That Little So and So!

I grew up in a family that got into a whole lot of tussles. Most of those tussles were handled on a individual basis but some were a group effort. Sometimes we even tried to kill each other, but if anyone who was not a card-carrying member of the family picked a fight with one of us…they picked a fight with all of us. At home and on the school bus, on the train tracks behind the school, in a restaurant parking lot in Fort Myers, at an outdoor concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center…we were more apt to fight than we were to run. Generally, flight was never even an option.
It’s somewhat shameful to admit, but in at least part of our family you learned to fight back when someone got aggressive. If you were small, like me, you stood behind your big brother’s back and hurled a slew of filthy insults mixed with a lot of scratching, kicking and flailing punches. For the most part, any fight I was involved in was one where I felt the need to stick up for my brother, who didn’t require my assistance at all.

Thankfully, I’ve outgrown the need to engage in retaliatory violence. Sure, sometimes I get mad at people for their rude and inconsiderate behavior, but there are better ways to approach aggressive situations. Mostly, it involves the use of one’s brain.

I am thrilled that my little boy has not yet exhibited the trait that leads to violent retaliation. He has inherited his father’s peaceful, above-it-all demeanor. He’s a lover, not a fighter. He’s smart and pretty darn cute if I do say so. I’m proud of him, but at the same time saddened that he has quietly endured the confusion, anxiety and stress that comes with daily exposure to a bully.

Yeah, yeah..I know. Bully has become the buzzword of the moment. Yet, there really is  a dyed-in-the-wool bully in my son’s first grade class. It first came to our attention on the day before Thanksgiving break. It was a Thursday afternoon when the school called to inform me that Joe had been punched in the stomach (read here). Over the past few months, my little guy has grown increasingly anxious and emotional before bed. He unwillingly drags himself out of bed each morning and goes to school where he has (mostly) silently suffered more punching, pushing, kicking, poking, slapping, intimidation, being tripped and striking his head on the floor and most recently, a hold that I can only describe as one that law enforcement uses to subdue people.

How do I know this happened? Well, my kind, polite, smart little boy came home last week and dissolved into tears. For the first time in ages, he crawled into my lap and just wanted to be hugged. Though he was afraid, he finally spilled the beans about his bully. Later, when he had calmed down he said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you… so-and-so also grabbed my wrist like this and twisted up and then pulled my shoulder back really super far…like this.” I was horrified. My father is a retired New York State Trooper. I’ve seen the move before. (Specifically, in our Fort Myers parking lot tussle.) I shudder to think that a seven-year-old child would know how to do this and practice on my six-year-old boy. On some level, I am sorry for the bully. I hate to jump to conclusions, but I can’t help but wonder what is going on at this boy’s house.

Another far less evolved part of me fantasizes about having a Freaky Friday. One that would enable me to spend just one day in my son’s body. Oh, the revenge I could deliver! Yes, I know it’s wrong, but I can fantasize, right?

I want to get off the school bus with my Batman backpack slung over my shoulder and enter the school with  Darth Vader’s music loudly announcing my arrival. The Imperial March would follow me down the hall, causing a sea of K-3 children to part in shock and awe. I’d mess with that bully’s head so bad, he’d have no idea what hit him. Of course I wouldn’t use violence. Instead, I would come prepared with an arsenal of advanced weaponry in my backpack. Some Super Glue, cayenne pepper, Ex lax, various booby-traps, dog poo, fake vomit. I could go on and on here. Gradually, my imagination conjures scenes that resemble hilarious Disney-type pranks. There might even be a fake studio audience emitting gasping ‘oohs‘ and laughter when the bully’s pants get stuck to his seat with that Super Glue. Alas, reality doesn’t provide Disney-esque Freaky Friday body exchanges and, since they remain physically impossible, I am limited to my fantasy acts of innocent, G-rated revenge.

I once had a big ol’ bully. His name was Billy Madison. Really, it was.

He would chase me down on the playground and kick me or throw me to the ground. He had a list of swear words that would make a sailor blush. I tried to avoid him, but he was inexplicably drawn to my long braids. I came to dread morning when my mother braided my hair. Braids guaranteed that I’d suffer some good, sharp hair pulling at the hands of Billy Madison.

I don’t recall how it was that Billy Madison happened to be at the end of my driveway, but he was. I couldn’t have been more than eight of nine years old when Billy stood at the end of my driveway doing the dance of a bully. His dance came complete with tongue gestures and name calling. With my feet firmly planted at the bottom of the porch and my German Shepard, Sasha at my side I watched his ridiculous chubby undulations. His belly kept moving even after he had stopped.
“Just leave me alone!” I yelled. He continued writhing around and laughing at me. I heard a low growl rise from Sasha as she stood at attention. Billy made the mistake of hurling a mean insult back in my direction. “YOU BETTER LEAVE ME ALONE, BILLY MADISON!” He took my demand as his cue to turn and shake his considerable rear-end at me. Unfortunately, his timing was rather poor as Sasha sprang to the end of the driveway and sank her teeth into Billy’s meaty rump. Billy never bothered me again. Not ever. To this day I owe Sasha a debt of gratitude, but she’s long gone and buried in a meadow at our old farm.

Maybe Joe’s bully bothers me so much because he bears a striking resemblance to Billy Madison. Maybe his bully bothers me because I wish I could tell Joe to fight back. Maybe a small part of me wishes Joe inherited that trait that only allows people to push ‘so far’ before a tussle ensues. Maybe part of me is frustrated that we can’t afford to pay for private school. Maybe our meeting with the school’s administrative staff on Monday afternoon will help…

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  1. Definitely talk to the school. My kids dealt with bullying…it's such a horrible, horrible feeling. I hated it…I struggled not taking care of it on my own (I think you know what I mean!!!) Your poor little guy…stand up for him mama!!!

  2. The only thing I hate worse than bullies, are the people who stand up for them and give you a dozen different reasons WHY they're like they are. We ALL have problems, and I don't have any sympathy for those who choose to make themselves feel better by making others pay for their own misfortunes. It's also a very difficult dilemma, talking rarely works, striking back obviously isn't the answer, no matter HOW satisfying it would be, and often when adults or authorities are brought in, it only makes it worse. I don't know what the answer is sweetie, but I'm sure you'll work it all out, I hope your little one never has to suffer another indignity!

  3. Sparkling says:

    As I teacher, I am shocked to say these words, but where the hell are the teachers when this all goes on? We know that verbal abuse happens when we can't hear it. And we know that wrist twisting is easy to do under the desk where we can't see it. BUt standing on a kid's stomach and pushing him down? What do the teachers think he is doing on the floor? Where are they that they don't see this? We can't see and hear everything, and our jobs are insanely demanding because we constantly have to look at 25 kids to make sure they are appropriate, but full out knocking down your son and standing on him and banging his head on the floor is out of control. Your son and this kid should never be allowed to be anywhere that a teacher isn't present. no child should be, except in the bathroom. Especially in a k-3 situation. In middle school, they are more independent and we miss things, but 1st grade? I am outraged for you and mad at my invisible colleagues!!

  4. I am so sorry to hear that this is going on and I really hope that your meeting does help. I know from experience (red hair & freckles) that bully's are no fun. Unfortunately, if he doesn't stop now he will only get worse.

  5. my family sounds the same…when we fight, we fight but put a bitch in our way and we all have each others backs….first off, fort myers is not too far from me! LOL—-i cannot understand bullies,…and sometimes feel for them the same as you because what is going on in their household to make them this way but these are our freaking kids and i'll be damned if a little freaking punk touches a kid-it just makes me want to hurl! i totally understand what you are going through and this is partially the reason i took my 6 year old away from the school…protecting her from crazy ass kids on the bus was far more important and the school acts like they can't do more about it…step up already…geez …i'd tackle the mother…fo sho! good luck

  6. My parents put me in a ritzy-fritzy private school for 7th grade and 9th grade. Both years I was beat up and bullied real bad – even kicked down the stairs and stuff written a\bout me in the locker room … I was terrified to go to school. Finally in 10th grade, in public school, it all stopped b/c the people were different and I learned how to speak up. But private school is not always better – especially when your parents are not rich like the other kids parents.
    I had major psychological damage for years b/c of that. Now things in school have changed with all the bullying rules & regulations luckily. I think if you talk to the school, they have to do something. When I was in school, nothing was done and you were forced to endure horrible things sadly.
    Poor Joe. I know that feeling he has and what is going through. Now that I have a daughter, I could not imagine someone doing to her what was done to me. I would go ballistic. THat is so scary what is going on with your son. I feel for you and your family. 🙁

  7. Slidecutter says:

    I've already shared my rant on FB; there is little I can add that others haven't stated perfectly here on your blog.

    Joe so reminds me of my John at that age, when all the issues started rearing their ugly little heads; reading all this just brings me to tears.

    The "bully" probably does have issues at home which fall over into school and beyond but I'm with Vic…these are OUR kids; we're raising them properly, teach them all the right ways of life so why the hell should any decent child have to suffer indignities imposed by some other twisted little demon?

    The average class size was 48-52 students when I was in elementary school; imagine that. One teacher who could see out of the back of her head if you passed a note or picked your nose and she ruled your school existence with a disapproving scowl. But, those were the days of corporal punishment which I rarely witnessed; kids did what they were supposed to, and most avoided getting the strap, ears twisted or hair pulled for mis-behaving.

    I'm sorry for Joe; have been keeping good thoughts for him and know that if anyone can make a school jump through hoops and do the right thing, you will Kelli. Many hugs your way!

  8. man, my stomach is turning * where are the teachers when this is happening?? having a 1st grader myself I can't only image the emotional stress * love ur "freaky friday" thoughts!!! hope all gets straightened out & ur little man doesn't endure this rump anymore * sending mama love * *

  9. Oh Gosh this post makes my stomach hurt 🙁

    A little boy a few towns over (11 years old) hung himself last week due to being bullied for being too feminine. This is a true epidemic right now and this issue NEEDS to be taken care of. Please keep us in the loop with how your meeting goes and your family will be in my thoughts.

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