Now I don’t know about you but when I think of a parents worst nightmare it tends to involve some kind of freak trauma resulting in permanent damage possibly even death.
Honestly I think people (mostly parents) use this phrase to describe anything scary or traumatic involving their children and don’t even bother actually rating them from literal worst to least, instead they just consider all nightmarish events to be the “worst”.
That being said I have been thinking about a common
Event that has sadly become a familiar term recently in homes world wide! This subject I consider to be very serious and very easily my second worst nightmare for my kids….
I am talking about bullying.
No parent wants to know their child is being bullied. No parent wants to watch their kid get picked on and see the hurt in their eyes as they look around for help but none is offered… No one but you sees what is going on… Do you step in? Do you intervene or let it play out even though you feel like you are dying inside as you watch your child struggle…
Step it up a notch and imagine your. Child has a special need… Mild or severe, this special need may affect their ability to interact socially at a normal level so you know that not only does your child not understand what they have done to deserve the cruelty from others in this moment but also he/she doesn’t know how to respond to it either! Your heart breaks as a parent knowing that this will probably be something your child will face many many more times in the future…
For example, Kaelob has been doing. Muay Tai/Kickboxing for about a year now and he loves it! He doesn’t respond appropriately to some directions nor does he interact calmly and socially appropriate with his peers on most occasions but so far the other kids have been relatively tolerant of his oddities.
Years ago about the only way he knew how to talk to his peers, especially when he got excited, was to yell gibberish in their face and bump into them with his body like a weird version of human bumper cars. Luckily his peers were much younger then and much more accepting. They would work through the interaction and despite struggling to communicate they managed to get to a level of understanding and move on. Possibly because they were you get then, grown ups observing this would also step in and assist If needed.
But now? No, not now. 8 year olds are expected to communicate effectively with both peers and adults. I don’t expect it from Kaelob but I do give him more space and opportunity to work it out on his own and learn from his mistakes…. Even if that means I sometimes have to watch him struggle and hurt.
He has come SUCH a long way over this last year!! The number of unclear verbal outbursts has diminished greatly; to almost none! He is able to introduce himself and appropriately answer simple questions about his name age address and so on. I remember a day when he would respond to “how are you today Kaelob?” with “yes” and people would look up at me weird and I would cringe inside wishing they had asked him something else, or nothing at all, or that he could understand how to respond to them “normally”… He couldn’t get excited without practically climbing up your body like a tree and making strange noises at the same time. We worked llllloooonnnnggggg and hard with pulling him back getting to his level and explaining to slow down and use his words to tell us what he is so happy about. The progress he has made over this last year has been tremendous!!! I am sooooo proud of him!!!!
Despite his amazing progress he is coming into a new stage of struggle dealing with peers that are. Now able to notice that he doesn’t do things or respond to things the way they do. Not only do they notice it but they complain or treat him poorly because of it.
The other week in his kickboxing class there were a lot of kids so class that day was large(he tends to struggle more when there’s a larger group) and because of this during some of he drills a handful of kids needed to sit out and wait until the next round to switch with someone and take their turn. Anyone reading this could guess that waiting is not something Kaelob does well… He decided during this particular time to entertain himself with noises, practicing his funny faces and occasionally biting his gloves… Granted he could have also gone the opposite route and thrown a full on tantrum stomping his feet and whining that he had to sit out at all , but he didn’t! So although I don’t approve of his behavior in general I was still very proud of him for doing better than he’s done in the past!
Unfortunately his friends beside him, also waiting their turn to go did not find his behavior amusing. They grumbled a few complaints to him which he didn’t seem to acknowledge. One of the boys shoved him and he rocked over to the side, sat back up and continued what he had been doing with maybe just a quick confused glance at the boy who had pushed him. He stopped at one point and looked directly at them to say something I couldn’t make out but the tone he used and his facial expression made it seem like he was genuinely just trying to have a friendly conversation. With them…. By this point they were clearly upset and annoyed by him so their response to him was to glare at him angrily and put their fingers in their ears.
The look on kaelobs face was heartbreaking. He got it. He finally understood that they were angry with him but the hurt on his face told me very clearly that he didn’t understand why.
Now as a parent, as a MOM… When I see someone lay a finger on my babies I want to punch them out. Obviously I can’t exactly do that, nor can I storm into the middle of his kickboxing class to mediate a simple conflict that they should work out themselves…. I can’t be that mom. So I sat there watching, hurting, crying inside for my baby boy who was struggling to grow up and trying to fit in.
Yesterday we spent the day as a family at the beach. Kaelob usually spends the entire time playing and swimming in the little waves, but yesterday he seemed to assume the job of removing the large debris of seaweed from the shore. He busied himself with the task of dragging the large piles of seaweed as far as he could up onto the beach then running back to the waves as fast as he could . No one really joined him and he didn’t seem to mind one bit!
On one of his trips back up to the beach with a long stretch of seaweed a group a boys in wet suits were walking by as he headed up the sand dragging the giant plant. These boys were no more than a year or so older than Kaelob and from just a little ways away I watched as one boy intentionally stepped on the seaweed that was dragging in the sand. This caused Kaelob to jerk to a stop and turn around confused as to what he got caught on. He looked up at them so innocent and so confused. He didn’t say a word but tugged gently on his seaweed and the kid didn’t move his foot. Kaelob looked down at his foot then back up at the kid. The friends of this boy were standing around giggling and I saw the frustration slowly creep into his face. He took a deep breath and tugged even harder. The boy quickly lifted his foot as if to try and knock Kaelob off balance by letting to. When Kaelob turned around and started heading back up the beach like nothin had happened the kid stomped on the seaweed again.
Kaelob spun around with desperation in his eyes. My heart ached when I saw him look around for help (he didn’t see me) and looked so broken when he saw no one was paying attention to the injustice that was happening right now, no one was helping him… Oh God how I wanted to step in and pummel the kid!! I couldn’t, I knew I couldn’t. I knew deep down Kaelob was handling himself really well.
He looked so angry but all he did was get a tighter grip on the plant bent his knees and pulled even harder. Suddenly the branch of seaweed broke and the boys cheered for their friend who was laughing proudly. They high fived each other and walked off. Kaelob stood there a moment and watched them walk away and I wish I could have heard his thoughts… He looked as though he were tying to explain why someone would do that to him… He looked like he just didn’t understand at all, how do I tell him neither do I?? Then his face changed. He took a deep breath and sighed, swung the plant over his shoulder and headed back up the beach.
I am Ssssssoooooooo unbelievably proud of him!! Yet I am hurting for his sweet little heart. It’s such a terrible feeling, to watch others be mean to your child and not be able to do anything about it. To watch them look for help… How do you explain to your child that this will only get worse? How do you tell them that they struggle socially because of a disorder that they had no control over?? Kaelob has been in and out of therapy, resources, classes and so on… In his mind all that is “normal”. He has no idea that the way he processes things might be “different” …. But maybe just maybe it’s time to have that talk. I want to raise confident proud children but struggle with Kaelob because recently he has been acting out such self doubt and low self esteem. He says really negative things about himself when he gets in trouble of is frustrated and dressed and it makes. Me just want to cry when I hear him say those things. But maybe, understanding Why might help him with his recent negativity oR help him cope with the hard social interactions and conflicts with peers.
Maybe it is time.