Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Friday evening I swallowed my pain pills and muscle relaxants and talked myself into a wonderful evening. Jacob's school was having its annual Spring Carnival. And I couldn't make him miss another year because of me.

It was wonderful to see the excitement on his face. He was having the time of his life. Kids flocked to him like they always have. He's the life of the party. His kindness and humor and spirit... he reels 'em in.

I listened as his friends educated me on their girlfriends and school gossip. I learned that a fellow student had been suspended for the second timethis year for carrying a knife to school. They talked about it like it was no big deal. Like it was "normal" for this boy.

Jacob's known this boy since preschool. This little boy comes from a home in a wealthy neighborhood with both parents and an older brother. He was a sweet kid. I volunteered a lot in Jacob's kindergarten class and got to know this boy pretty well. He was friendly. He was funny. He was sweet and kind and somewhat shy. He and Jacob were buddies. He came to Jacob's birthday party... kid stuff.

Last year Jacob started coming home with stories about this boy. The boy started yelling at other kids, calling them names and hitting them. Several times Jacob came home telling me this boy "jumped" Jacob and other boys during recess basketball or football games because he didn't get his way. The recess monitor would make him stand beside her, but he'd continue to do bully every chance he got. Finally he had to stay in during recess.

That really shocked me. I wondered what was going on in his life for him to behave like that. Maybe something was going on at home. Something's wrong with this boy. Now he's bringing weapons to school.

Friday evening I learned that part if not all of the problem was due to his weight. Kids call him tubby number 1. Jacob's friends were laughing about it... not in a mean way... "Jacob's tubby number 5 which is good 'cause he's almost normal weight." (Jacob is a big boy. 5'4". He wears 32 30 pants and size 9 shoes. He's a big'n. He always has been.) Jacob puffs out his chest like it was the biggest compliment he's ever heard. I've tried to teach him that people can only hurt your feelings if you allow them to. And to not allow them to.

I know kids can be cruel. I know words hurt. I know it's easy to tell someone not to worry. I also know those words can stick around forever. And those words fester if they're not handled properly. It's been displayed in school shootings and suicides around the world for years. And now that same desperate cry for help is coming from a ten year old boy in Jacob's class.

A little boy has been made fun of by other kids. A little boy has been kicked almost daily by a girl in the lunch line. A little boy is so angry and hurt that he has turned away from his friends and classmates and has turned to weapons. And this frightens me. I am terrified of what this "situation" could lead to. I remember sitting and watching the tv for hours April 20, 1999 during the Columbine shootings. But this time it's personal.

It also upsets/disturbs me that the school has been so closed mouthed about it. The school did call a friend Friday to report the situation to her. Her son (Jacob's buddy) saw the knife the boy was carrying. He repeatedly told the boy not to take the knife out of his pocket. The school called to report that. And they should have. But I believe more must be done. Number one... parents need to talk with their kids. Unfortunately we all know a lot of parents don't do this. The school needs to reinforce and educate kids on a number of things... and encourage them to come forward if they're being bullied or heaven forbid see a fellow classmate with a weapon in or out of school. Jacob's little buddy told his mom he didn't want to tell on the boy. He even hesitated when she asked him what he would have done if it was a gun instead. Scary!

Jacob and I have talked. And talked. And talked. I've talked wiht him about school shootings and how they start because kids have been picked on. Just last week a local school uncoved another plot where several students were going to use shootings/killings as their revenge. I've been able to use that as a tool with Jacob. I hope others have.

Jacob's always been one to tell on kids. He can be a whiner. Even though it drives me nuts sometimes how he tells on kids... I'm thankful for it. He's always been "the big kid". And oddly enough he's been the one to get picked on or hit.

Apparently other kids use him to get out their frustrations. Or to boost their self esteem. And he's taken it. He's always been told not to hit back. Not only is it wrong to use violence to solve violence, but he's bigger and could really hurt someone. So he uses his words. Sometimes they're loud words and sometimes they're crying words and sometimes they're annoying words (to me). But it's always words.

Sunday evening he was outside playing football with a couple of boys (twin brothers). I hear him running up the steps crying. A loud, deep cry. A painful cry, but also a shocked cry. I quickly jump up because this cry is different from the usual whine. Jacob's holding his mouth, and I can see blood covering his teeth. He tells me his friend just punched him in the mouth over a football score. (These boys have a terrible family life. They are good boys and have the potential to be great. Sad.)

I walk outside with Jacob with so many things running through my mind. I see the boy standing in the yard with his brother See. Good kids. He didn't take off running. He waited for his punishment. These boys have lived down the street and have been friends with Jacob since kindergarten. They've heard every lecture from me at least once. And they've obviously learned I mean business.

My heart was racing. I couldn't decide what to do. Then all of a sudden I remembered what I told these boys the last time they punched Jacob. So I looked at Jacob and told him to punch the boy back. All three boys looked at me with big eyes. They were shocked. I see the puncher... about to become the punchee... gulp. Jacob asked if he could kick him instead. Which I think is precious. He's never thrown a punch before. He knows he can kick hard ;) (I know I just smiled at my son throwing a punch. I know.)

Jacob walked over to the boy (who stood there with his arms down. He was very brave.) and punched him in the chest knocking the boy down. The boy lays there for a second, grabs his chest and stands up. Then he looked right at me waiting for "it".
And I let him have it. I made them all listen.

"I'm sick of Jacob being your punching bag when things don't go your way. I'm sick of Jacob getting hit and having to take it just because he's bigger. I'm sick of Jacob being the punching bag. And he's sick of it, too. The next time you hit him Jacob might really hit you back and hurt you. He's got a lot of punches and kicks built up in there. And I'm ashamed of you _____. You're Jacob's best friend. He sticks up for you when other kids make fun of you, and this is how you treat him. Friends don't treat friends like that. Shame on you ______."

By this time the boy is fighting back tears. But he stood there and listened to every word. All three did. I told Jacob and the boy to shake hands and then sent the boy home. A little while later the brother had to go home. Jacob came in a little taller.

I asked him how he felt. Blah, blah, blah. He looked at me and grabbed his fist and said, "It kinda hurt. My knuckles popped when I punched him." What do I say? "Oh yeah. You're supposed to pop you knuckles before you punch." What? I've never thrown a punch. But more importantly... I'm giving my ten year old advice on how to throw a punch. (Can I blame that on my brain problem?)

Did you notice the mixed message? The first part of the weekend started with preventing (school) violence and ended up with me encouraging it. Although I see the difference. As a parent I want to protect my son. And if that means knockin' a kid on his hind end to get him to stop physically hurting my son... then knock his lights out. But what did I teach? What did Jacob learn?


Blogger Libragirl said...

He learned a good lesson believe it or not. He knows not to hit but to speak. That fact that the other kid waited for his punishment means he knows he did something wrong and hopefully will grow up to be a man. Your son will. He's 10, see what happens next time.

5:46 AM  
Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

#1 Son is the big kid, too. He's not fat, just tall. He was bullied by kids 1/2 his size. He has a black belt in karate. He never threw a punch and never kicked. We told him that if someone punched him first, he could punch back and defend himself. We also told him to make it a good one, since he'd probably only get one shot. Talk about a mixed message!! He's older now and very handsome... The girls love him and the boys have decided to be nice since they want attention from the girls... hmm... the tables do turn!!
You are doing the right thing!!

9:17 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

You know, a lot of these things wouldn't happen if parents would get more involved and make sure their own children weren't mistreating other kids. All of that teasing and bullying DOES hurt.

It's a scary place in our schools!

9:36 AM  
Blogger Shelli said...

That is a tough one Kimmy. It is hard because you don't want him to be a doormat, but you don't want him to be a bully either. In my heart, I think that Jacob gets it.

I hope you are feeling better.

Take care.

10:09 AM  
Blogger stacey said...

I don't think you are sending mixed messages at all. Lashing out at others physically because you're hurting and defending yourself are two different things.
I believe if a child is being called names and generally being ridiculed, then that child needs to tell an adult (hopefully their parents or a teacher) and let them handle it. But if a child hits another child in anger, then that child has the right to defend themselves. If a child is being physically bullied everyday by more than one child, then I think that child should defend themselves physically, but they need to let an adult know also. Some bullied children need serious therapy too. If a child ever reaches the point where they feel that they need to use a weapon for protection or to exact revenge, I believe there is something deeper going on there. I wouldn't worry about Jacob too much-he seems like a smart, well-adjusted kid and I think he understands where you are coming from.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Courtney said...

I agree there is a difference when hitting in self defense. I think you did great.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

I have to agree with Shelli, and have been in this situation, sort of before with my kids.

We hate to see our kids being a doormat for anyone but we also want them to be able to protect themselves. I think in this situation all the boys understood what you were trying to do.

As for the knife at school, that just makes me sick. A notice should of went out to all the parents on what happened.

So glad you got to go to the Spring Carnival with Jacob.

Hugs Suz

3:13 PM  
Blogger Plumkrazzee said...

That was handled really well. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Because you were there, you intervened, and you monitored the situation, I think you did the right thing. There's a difference between having a kid run all over town punching people, and teaching your child life lesson's about respect, self esteem, problem solving, and sticking up for oneself. Good job!!

5:01 PM  
Blogger Petite Mom Blogger said...

It all comes down to communication and quality time. Parents need to communicate and spend time with their children. They need to show them what is right and what is wrong. Unfortunately, too many parents don't have the time or don't want to make the time! For some reason these days, parents think their time is more precious for themselves rather than for their kids and this starts all the trouble in children then it goes over into the school system...

I think that is why we are REALLY going to homeschool when all is said and done. I just don't want my children to have to deal with all of this crap. It's not necessary and most of it can be prevented.

All in all for your situation, I think you did the right thing. It was self-defense.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Katherine said...

Wow! What a scary and difficult situation to have to deal with. I think you handled it great and good thing you were there!

7:37 PM  
Blogger mommyof4 said...

I tell my kids never to hit either. My daughter has already come to me and asked if so and so hitsme can I fight back? I always tellher no to just walk away. But there have been times when her friends can get really bitchy and I get sick of Falicia coming home and crying about. I have told her to just slap somebody andwalk away! She has not done it yet and I hope she dont but if it will get them to back off I am all for it!!

8:00 PM  
Blogger It's a FLIP-FLOP World said...

I am so glad that you are feeling better and got to go with your son to Spring Carnival. That is so important for kids.
You did the right thing with Jacob too. I am so glad that raising my children is over with. Now my grandchildren are my priority!! I wonder how things are going to be for them in school. It truly does bother me. Hang in there.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Jackie said...

I think you taught him that there is a time to stand up for yourself.

10:33 PM  
Blogger AlphaGamBran said...

Gabriel Micah can teach him some tricks

12:30 PM  
Blogger Carmi said...

The minefield of parenthood gets dicier still.

Why does it have to be so hard?

The fact that you wrote so eloquently about the situation and your response to it speaks volumes about your abilities as a parent. You have great courage to be there for your son, and to morally guide him through a tough scenario. Good on ya.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Krisco said...

Both of those situations are hard. You wonder what is going on with the boy who keeps bringing the knife.

And that neighbor is a good kid to stand there and take it and wait for you to venton him. And to take a punch from your son.

It's too bad things aren't good at home for him, because there's something in him that seems like it is good.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Virenda said...

I have 3 girls but they are all still pretty young. I try to always teach my children that hitting is NOT allowed nor is it "nice" but I can definitely see how in your situation it would be difficult and scary and so heartbreaking for you and your son. What matters Kimmy is that you love your son, he knows it and loves you in return. The rest has to work itself out, that's life and as parents we try and that's all we can do. At least I pray it is.

I try to teach my daughter to be honest. I know that's not a new concept but it's one I hold dear. I try to teach my children to NOT be ashamed to be honest, that telling someone that they hurt your and your feelings ISN'T a bad thing, and doesn't make you weak. I wish more people were honest, that way at least we all would know where we stand. I hope in the end, words and MY actions are enough to help my kids grow up to be strong lovely women.

Love you Kimmy and I think your a great mom and I think it's wonderful that you pay attention to your kids friends and value them even if they have problems. I was always labeled the bad girl, the bad influence because of my mother and the few times I made a mistake. It's funny cause usually I WASN'T the bad example, not that the parents cared.

Okay sorry for the long winded comment.

Have a nice night and I hope you rest up.

11:38 PM  

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