Thursday, June 15, 2006

It's Never Easy...

This week has been packed with one form of parental drama or another, just in time for summer break (which is really just a break for the kids, not dad). I don't know how I managed last summer... well, yes I do actually - adrenalin and shock were still my companions, whereas this year I don't have the dubious pleasure of their company. I also had mucho help from family and friends, as last summer was my first little bit without Sam & my dad. And while I still have help from family and friends, it's not to such a high degree anymore. After all, other people have moved on with their lives. It's natural for them to do so. But I'm not to that point yet (also a natural place for me to be).

Our tale begins on Monday with Miz K. asking when she could get a training bra. I was doing laundry and tried not to look like a deer in the headlights as I managed a reply, which basically amounted to "we can get you a training bra when you need one, but don't try to rush things." Apparently one of the girls in her class has one, and she's naturally comparing notes. So I thought we'd put that one away for a year or so - how wrong that assumption turned out.

The next day, Tuesday, just before the end of the school day, I got a tearful phone call from Tyler at the Nurse's office at school. Apparently, 6th grade girls run in little gangs now, aggressive and organized, and one was bullying the other kids on a class hike back from Alki that afternoon. A friend of Tyler's decided to blow the whistle on the abuser, whom the teacher hauled out of the classroom to talk to. While the teacher was gone, the girl's posse started berating Tyler's friend about busting their friend. Tyler went to his friend's aid with moral support, demanding "why shouldn't he have [told on their friend]?" Some heated words were exchanged, and Tyler was struck in the side of the head hard enough to see stars. He lashed out blindly to defend himself, and the second girl decked him in the eye hard enough to knock him down. His head struck a table on the way to the floor.

Where to begin, where to begin...

Tyler has been a target for bullies in the past. He's a cerebral (and advanced) kid, and kids who are above-average in IQ or gifted in other ways are often perceived as strange by their fellow students. It happened to me as a kid, and it happened to Sam. Last year, a kid in Tyler's class told him his mom wasn't really dead - she was hiding from the family (the same kid started a fire in the portables this year). When it took two days for any official notification from school staff about the incident, I raised a stink and demanded immediate inclusion in any altercation in which Tyler was involved. After all, I cannot effectively parent if I'm not getting all the information. From then on, I always got at least two phone calls from principal and staff when Tyler was bullied or having a problem at school. A much improved situation.

So after the call from Tyler, I got a call from the principal and the teacher. The girls were hauled into the principal's office and wrote their own version of events, which of course labeled Tyler as the aggressor. Now granted, Tyler is dealing with a lot of anger and emotional issues at this time in his life, but it still takes a lot to set him off. He got to be a 7th kyu in Aikido by the time he was 10, and knows that force is only acceptable in self defense. While it's true that he can often bait and inflame a situation verbally, I do believe he did not hit first.

Meanwhile, back at the dance studio: Imagine my surprise when Kayleigh's instructor tells me she needs to get a sports bra to wear under her costume for the recital. Sigh.

The next day (yesterday), I kept Tyler home from school and got him in to see the doctor. No permanent damage to the skull, nose, ears or ocular bone. Just a nice shiner that has made Tyler a school celebrity, much to his chagrin. But things have changed a lot since I was a kid - [in crochety old man voice] in my day girls were a lot less aggressive in general, and didn't usually try to deck a guy. If they did, the guy would have to live with having been decked by a girl, yet wasn't expected to defend himself. I always hated that double standard. If a girl initiates a fight with a guy, the guy should not be expected to hold back. Conversely, the source of Tyler's celebrity seems to be the fact that he stood up for his friend doing the Right Thing. When we arrived at school to pick up Kayleigh, three of his former teachers commended him for doing the Right Thing, and hopefully not be dissuaded from doing the Right Thing in the future. I'd been telling him the same thing since the incident, so it was good to hear the teachers back him up.

In terms of discipline, I have not yet heard what will happen to the girls who assaulted him. School is out next Tuesday, so a suspension doesn't serve as much of a penalty. At the same time, however, just because it's the end of the year doesn't mean the penalty should be softened. This kind of situation is especially difficult for a parent. We want to advocate for our kids, but not to the point where we become obstructive to the process (and/or perceived as raving loons). I will talk to the school today and find out where things stand.

Tyler and I are agreed the situation is the last deciding factor in moving him to Madison next school year. A change is needed. In the meantime, ice and Advil are the order of the day, and hopefully Tyler will have a nice distraction in the form of a class field trip to Wild Waves.


Neko Wafer said...

Geez! Poor Tyler! Give him a hug for me, as well as a "Hurray for sticking up for friends!"

Andrew said...

It takes a lot of guts to stand up like Tyler did, so I'm proud of him, even if from his perspective the shiner might not seem to be a glowing endorsement!

Wish I could come over every summer bud ... Will have to make a showing again soon tho!

Bug said...

Ugh. You both seem to be handling this fairly well. And I'm glad to hear that your growing. I can see it in the writing.

PS: I *didn't* fall off the face of the planet - just a detour :)