And now we deal with bullies . . .

 

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A moment in time from better days

Lately, my family has been trying to cope with a problem that had no name until yesterday. I’ve had repeated, exhausting conflicts with persuading my daughter to go to school. To her, every cold and discomfort has grown to proportions epic enough to warrant a day home. Yesterday I finally had to propose a choice to her: she could go to school or we could visit the ER to investigate the source of her immobility. Really, when these episodes happen, it is like she makes herself as steady as a massive boulder, unmoved by any plea until she overcomes that inertia.

So we visited the ER. In all honesty, I was worried that she was letting everything fall apart because she had lost interest in living. She writes a lot, but she keeps her thoughts cloaked in secrecy, even to the point of creating screen names in non-western languages. I spied one of these aliases and found a blog where she had written: “I’m going to kill myself.”

I looked at the date. She had written that declaration months ago. How could I have missed the tremors of that earthquake that struck in the bedroom across the hall from mine? It’s one of those moments when you must accept that if psychic perception exists, it is unreliable at best.

When the ER staff interviewed us, I confronted Eileen with my knowledge of this writing. They helped us get to the bottom of our problem: Eileen is being bullied in the cafeteria at her high school.

The hospital gave me a list of signs of bullying: attendance problems, slipping grades, insulting oneself, etc. The only signs she didn’t have were missing items and injuries.

The abuse is verbal in nature. When Eileen walks by these boys, they announce that she has no friends and is overweight. She won’t disclose any further details.

For years I’ve feared for what could happen to my child whenever I’m not around. Why? Because Eileen does not tell the story of her life to me. Sometimes she tells her stories under the cloak of anonymity online. My daughter has autism. Her variant of it strongly disinclines her to tell the good or bad of her days.

Her patterns of communication and perception did not have a name until she was in 8th grade. That was when we had a diagnosis of autism. She makes eye contact with few people. Her speech and phrasing, when she does choose to talk, is markedly different from her peers. She can’t remember a time she couldn’t read. She can read and sing in two languages, English and Japanese.

Long story short, she’s had a hard time finding common ground with her classmates. Only a precious few students have taken the time to break through her walls. I thank God for them.

I struggle with knowing what to do next. I have contacted the school to request a change in her lunch setting. I don’t know these boys’ names.

If I could talk to them, I would tell them to stop this madness. Changing Eileen is about as possible as stopping a mile-long train barrelling toward you with your bare hands. Maybe once upon a time each of you fellows dared to be different, and you were forced back into the herd by bullies in or out of school. Whatever your reason for picking on my daughter, you should know that the only result will be hurt.

While she does not share your values, she still has feelings. She doesn’t care what is in style, what team won, who’s dating whom, or who drank how much liquor on Saturday night. She still feels loneliness, and you do nothing but wound her when you remind her of that.

No matter what you say, it is just not possible that she is going to come to school transformed into a skinny girl who wears clothes that please you. She will never pay you compliments on all of your victories large and small. Leave her be. She has the right to an education free of harassment.

My daughter doesn’t want her peers to know that she has autism. Maybe it’s time to disclose that. Maybe there would be some kindness and understanding. Aside from their comments about her weight, which are ridiculous in their own way, they really are harassing her because of her disability. Their comments aren’t much better than making fun of someone for needing a wheelchair.

I admire Eileen for what she has endured growing up. Think back on your school days. There have been entire school years where no one has called my child on the phone, texted her, or invited her to a party. How long could you have survived this?

She is the strongest person I know.

14 thoughts on “And now we deal with bullies . . .”

    1. Trying to stay calm about this is wearing me out. At this point, it’s for the best that I don’t know the names of the students involved. I’ve told the school where they sit, etc., and to please do one of two things: have a staff member watch closely or switch her to a different lunch.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That is so shitty. And scary. I would feel terrified if I read that thought in my son’s writing. Poor girl. Kids are so mean and horrible sometimes! Is there a school counsellor she can access? Do they need to run an anti-bullying campaign at school? Watch out that cyberbullying doesn’t start- our kids aren’t even safe at home any more. I’m so sorry this is happening to you, and I hope you find support and a positive outcome as soon as possible, Blessings, G

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have contacted the school counselor about the lunchroom problem, and I hope that he can help find a solution to the problem. There is an anti-bullying program, but it is emphasized more for the younger children. They stopped being monitored closely at high school, and unfortunately some students take that as an opportunity to be mean. As for social media, my daughter doesn’t use Facebook. She has accounts on Snapchat and Twitter that don’t identify her name or school.

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  2. That is so sad. I wish people would be more kind to each other. You must worry about her if she has those thoughts. I wish I could sit right there at lunch time with her, and show those bullies what harm they are doing to your daughter. I wish you luck and give her a big hug from me.

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  3. Crack down on those bullies hard and don’t let the school wishy washy it away.

    I’m autistic. I was bullied to the point of attempting suicide in high school. One bully was a boy who threatened to rape and murder me daily. His threats included breaking into my house to stab me in front of my parents or breaking in to rape me while I was asleep in bed. Counselors blew me off with “He’s just being a boy, ignore it. Maybe he has a crush on you.” This resulted in me being afraid in my own home until my family moved houses in 2000. (I graduated high school in 1998.)

    I felt unsupported by the authority figures who were supposed to protect me. Please tell your girl you’re on her side. Fight for her. Also, teach her things to say to stand up for herself. Teach her, if she’s able, to loudly call attention to those boys with a loud voice. “Hey, that’s not nice!” or “Go away, leave me alone!”

    Tell her it’s okay to hit back if they lay a hand on her. Don’t give a crap what the school says, make sure she knows she is allowed to defend herself if things get physical.

    Please. She doesn’t deserve to be bullied. It’s a pain nobody deserves. Crack down on those boys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So far her school has relocated the boys out of her lunch. Here is my question for you: how can I persuade my daughter to disclose more details about the bullying? It’s hard to demand discipline for the guilty parties without more information from her.

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  4. I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with such meanness and am thinking about you, Michelle! Hope you and your daughter can push through this and get the support you need from the school–and that she can open up to you more. One of your other commenters recommended teaching her the things she can say when she needs to stand up for herself. This sounds smart. I know I’m a natural “freezer” in the case of an affront against me, and so is one of my boys–affable to a fault. I try to practice with him exactly what he can say if someone gets in his face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your suggestion. I have told her some things she could say in response to bullies. I know that her school counselor did so, too. For better or worse, she’s decided that she’d rather appear to ignore comments from her peers that make her uncomfortable. I will make my suggestions again.

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