's my kid. 

This kid has singled out my son to verbally bully, most likely because he's the new kid.  His favorite insult is to call my son, whose name is William, "Richard"-- despite being corrected repeatedly.  Now, in case you are not up on modern, vulgar insults, calling someone "Richard" is a sort of PC way to call them a certain male body part.  This kid is probably the only one in the 5th grade who knows exactly what that means, (except my son, who I explained it to....that was an awkward conversation).  He spits out the name Richard at my son and then laughs at his own inside joke.  The other kids in the class, not being in on the joke, would call my son Richard because they thought that was his name.  When I heard about this, I wanted very badly to march up to the school and give this kid a verbal smack down.  When I was younger, I could deliver an insult fast enough to make a bully's head spin.  I chewed kids like this up and spit them out.  But, I figured that it would be of no help to my kid's playground cred if his momma fought his battles for him.  We chose the high road and told him to ignore it, thinking that it would eventually stop since he was getting a reaction. 

But when the list of cabin and group assignments came home, my son was disappointed to see this kid on his list, and we found out that now, in the 10th week of school, this was still going on.  We called the principle and had a conference expressing our concerns.  She assured us that she would put this behavior on everyone's radar, and that it would not be a problem on the trip.

Bullies piss me off.  This was my family's first brush with a bully, but I have many friends who deal with them on a regular basis.

About 2 years ago, I made a conscious effort to eliminate the word "retard" from my vernacular.  I had used it, not in a cruel way, to address my friends when they did something that was stupid.  A great blogger friend of mine, Jen over at Down Wit Dat, had written a piece that I don't really remember much about except that it was about ending the "R Word."  See, Jen is the proud mother of twins -- one who has Down's Syndrome, one that does not, and both perfect.  I put myself in her shoes: hearing the R-word thrown around, as a joke mostly, and knowing that until relatively recently, "Retarded" was an acceptable medical term for anyone who had a developmental problem of any kind.  People like her son.  People who could be insulted, hurt, or otherwise adversely effected by what I now see as a derogatory term.


Less advanced, esp. mentally, than is usual for one's age.
backward - delayed
 And I was making light of it.  I realized how, as a mother, I would feel if someone called my kid retarded.  I imagined how I would feel if my child had some type of delay, or impairment, and they were labeled as a retard.  I realized that it would both hurt and piss me off, so I fought the habit and eventually beat it. 

A few weeks ago, I had a late night phone call from a friend who's child has a physical abnormality.  She was born with Spina Bifida -- but it was a closed neural defect.  It does not effect her child's mental capacity (this child is BRILLIANT), and it has not had an adverse effect on her outlook on life.  She is beautiful, smart, funny, and especially POSITIVE.  What a testament to the parents -- a child, who has every reason to be pissed at everything and everyone, has decided instead to be a positive force in the world.  She raises money for research, she speaks openly about her condition to educate others, and she "owns it" -- it does NOT own her.  But she is approaching adolescence.  And while those kids who started elementary school with her years ago "get" her and understand her, upper classes are larger.  New kids are coming in who don't know her or her story.  This kid welcomes questions.  She will gladly explain her condition to anyone who wants to know about it.  Unfortunately, that isn't what happened to her on the bus the day of my friend's call. 

A kid who does not know her, asked her what was wrong with her back.  When she told her that she was born with Spina Bifida, the kid told her "I don't care.  It's weird."  Until that moment, no one had ever blatantly pointed out that her condition made her "weird."  Now, this may seem like a minor thing, but it isn't.  As my friend, her mother, was sobbing on the phone, all I could think was that I wanted to slap someone (and not the kid). 

Kids are kids --they blurt crap out without thinking.  (My own daughter once asked a black waiter at IHOP if he was chocolate and if she could lick him. You can read that here:"I Love You -- Chocolate Is My Favorite!")  When it is innocent, it can be funny, I'll admit it. But when you are talking about a middle school age kid, then calling someone "weird" or "strange" or "retarded" is not an innocent slip.  It isn't because they don't have a filter.  It is because you have missed an opportunity as a parent to impress upon them the importance of being kind to others.

That may seem harsh, but where else would a teenager (or pre-teen) get the idea that it is okay to single out another kid for their differences?  To wrinkle their nose and say it's weird?  You cannot tell me that it is from TV or movies, because as a society we have gotten so completely politically correct and bully-conscious that any kid behaving in such a way on a television show these days would be the object of a moral lesson.  Some say they get it from other kids.  Well, what a way to pass the buck.  As a parent, you are responsible for your kid's actions and you should know who they are hanging out with.  Regardless of what their friends do, your kids are still responsible for their own actions and it is our responsibility as parents to make sure that they know that.

Now, kids will tease each other -- that will always happen.  That is why we were very careful about naming our kids -- we didn't want a "Smelly Shelley" or a "Silly Billy" or much worse.  But I am not talking about the silly name calling you might hear on the elementary school playground.  I am talking about what happens when we as parents do not address those names our kids laugh at when they are 4, or 5, or 6 years old.  My kids tease each other all of the time.  They gang up against each other, they call each other names and they love each other.  But when we witness these little spats between them, my husband and I are quick to point out that things are different with your siblings in your house than they are with your friends or your classmates at school.  If we ever heard them being like that with other kids, they know that there would be a problem. 

One reason that bullying happens is because we are not candid with our kids about disabilities and birth defects.  If you do not educate yourself about these things and then educate your kids about them, then they will make light of what they do not understand.  Or they will go all "Lord of The Flies" and attack what they do not understand.  This is true not just of visible disabilities, but of the not-so-obvious one's as well.  Things like autism, aspergers, and developmental delays are not as obvious and are much more common. 

I am a firm believer in being honest with my kids.  I have talked to them about bullying (and what will happen to them if I find out they are guilty of bullying anyone).  We need to make our kids understand what disabilities are and how they affect the people and families effected by them.  We cannot do that if we do not know ourselves, so research it, educate yourself, ask questions, and if your kids ask you a question about something that you don't know about, find out together.  It is important that you understand so that they will understand and learn empathy. 

Kids need to learn to celebrate differences and they cannot do that unless we as adults show them how.  My youngest daughter, as I have talked about before here, is different.  She views the world through a very unique perspective.  While I worry about how she will fit into the world, I celebrate the fact that she doesn't.  I do not worry about her as much as I worry about how the world will treat her.  I want her to learn how to function in the world without loosing her own whimsy. 

I think that most parents want their kids to be the ones who are accepting.  We want our kids to be the good kids.  No one says "Yay!  My kid is the jerk of the class!  Everyone fears him!"  But it is our job to make sure that they aren't.  We have to teach them NOT to be.  So teach your children well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meet The New Me

**As I sat down to write today, I just sort of let my mind wander. I wanted to let all of you know that I was doing great, just really busy. As I wrote realized that what I was saying may not mean that much to you guys, but it helped me sort through some stuff which is sort of what I usually do. This is not a funny post. It’s not a statement post on a socially relevant subject. It is more about me, so it might be pretty boring. I just wanted everyone to know that I am fully aware of this. This is one of those posts that I wrote mostly for my own benefit.

As you guys know, I consider myself a writer. However, I have been too busy to write lately. I have started three separate blog posts on varying subjects that I was unable to complete in one sitting, and when I go back and read what I have written, I find myself confused as to where in the heck I was going with them. There are snippets of good writing in there, but they ramble. A lot. And if *I* have trouble following them, then I am certain that you guys would be lost. I usually write sort of stream of conscious style – as if I were orally telling a story – and much like when your train of thought gets interrupted when you are speaking and you struggle to remember what you were saying, when I go back to an uncompleted post I struggle to remember what the heck I was trying to say. So I will most likely abandon those posts and start over later.

Today, I need to be cleaning the bathrooms. And folding laundry. And mopping the floor. And running the vacuum, and doing a thousand other things that I am avoiding doing because I NEED to write. Even if I end up not writing anything worth sharing, it is essential to my mental health that I just write. Most likely, I will finish a brief post here just to let you know that I am still alive and then I will brainstorm fiction ideas since the book I was writing was pretty much covered in the first three episodes of NBC’s new show “Revolution”

Ever since we moved back to Alabama, I find that I barely have time to write. My days are filled with field trips, PTA activities, family outings, entertaining friends, cooking, cleaning, and enjoying life with my family. I have LIVED more in the past 4 months of being here than I did in the 4 years that I was miserable in Texas. I am so very HAPPY here. The contrast shows in everything from how I interact with people to how I cook and clean to how I spend my free time. I do not think that I truly realized how very unhappy I was until I wasn’t unhappy anymore. I find it hard to complain about much of anything and although I am still my sarcastic, cynical self, just not a lot has happened to really aggravate me. In Texas, EVERYTHING aggravated me. Maybe less aggravates me because I am generally happier, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that the people here are more “normal” to me. Or maybe it’s because my husband, who was working 25+ days a month now works 16 days a month and so I don’t feel like I am doing everything by myself.

My kids have noticed the differences as well.  They have enjoyed sitting down to dinner with both of their parents at least several times a week.  They have enjoyed going places as a family.  They have NOT enjoyed the fact that I no longer ignore their messes or that the layout of this house means that I see their bedrooms several times a day so they never get out of control.  But surprisingly, they don't complain more than they used to.  They are all so thrilled to finally have their own rooms that they are starting to take some pride in keeping them clean.  I guess when they cannot blame each other, the alternative is to take credit for their rooms and how they keep them.

Since we’ve been back here, where I consider “home,” we’ve had family dinners, we’ve had friends over almost every weekend, we’ve attended at least 3 different festivals, had at least one date a month, and we’ve cut the amount of TV we watch by more than half. None of these things were conscious decisions. We did not sit down and make a plan to do more stuff or to be happier or to live more. But because we are finally WHERE we want to be, we are becoming WHO we really are. Friends who have known me for a while have noticed. They say that I am a completely different person. If that is true, I hope that my loyal readers, those who have listened to me complain for the past three years will stick around.

Don't worry, I am still a coffee swiggin', sarcasm lovin', loud and opinionated person.  But I guess because I am so much happier with who I am, most things don't bother me as much as they used to.  I still drink my Route 44 Cokes from Sonic, I still love my Rolos, I still dislike laundry, dusting, dishes, and all of that other domestic engineering, but because there is a real possibility that my mom, or my mother-in-law, or any number of lifelong friends could stop by on any given day, I keep the house from getting out of control.  Of course,  All of that means that I have less time to write, and less to write about, but that's okay.  I will aim for quality over quantity (not counting this post, obviously).