Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mrs. Lunatic

As Kenny and I were driving past the elementary school today, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to add money to Jill's lunch account. Jill's lunch was in twenty minutes. I had no time to make an online payment, so we stopped by the school. As I walked into the cafeteria, I realized it was right in the middle of Emmi's lunch time. I was definitely not getting away without stopping by her lunch table. As I hugged her hello, the other children clamored for my attention. Behind me, I could here one of Emmi's playmates attempting to get my attention.

"Excuse me! Mrs...... Mrs..... What is Emmi's last name," Emmi's playmate asked, turning to the child next to her. The child next to her (let's call her The Instigator) whispers something.

"Mrs. Lunatic," Emmi's playmate called out to me, completely unaware of what she has just said. As I turned toward her, several of Emmi's classmates started to snicker. A few children start to chant led by The Instigator, "Emmi Lun-a-tic!" They, obviously, did know what they were saying.

For a few seconds I stood perfectly still, not quite knowing how to react. This is how these children were treating Emmi to a parent's face? How were they treating Emmi when I was not around? Honestly, I have been expecting this moment for years.

Emmi is different. She does not talk as well as the other children due to her cleft palate. She does not understand everything they say due to the language delays. Her flashing cochlear implants over her ears make her an easy target. Bullying happens. It doesn't take being deaf or having a cleft palate to make a child a target of bullying. It could simply be your shoes or the style of your hair. But when a child is so clearly different, you can almost guarantee they will be the target of bullying at some point in time. This is something I have come to accept as a fact. My child is different, she will be bullied at some point. I just wasn't expecting to be faced with it quite so head on.

After I recovered my composure, I looked the child who had so clearly started the attack in the eye. I squatted down on her level and calmly said, "What you are saying is rude and can not be tolerated." I watched as the look of defiance transformed to fear. In reality this was just another first grader. A six-year-old child who just realized that she was seriously in trouble. For a brief moment, I felt sorry for her. But only briefly. For this was also the child that lead several children to taunt my child in the lunch room. She may have realized she was in trouble, but did she really understand the ramifications of what she was doing?

I know bullying existed when I was child. It existed before I was a child. It will continue to exist, until we, as a society, stop tolerating it. We blow off little things. We chalk name calling and taunting up to simply being a kid. But why? Have we not had enough proof that these "innocent" behaviors are not all that innocent? Have we not watched as children suffer from depression, fear going to school, even go so far as to commit suicide? How far will we continue to allow it go?

I made the choice today to not tolerate it. I spoke directly to the child. I informed the office staff. Together we made a plan. A plan that is based around educating the children in both the effects of bullying and the acceptance of difference. I plan to face this head on. I will not tolerate what I saw today.


Leah J. said...

You go mama!!!! I cried through the entire last half of this post. Even just watching C get left out breaks my heart. I know that the bullying is to come because of his speech (friends already say ... "what did you just say?!" Innocently, at this age.) ... and, as you mentioned, who knows what else. I know that it broke your heart to watch those girls bully Emmi. You handled it so well and you are such an awesome mama for not just letting it slide. You are RIGHT we all need to step in when we see this and NOT tolerate it.

ldh1p said...

Emmi has always had just the mother she needed to have! Mom

Allie said...

Good for you for keeping your composure and not bullying the kid back, I would have been tempted. At our old school in Oklahoma they were really strict about bullying and I really liked it. There was a girl there that had some kind of handicap, I'm not sure what she had but she was in a wheelchair and very visibly disabled. The whole school was extremely nice to her and every child smiled and said hi to her every time they saw her in the hallway. I think it helps that when she got to the school the teachers took the time to explain to everyone why she was like that and what her limitations were. The kids accepted her and treated her like any other child and it always made me get a little choked up because I knew how things could have been very different for her if the school wasn't so vigilant about bullying. I really hope Emmi school can enforce zero tolerance for bullying, Emmi doesn't deserve to be treated like that.

David Castagneto said...

I love your post. I myself was bullied growing up and I swore I would never let that happen again. There's a certain part of me that has a "retribution" aspect but married to a wonderful teacher, she has taught me how to act and the right and wrong things to say and do. Now I have 2 boys and we're definitely trying to instill the difference between right and wrong and the consequences of bad behavior (without the use of time outs!)

Thanks for being such a wonderful mom and from your bio, an awesome person.


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The Silva's said...

We dealt with bullies in Kindergarten, I wrote about it here

Kids can be so mean, with no reason at all! I think Emmi has a terrific mom, and you handled that much better than I would have!!!

OGGY STOOP said...

i read very few blogs to the end - but yours was one i did.

people who know what ignorance and mob mentality can do will always be with your cause.

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