Thursday, February 4, 2016
Newsflash: Your Kid is an Asshole
Let's start at the beginning.
I got an email from Esten's teacher that something had come up that she needed to talk to me about and asked when would be a good time to call. I immediately assumed the worst, just as I do every time the school's number flashes on my caller ID, every time I answer and I hear, "Mrs. Lee? This is the librarian, the counselor, the intervention room teacher, etc....calling about Esten, calling about Clayton...." I assume something awful. Every single time instead it's been, "he's being recognized as Character Kid this month, can you be here on Friday for the assembly?"
(Except for two "he's barfing" and one "he broke his arm".)
Sometimes my kids will tell me they went to the Principal's office that day and I panic. Then I start lecturing them about what imaginary rules they must have broken, like the time they wore the Volbeat t-shirts to school that their father bought them that I felt might violate the school's dress code.
"I got to read him my writing project and he gave me this cool pencil."
Gah. I never give them the benefit of the doubt.
But this had never happened, and parent-teacher conferences were two days away. What was so important that she couldn't wait to talk to me until then?
It turned out that Esten had talked to her about a bullying situation that had been brewing with a couple kids, one in his class and one who attends another school but who rides the same bus. We all live in the same small neighborhood. Esten had been documenting incidents in an impressively organized and objective manner, and had presented them to her in a mature and non-hysterical way and offered up solutions that she hadn't seen of a fifth grader. We talked about whether I wanted her to talk to the kid's mom at parent-teacher night. I asked her not to, that while I thought absolutely she had the ability to steer her classroom ship, that talking to the mom would cause a rift outside of school because of the proximity in our living arrangements. As it turned out, that student developed a conscience about his actions and ratted himself out thinking the topic would come up between teacher and mom, and he apologized and adjusted his actions accordingly.
The other kid though.
The other kid is like....if Scut Farkus and Eddie Haskell had a baby.
And I'm over his bullshit.
The first worst time was when Esten came home crying after being at his house (I thought he was at a different friend's house and to be honest I would not have said OK to a playdate there to begin with). He wouldn't even tell me why. I had to pry it out of him. He couldn't say the word. He thought he'd be in trouble with me. They'd been playing a game he hadn't played before and because he didn't know how to play, the kid called him a retard.
This is 2016 and kids are still flinging this word around. My kids call it "the R-word" because, like me, it's so incredibly despicable that they know better that to push all the other letters out behind it. I wasn't so much flabbergasted that little Farkus Haskell said RETARD as an elementary school aged kid as I was that little Farkus Haskell said RETARD and his mom is an elementary school teacher.
How does this happen?
Because conversations don't happen at home like the one Esten had to have with me through his tears after being called a retard. The one where I said I was so so sorry that someone didn't have the respect for him or themselves or for mentally challenged people enough to not use that word, but that if so-help-me I EVER heard of him using that word I would pull down his pants in public and beat his fanny.
"Why would I ever call someone the R-word, mom?" he sniffled.
"I know, honey. I'm just making sure you know that is a dealbreaker. An absolutely never ever ever. You would completely get sent to the Principal's office for saying that and I wouldn't defend you. You got it?"
"Yeah. I know."
The chill of winter set in, and I dug out last year's coats, thankful that they still fit, unlike the now high-water jeans that had to be shuffled down to the next shortest kid.
And soon Clayton was heading to the bus stop in a hoodie instead. I stopped him. We argued. Esten explained the reason for Clayton's stubborn refusal to wear a warm coat:
"Because yesterday when we were walking up to the bus stop he yelled 'look at these pussies all bundled up', and he was wearing shorts and a hoodie."
Clayton apparently got so used to hearing this tossed around that while he and the Hubs were throwing the pigskin in the backyard once he put a little too much pepper on it and his dad told him to relax.
"Quit being a pussy, Dad."
After we picked our jaws up off the ground and asked him what he said, he repeated himself, slowly, clearly, loudly. Two more times. "Quit.Being.A.Pussy." Times two. Then we got to have a bigtime chitchat about where he heard that and how inappropriate it is and how if it ever comes out of his mouth again I will sew his lips shut.
The next day I drove them to the bus stop and made them sit in my car until the bus arrived, and I considered him there, standing on the corner, with his pink backpack.
This tough kid with his pink backpack that my kids (and obviously other kids) wouldn't even think about being the level of assholes to give him shit about.
Oh, the irony.
I told my kids they had to sit together in the front of the bus so the bus driver could see what was going on. I was basically punishing my kids for what this kid was doing. I still didn't understand why he couldn't just ride to school with his mommy. I imagined she probably just didn't want to put up with his shit in the car. I would want the time away from him, too.
When other parents heard about the incidents without naming names, some knew exactly who it was. They were not surprised. Some encouraged me to go to the Principal. I thought it was resolved. It had worked itself out.
I picked Esten and his BFF up from Knowledge Bowl practice and as they chittered away in the back with an iPod I asked my every day questions: What was the best/worst part of your day?
They agreed that the best part was that they got to play hockey in P.E.
When it came to the worst, they answered in unison: "Farkus, on the bus."
What? I thought things were better.
Turns out that no, they're not better. He calls Clayton "gay" on the daily. He will let them get on the bus first just so he can walk by and smack them with his backpack. He launches his barrage of putdowns and fowl language that was described as "so bad I don't even know what some of them mean".
I went to the Principal. I told him about the new stuff. I told him the teacher had the report on the old stuff. I acknowledged that he can't control what happens on the weekends, but that the bus is his turf and I was giving him the chance to address it.
And he did. Swiftly. The way the system is set up to handle it. He went to the kid's Principal, who went to the kid, and to the kid's mother (a teacher at his school, remember?)
And apparently the mom is disappointed. In me.
For not telling her directly that her kid is an asshole.
And our mutual friends agree, I guess...that I should have gone to her directly to tell her what she already knows. Everyone is sick of Farkus and his bullshit on the bus.
They posted this Scary Mommy article.
The real disappointment lies in the number of professionals involved, the mom, the friends, everyone who should know better. The ones who are tasked with helping guide others through this process when their children are being bullied. No legitimate resource suggests that you seek out the parent of the bully to talk things out. In fact, the prospect of you approaching either the bully or their parent is a potential roadblock to your kid opening up to you about the bullying in the first place. You should leave the reporting avenues to professionals who are trained to address bullying behaviors when they are occurring in places they have authority over....like the bus and the bus stop and school.
If your kid is being bullied, find help at The Bully Project. If your kid is a bully find help there, too. If your kid is a bully and your friends haven't told you yet, maybe your friends are assholes, because trust me, they know your kid is an asshole and deep down you know it too.