Bullies

The other day, I was at my daughters school while my kids were playing on the playground. My daughter goes to a magnet school in which all the kids that attend are tested and/or interviewed and basically handpicked. There were a few other parents there, too and they were talking about another school that is also a magnet. I have a friend, whose son attends the other magnet, and I mentioned that he was suffering some bullying.

One of the women immediately responded, “Some kids have target written all over them.”

I was speechless. Really? If you suffer bullying, you are a target and that is your fault? Obviously, I have a little problem with this.

When I was a kid, I would go down to the creek with my sister and girlfriends and when the boys would show up, they would threaten to throw moss and stuff at us unless we showed them our boob sprouts. Actually, I think I got mossed by one of them. After that, I think we showed them so that they would go away.

Later, when I was in jr. high, I would always get harassed by a tough girl on the bus who eventually hit me on the top of the head with a huge wad of gum while she was walking from the back of the bus to exit at her stop. Needless to say, I avoided the aisle seat after having to cut my hair. Incidentally, I think that’s why she hated me (insert hair flip here), I had some really good wings back in the day.

Okay, so I endured a little bit of bullying. Was I a target? Did I ask for it? And is this what people really think? That some kids are just destined to get the shit kicked out of them, the moss thrown at them, the hair cut off of them? And if they do think that, then what are they telling their kids? That maybe you are too passive, too aggressive, too whatever but you are just like that? Can your hear my voice getting louder as I write this? And if I were raped, molested, robbed or killed, would I just have a target written all over me, oh, well?

They say, you know them, that there are some things people do that make them more likely to be targeted by shitheads. According to the literature that I have read*, victims tend to be people who are either sensitive, vulnerable physically or annoying. Some of my BEST friends, you know who you are, are sensitive, smallish in stature and/or annoying. Thank the gods for that, I don’t know what I would do without you!

I also read some literature about parents:

It is well established that the child-rearing practices of parents of bullies are markedly different from those of victims [Stevens et al., 2002]. Child-rearing techniques linked to bullying behavior include: coercive parenting (i.e., power-assertive disciplinary techniques),parental hostility, a lack of warmth and cohesiveness, exposure to marital conflict, mother’s permissiveness for aggression, and physical abuse [Bowers et al., 1994; Haynie et al., 2001;Olweus, 1980; Schwartz et al., 1997]. Child-rearing techniques predictive of peer victimization include intrusive, overprotective parenting [Bowers et al., 1994; Olweus, 2001], intrusive parental psychological control [Perry et al., 2001], and coercive power-assertive parenting[Kochenderfer and Ladd, 1997; Rigby, 1993, 1994].**

 

When the mom on the playground said this to me,  I think I may have said something like he didn’t seem like a target to me. I am not so good at thinking the right thing to say at the time. It’s only after, when I stew, that I have the right thing. I think this is it.

The other thing I learned in my research is that moral training seems the best defense against bullying.When I see her again, I know I will, will I be able to bring it up?

*I actually did the research Beaty, Lee A., and Erick B. Alexeyev. “THE PROBLEM OF SCHOOL BULLIES: WHAT THE RESEARCH TELLS US.” Adolescence 43.169 (2008): 1-11. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. EBSCO. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.

**Unnever, James D. “Bullies, aggressive victims, and victims: Are they distinct groups?.” Aggressive Behavior 31.2 (2005): 153-171. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. EBSCO. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.

Worried for nothing!

Have I mentioned that my kids RAWK!?!

First, Cameron is such a great kid. He has been happy although we are working on happy-ing the surly out of him, but only has surly in a ten-year old way. He is happy at school, helpful in a ten-year old way, funny and cooperative. I love being around him and listening to his ideas. Recently, his school had a business day where the kids get to spend the scholar dollars they receive for being good in class. They can also sell stuff on business day to earn more scholar dollars.For this past business day, the teachers requested that the items sold had a Thanksgiving theme. This is what Cameron came up with:

Second, Charlie is doing GREAT in school. He does work, he wants to stay late. The class says goodbye to him when he leaves and if they don’t he asks them to. He is becoming part of something on his own. Part of a group. Step one! I am so happy for him! We talked about a play date with Carlos, who is in Charlie’s karate class and I worried, “Can I let him go on a playdate? Will he be okay?” and then thought, “I will have to try, and he’s better now that ever before.” He went to a social skills camp over the weekend. Although I haven’t received the report, I know they worked on recognizing social cues by reading faces because he brought home a coloring sheet. He had a great time. He’s a real boy!

Coco is a girly, stubborn, funny and an amazing artist. Her skills are fascinating as she draws on emotion and perspective in her drawing and at such a young age. Yesterday, she made a shark book:

Where the shark gives the girl X X for eyes
Where the shark brings the mermaid flowers, even though she appears to be dead.

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful (insert hair flip here), hate me because my kids are so cool!

Coco

Passing Storm by Patrick Smith Photography

It’s been a telling 24hours. Last night, when I took Cameron to rehearsal for chorus, Chris sent me a text message that said, “Came really close to smacking the crap out of both of them. Just yanked them out of the tub, wrapped them in a towel and said go to your rooms and get ready for bed. DO NOT COME OUT.”

This has happened before. My immediate reaction is to get home asap to help out. That sinking feeling like I will be able to do something miraculous to help out. Not really true, btw. Anyway, I call home, let Chris vent, and when I get home, follow his lead. Coco wants out of her room, and Charlie is asleep in his when I finally check on them. She apologizes to Daddy and she and Chris read until I get ready for bed.

This morning, during breakfast, Charlie was doing the maniacal cackling laughter thing because Coco’s hair was tangled, then he ran around the house with his pants around his ankles, making animal whining sounds. Meanwhile, Cameron was asking if he could do anything to help make his lunch. Coco was screeching at Charlie to leave her alone. She doesn’t dig the cackle.

Chris got Charlie dressed, as Charlie seems to be incapable to focus long enough to do this on his own, except when he wants to, while Charlie made constant animalistic sounds. Can I talk to you about how very irritating these sounds are? They are the sounds you would hear from someone who is seriously disabled. And we try not to get angry about it, because it certainly has some sensory basis. But it is noise. Constant noise. And not sweet noise, just noise, and the reminder that Charlie isn’t focused and could turn the way of any competing impulse at any moment. As I write this, I am sure there is some other routine that would help us manage our morning frustrations, but we don’t know what that is yet.

Chris got the boys in the car, his frustration palpable.

Now, I had to get Coco ready. She was dressed, but arguing about socks and shoes. Then about brushing hair and teeth. And wanting to draw. And not wanting to go to school. And screaming about all of it. This is not good and I don’t want to scream back. And I am worried about her tardiness at school because it’s a magnet and they might kick her out. All the way to school, she said school was too hard and then that she doesn’t get to play enough. And finally that Charlie doesn’t have to do anything at his school. Fuck. I tell her that Charlie doesn’t do things because he feels like he can’t. I tell her that he has trouble with things that she can do easily. And she says, “That’s because Charlie is goofy and I am pure.”

I know there is a lot of competition between the two of them. But I also feel like she is getting the short stick. If you ignore Charlie, he will squeeze all the lotion all over the porch, or paint the dog, or turn on the water and flood the bathroom. If you ignore Coco, she will draw a picture or make a house out of lincoln logs. In managing the chaos we have managed to ignore our beautiful daughter.

It makes me really angry with Charlie, even though, it’s my damn fault. I know there has to be a way to do this parenting thing better, I just don’t have the tools, yet. In the meantime, I feel bad, and want the best for Coco and Cameron, too. But with Charlie, I also want to escape them and the responsiblity. I feel more like getting a break, than giving them what they are missing. The day when he has a full day of school will be a happy one for me.

a poem from “the perks of being a wallflower” by stephan chbosky

once on a yellow piece of paper,

he wrote a poem

and he called it “chops”

because that was the name of his dog.

and that’s what it was about

and his teacher gave him an A

and a gold star

and his mother hung it on he door

and read it to his aunts

that was the year father tracy

took all the kids to the zoo

and let them sing on the bus

that was the year his little sister was born

with tiny toenails and no hair

and his mother and father kissed a lot

” and the girl around the corner sent him a

valentine signed with a row of x’s

and he had to ask his father what the x’s meant

and his father always tucked him in at night

and was always there to do it

once on a piece of white paper with blue lines

he wrote a poem called “autumn”

because that was the name of the season

snd that’s what it was all about

and his teacher gave him an A

and asked him to write more clearly

and his mother never hung it on the kitchen door

because of its new paint

and the kids told him

that father tracy smoked cigars

and left butts on the pews

and sometimes they would burn holes

that was the year his sister got glasses

with thick lenses and black frames

and the girl around the corner laughed

when he asked her to go see santa claus

and the kids told him why

his mother and father kissed a lot

and his father never tucked him in at night

and got mad

when he cried for him to do it

once on a piece of paper torn from his notebook

he wrote a poem

called “innocence; a question”

because that was the question about his girl

and that’s what is was all about

and his professor gave him an A

and a strange steady look

and his mother never hung it on the kitchen door

becaue he never showed her

that was the year that father tracy died

and he forgot how the end

of apostle’s creed went

and he caught his sister

making out on the back porch

and his mother and father never kissed

or even talked

and the girl around the corner

wore too much makeup

that made him cough when he kissed her

but he kissed her anyway

because that was the thing to do

and at three a.m he tucked himself into bed

his father snoring soundly

that’s why on the back of a brown paper bag

he tried another poem

and he called it “absolutely nothing”

becaue that’s what it was really about

and he gave himself an A

and a slash on each damned wrist

Continue reading “a poem from “the perks of being a wallflower” by stephan chbosky”

WOW!

This is fantastic. It is another bee in my bonnet about the label of ADHD. Charlie’s new teacher, Sima, says that she doesn’t see any attention issues in Charlie at all. Hmmmm. She also says he doesn’t like being told what to do. I am all in agreement. Watch Sir Ken! I love this!

 

Existential Parenting

I was feeling so existential about parenting recently.  I was pushing that rock up that hill to see it fall and push it back up again. No point, no reward. I was feeling exhausted. While I have larger goals for me and the kids, it seemed like the daily feeding, cleaning, refereeing and driving to and fro was all there was.

Rock up the hill.

Rock down the hill.

Rock up the hill.

I know you know.

Then a couple of things happened. Coco woke up on a Sunday morning and asked, “Is this a school day?”

“No, it’s Sunday.”

“I want to go to school today.”

What??? We have had screaming festivals about school and now she likes it. For a few days in a row, the counselor had to call me and tell me that they were worried she would run out of the school and if that was the case, I would have to come get her. Coco is in a DallasISD Montessori magnet school that is highly regarded and hard to get in to. I was terrified she would get kicked out. She likes it! Joy!

We found a school for Charlie. I really believe it this time. It is a Montessori. So many people have warned me against Montessori because they don’t force kids to do things and kids with ADHD need to be coerced because they avoid. I know Charlie avoids things, but maybe with confidence he will grow to try things for their own sake and not for the sticker or whatever carrot is on the stick. The teacher, Sima, seems like the perfect person for a child like Charlie, she gives him space, limits attention of bad behaviors and praises him for his good acts. She happily greets him and says goodbye to him, looking him in the eye and shaking his hand. He happily jumps in the car to go to school and brings home art work that is his proud of everyday. WOW.

So it seems all those rocks are making a hill. Maybe they will make a mountain one day.

This was my guest blog for http://www.hartleysboys.com/ and SPD Awareness Month

Charlie

By Christina Morris, mom and blogger atSensing Madness

Life is an accumulation of what you do. Mick Jaggar said, “It’s all right letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back.” Doing what you want is a strong impulse made even more difficult when you have a neurological disorder. The story of Charlie has been one of trying to find a balance. We know Charlie is very bright but we have been so worried about his education because he has Sensory Processing Disorder. We have thought, “Only a very special teacher will be able to help him.” So far, he has only had us and we make progress most of the time, but it’s not always pretty.

Charlie is our five-year-old middle child. He has an older brother, Cameron, who is gifted, and kind, and a younger sister by seven months, Coco, who is showing signs of being advanced. Charlie was adopted when I had just become pregnant after a few years of trying.

Early on, we suspected that school wasn’t ready for Charlie – he was so fast, he had to touch everything, and nothing could satisfy his curiosity for long. One minute he was up on the counter with a butcher knife, seconds later he was on the carpet, prying open a can of soda with a screwdriver. We had to keep everything away from him. I can even make an alphabetical list: A – appliances: refrigerator, oven and microwave locked, toaster unplugged. Yes, even the toaster. B – bathroom: door locked, or else we would be splash time in the toilet or rolls of unspooled paper all over. C – cat, poor, poor kitty. You get the picture. He reveled in the way things smelled and felt. Luxuriated in it. I marveled at his reaction in the bathtub, carefully picking up the bubbles, slowly putting them to his nose, and then inhaling deeply before the his hand got too close and he smashed the bubbles on his face. We made a few trips to the emergency room because of Charlie’s tendency to eat lotion. I think we have since surmised that he didn’t mean to eat it so much as smell it and feel it. We made sure to visit the park daily, bathe frequently and always have chew toys and pacifiers on hand. While he was always looking for input, he would also fight you for space. There were a few people, me included, who leaned in for a kiss and instead got a fist in the kisser. It was hard to communicate with him. He didn’t often hear and/or understand “no”. I remember becoming the mom who yells and spanks. His out of control was my out of control. When the house was calm, we were on eggshells to keep it that way.

At two, he wanted to follow his brother to school. He got a backpack, filled it with toys and walked around the house wearing it, waiting, impatiently, to be taken to school. When we found a preschool for him, the reports from his teachers weren’t particularly complimentary: “He doesn’t stop.” “He can really keep you on your toes.” “He took off his own dirty diaper and gleefully ran around the classroom with it in his hand.” Because of a personnel switch, they changed the class routine, something that really bothered him. He began to fight and cry when we dropped him off. We pulled him out.

That was probably one of the hardest times for us. We know he couldn’t control himself, but we were without a definitive answer or plan. Our family and friends and teachers acted like they knew exactly what to do. “Make him listen.” “Put him in time out.” “Spank him.” “That child needs to be on medication.” “He’s so smart, he’s playing you. You’re a fool if you don’t see it.” My husband and I were, for the first time in our marriage, at odds with each other. We were constantly unhappy and bickering, exhausted and frustrated. We would blame each other for the kids’ behavior or for not handling conflict correctly. We were second-guessing each other, angry, and generally unhappy. I felt miserable. I don’t believe that kids who are two years old consciously manipulate anyone; I believe they are just trying to express something. He agreed with me. But the stress was overwhelming. We were both feeling judged.

When Charlie was about to turn 3, we tried another school. Being the sensory shark that he is, he was in time-out on the first day for going into the teacher’s purse, and then later finding and squeezing the paints. He was in time-out on the second day for pushing another child. We began to hang our heads again. We didn’t want to be the parents of ‘that kid’. We didn’t want him to be ‘that kid.’

It was around this time that I heard of SPD. I recognized some of the symptoms, and a light went off. I wasn’t crazy! I knew there was something wrong, something he couldn’t control, something that we could and needed to address to get Charlie ready for school and eventually, life.

Although the school was willing to let him stay, we decided to pull him out. We were just beginning our journey with SPD and wanted to make sure he had a positive start to his school experience. We were worried that he would spend the majority of his days in time-out for doing things that were beyond his control. We needed to understand what was going on before we dropped him off at school and hoped for the best.

Our first experience with an occupational therapist was not exactly satisfying. She confirmed our suspicions of SPD but seemed distant. While she recommended therapy, she never seemed very firm about the diagnosis or positive about the outcome. “Yep, that’s Charlie,” she would say when I would comment on some behavior. It felt like any time I asked for advice, there was nothing more than agreement about the situation.

When we first realized that Charlie was suffering from SPD, we began to notice the unique difficulties he had with balance, like his posture in a swing or just falling down, even from a sitting position. Before learning about SPD, he moved so quickly all the time, we didn’t have the inclination to identify his differences; we were just keeping up, barely, and were very frustrated. He wasn’t listening, and his curiosity always seemed to lead him to the most dangerous and or maddening activities. While I was cleaning up paints he would be squeezing lotion or getting into prescriptions. He required vigilance, not just supervision. While OT helped identify some of these issues, we still had other, bigger issues controlling behavior.

After looking for more information, I found a school that I thought would be great. It was a school in an OT gym, and I thought that I had found “IT”! They worked on transitions, behavior and more. We stopped going to OT after a few weeks at the new school and for a while, it was really good. Then, they had a huge turnover in personnel and kids. His teacher was fired because she disagreed so vocally with the director after the director therapeutically ‘held’ Charlie in class one day after an aggressive outburst. The changes were ruinous for him. Within 4 months, they were managing him, not helping him.

Not long after, we found our Occupational Therapist, Diane, who has been so helpful to us. We wanted to approach Charlie’s differences intensively. We did research on Lucy Miller and considered going to her clinic in Denver, but decided we could get many of the same benefits by treating Charlie twice a week over a longer period of time. Diane tested Charlie, gave us actual detail about Charlie’s deficiencies in years and months, and in terms we could understand. She helped us to see what he was missing, recommended specific activities for us to try at home and set goals so that we could recognize his success. His tests revealed he was almost two years behind in his gross motor development and a little over a year behind in his fine motor. Our goal was to simply close the gap.

We also consulted with a developmental pediatrician who recommended medication after meeting with Charlie for one hour. I was devastated. Medication is the absolute last resort for me. On the advice of Diane, we had him tested by a neuropsychologist. She diagnosed him with ADHD as well as SPD. She also proposed medication, but gave us an alternative recommendation of neurofeedback therapy. We did the neurofeedback therapy three times a week and OT twice a week for about three months. We were very busy and while Charlie enjoyed OT he detested neuofeedback. He would get candy for doing well in OT, but he upped the ante for neurofeedback. We were at the hobby store once a week, buying models.

All we have done so far seems to have worked for us. Charlie is less oppositional today, he doesn’t have bad days at OT anymore, his balance and gross motor skills have improved by over a year, and he is almost up to average for his age group. Because of our intensive approach, I think we have progressed. But is it measurable? If he can stay in school and remain happy, that would be success.

It has been a little over a year since we have had Charlie in school. Four different schools have told us that he isn’t welcome. One of them is specifically for kids with Sensory and ADHD issues. “He doesn’t listen.” “He doesn’t focus.” “He isn’t mature enough.” “We can’t handle him.” Without recognition, he will fall through the cracks. He doesn’t “qualify” for services because he is incredibly intelligent and well spoken. Although he can’t read or write or even color, he is gifted in other ways. For example, he has a talent for tools – recently he unscrewed the hinges on the door to the laundry room. We discovered it when the door fell on my husband.

It is obvious that our journey with Charlie and SPD is just beginning. He just had his fifth birthday. He delights us with his knowledge of ships, pirates and sea creatures. He maddens us when he uses my very expensive cosmetic products and bug spray in his experiments of mixing liquids. He is unique and beautiful and I can’t imagine my life without him. Cameron, his older brother, helps him build Legos one minute and fights with him for breaking them the next. Coco, his younger sister, is either conspiring with him to get my attention or crying because they have come to fisticuffs again. My husband and I now build each other up, rather than knock each other down. That is what education about SPD has done for us. We are the special teachers and we are being specially taught. We are a family, true and whole. I know that we all love each other very much and that won’t stop. Yes, I am still worried about school. Yes, I am still explaining SPD to friends and family. But look what learning about it did for us! I am hopeful and happy, and I can think of no better way to live.

 

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