Friday, June 18, 2010

sticks and stones

Last week some older boys called Danny a retard.

It was devastating. At least it was for me. Danny was more angry that the kids were not letting him use the slide; the name calling didn't seem to faze him too much. Thankfully.

But me? Well, I cried for more than an hour that afternoon.

I know no one wants to see their kid made fun of, but there is something extraordinarily painful to me about Danny being mocked for his quirks. I can't quite articulate it. I guess it is just a fear of mine that he will not be able to make friends or that other kids will be mean to him because of his differences.

I know this is a fear all moms have, but truly, this is different. Of course, I would never want Charlotte to be mocked, but I am pretty sure if she were called a retard, I would be able to brush it off much more easily and chalk it up to the stupidity of bullies.

But Danny being called that word hits home. Not because he is slow mentally or because he is intellectually disabled in any way. Actually, he isn't at all. Academically, he is right on target for his age, and above average in some areas.

Socially, though, Danny has some delays. Definitely. And he has quirks which can sometimes put others off. And having kids make fun of him for those differences makes me worry even more about Danny's future social life. I worry that he won't have friends and that he'll be lonely. And having some kid make fun of him for it just highlights that my fears aren't unthinkable.

Fortunately, that afternoon as I cried, I did something very smart. I called my sister. I knew she would understand. She loves Danny as much as anyone could--she has always been his defender.

She was as angry as I was, but then she gave me an amazing gift. She helped me not just see past it, but also how to turn this into a learning experience for Danny and Charlotte. And even for me.

Beth urged me to not allow Danny to become the victim, but to teach him that those boys were wrong. Beth tells her kids that when kids are mean to them, they should say, "You are being mean to me. When you are mean, I can't play with you. Friends are not mean." After that, they are to walk away and play somewhere else.

She advised me to point out to Char and Dan that those mean kids should never have said those things. The mean kids are the ones with the problem, and my kids should seek out friends who are nice. Friends, like A, who stuck up for Danny on the playground that day. In fact, A was the one who told me what had happened, and who actually told the mean kids' mom. A was so angry at what they had done to Danny that she couldn't let it rest.

So, that evening, I talked with Charlotte and Danny. I explained that the big kids were being mean, that they were wrong and that we should never treat people that way. I also pointed out that A, on the other hand, was a really good friend, and that she was the kind of friend the kids should seek out.

I don't know how much sank in with Danny. He didn't seem all that interested in the conversation. Still, it made me feel better. I know that this is just one of many times in which Danny will most probably be mocked for his differences. I also know that most kids get teased and have their feelings hurt many times throughout childhood. I know I sure did.

But now, with my sister's help, I realized that I don't have to just sit here and bear it. Instead, I can use these moments to empower my children, to teach them right from wrong and how to be a good friend. And I can teach them that they don't have to put up with people being cruel to them. They are not victims, no matter how badly their feelings have been hurt. They have the power to walk away and choose to make different friends.

Friends like A.

And friends like my sister.


Sarah said...

That is the soundest advice I have heard in a long time. I commend Beth's fortitude and I commend your ability to articulate how you were feeling....

Great post Patty,

Mama Karen said...

I think your sister was right on with the advice. Thank you for sharing

a Tonggu Momma said...

Your sister gave you excellent advice! I'm so sorry that happened, and yeah, it hits close to home.

@jencull (jen) said...

My heart just sank when I read the first half of your post. My mind was frantically wondering what was coming next and how the children were. Your sister is just fab, lucky you to have her in your corner :)


Logical Libby said...

Your sister is a wise woman. I probably would have smacked one of the little punks -- and then cried.

Alysia said...

Your sister is a smart lady and a wonderful support for you. The beginning of your post made me cry - you were right in that this is every special needs parents' fear. Thanks for sharing this advice, as I will be passing it along to my husband, friends, family...

Natalie said...

Oh Patty, I am so sorry for you and Danny and Charolette. Kids really can be so cruel sometimes. Luckily Hannah has yet to be mocked by other kids, but she's had her share of them being mean to her in other ways and it always makes me so angry and then fearful, just like you said, that this will follow her forever. I love you sister's advice. I am definitely going to have to use that myself the next time we have an issue with another kid (or if I have an issue with another parent!). Thanks so much for sharing.

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

This is wonderful, using these moments to empower our kids. Your kids are very lucky indeed.
I know what you mean tho, about feeling more vulnerable for one kid.My older daughter had many physical delays and challenges. And for some reason I feel completely raw and vulnerable where she is concerned when I see her doing anything physical to this day. And she's 19.

viewfromdownhere said...

Ugh, kids can be so mean...that just makes me sick to my stomach. I'm glad your sister was able to give you that advice, and I think, in the end, that is what will help your children the most...rising above it and seeing that the way those kids were acting was just unkind and not worth their time.

Mrsbear said...

Kids can be so awful to each other, but your sister's advice was gold. Way to turn it around. I would've had a little trouble suppressing some of my other instincts. ;)

Elizabeth Channel said...

This post hit so close to home for me because we are beginning to battle so much teasing now that my son is eight and his differences are more noticeable. It's a daily battle. You are so blessed to have such a wise sister. I need her!