March 10, 2008

Revisiting the Past

I was in Target last week in the book section, not looking for anything in particular. I picked up a random book here and there, scanning the back cover quickly and putting it back when my hand hovered over: "Please Stop Laughing at Me..." by Jodee Blanco. The words " bullying..." on the cover immediately rang true for me. I sucked in a breath of nervous air and picked it up and opened to somewhere in the middle.

I might as well have been reading from my journal from when I was 12. So much of what Jodee writes about in this book happened to me too. She told of kids cramming fist fulls of snow into her mouth...for me it was playground wood chips. She had cruel notes passed to her during class, as did I. The similarities took me back to a time in my life that I so desperately would love to forget but that I think about way too often. As I read the book over this past weekend, I thought of my sweet son. Only 9, but bullied far too much already.

When Noah was first diagnosed with Type 1 in 2005, he was on injections and flew under the "weirdness radar" so to speak. He went to the nurse for everything, and the kids in his class were none the wiser. He was well liked and had friends in school.

Last year he went on the pump. For us it was a step up to tighter control of blood glucose, and more freedom for Noah. For the kids at school it put Noah in a new category and labeled him weird. They had visual proof that he was not like everyone else. Bullying started. I know kids are afraid of what they don't know, and as a result tend to make fun as a means to cope. They didn't tease him about the pump, or diabetes though. It was as if that one little difference caught their attention, and that's all it took, really. They got on his case about anything and everything. From the sneakers on his feet to telling him "your parents don't even love you". A few kids on the bus threatened him daily. One boy went so far as to tell Noah he was going to shoot him in the head with his bow and arrow.

The stress of it all got to Noah. His grades suffered, and he became an emotional mess but more importantly his blood glucose was all over the place. (It's well known stress can wreak havoc on blood sugars). It broke my heart and my husband was livid. This kid who was so easy going, and never once complained about going through the changes of being a person with Type 1 was showing some major cracks in his armor. It eventually eased up but we had to do some ranting in the process. After realizing this was more than a boys will be boys thing, we worked with the school and they helped in a huge way. I'm grateful for that. When I was a kid being bullied right in front of the recess monitors while they smoked their Parliament 100's and did nothing was the norm. You were labeled a tattletale back then if you made so much as a peep.

I'm glad for the chance to go back and revisit how I felt as a kid in school. One thing Jodee's book made me realize is that I hang on to those insecurities and fears way too much for a 34 year old. What kind of example am I setting? At some point I have to get over it and believe in ME...not other people's view of me. I know that Noah will look to me for cues in how to handle bullying and other struggles in his life, and that I'll have to make good on my own advice.


Shannon said...

I'm sorry you were so miserable in school from being bullied.

Jeff was picked on daily from the 3rd grade through high school.

He told me that one weekend, while I was in college and couldn't visit him, he went to a bar with a couple of friends, and saw some of the guys who used to pick on him.

They saw him...they had to look up because he was so much bigger than them by then, and they stammered..."Oh hi Jeff! Good to see you."

He just gave them a menacing look.

So far we haven't heard of our kids picking on anyone, and if they ever do, they will be grounded severly.

Brendon was being picked on at baseball camp and we told him if they touched him again, he had our permission to push them back...only harder. He said he did and the one kid flew to the ground.

The coaches apparently were too busy to catch all of this. That put a bad taste in our mouths.

..M.. said...

Ugh. Bullying really makes me grumpy. I was picked on in school (I think maybe everyone was at some time by some people) and I really hated it when I saw it happening to my son.

Thankfully we've left all that behind now that we're homeschooling. It took a long time for my son to become himself again, but now he's a confident pre-teen and has none of that peer pressure and no bullying.

None of that helps you, of course (unless you're thinking of homeschooling) but just wanted to nod my head in agreement with you. I suspect bullying is something that never goes away. Kids will be kids, and classrooms will always be too crowded, teachers too busy, etc.

Anonymous said...

Would you be willing to share how the school helped? There are many parents facing a similar situation and they aren't sure how to intervene.

Lea said...

The best advice I can give is to be the squeaky wheel. Yes, there will always be a level of teasing, but bullying to the point that your child is hurt or threatened is too much. Strangely enough, most parents aren't aware when their kids are the bully until it goes too far.
Communication with the school is so important, and should be constant. It was rough at first- they didn't seem to make the connection with stress affecting blood sugars. The school nurse was our biggest advocate during that time, and still is. She is wonderful and cares so much about Noah and all the kids she sees. She's a huge blessing.

Don't be afraid to put your foot down. If the bulk of the problem is during the bus ride, like ours was, request that seats be changed and follow up to make sure your requests have been met.

Also, if you don't get any satifaction after speaking with the principal, call the superintendant. Make yourself heard.
Since the tragedy at Columbine, most schools say they have adopted a "zero-tolerance" policy, but don't always act on it.

I always make sure that Noah knows he should stand up for himself, but I also want to stress to him to always be kind, because now he knows how awful it feels to be on the receiving end of bullying.

What worked for us may not work for everyone and every situation, but I hope this helps.

Major Bedhead said...

O's had a couple of instances of teasing, but nothing that a word with the school hasn't sorted out quickly.

I was teased unmercifully all thru grade school and it really warped my sense of self. I'm glad that O seems to be made of much sterner stuff than me because my way of dealing with it was to crawl inside my own head and hide from it. The nuns, needless to say, did nothing to help.

Anonymous said...

I am in love with your blog. I will have to subscribe. I am lucky that my son has not been teased yet, (nor is he a teaser, mind you.. Id do him much more harm than his diabetes will in a day if I caught him doing that)

Good luck, and too bad we dont live close, I am sure Nolan would really like Noah.

Lea said...

Julia, I was like that, too but my escape was music. I constantly had on headphones to block out the haters.

Hi Jen, and thanks for your nice comment. I love the name Nolan- how old is he? When was he diagnosed? I's love to chat with you some more.