Just a Few Hard Days at the End of School

Tornado S turned 11, nearly two weeks ago. The night before his birthday he asked ever-so-sweetly if I would make brownies for his class. I did. I have a habit of undercooking brownies slightly as I love gooey brownies; so I made sure I cooked them well for the class.

Because of the Walk Out, teachers are suppose to stay at school until 4:30. As I’m an honest person, I was planning on sticking around until 4:30, even though it was my kid’s birthday. Even though it was a Friday.

With the school day over, I was checking email and grades when I decided to turn my phone’s volume up. I noticed I missed 6 calls from my mother.

That’s not good.

She texted me: Check your email. Tornado S is crying and won’t tell us why. Something happened at school.

I clicked into my personal-professional email to find an email from Tornado S’s teacher. “I’m so sorry…. There was an incident…. Three boys told Tornado S that he put bloody mucus in the brownies…. Principal is taking care of it ….. Tornado S cried all afternoon…. Got Tornado E to come in and take care of him …. Come to the school…. I’ll be here until after 5.”

With in moments I was calling the school.

Secretary: School. How can I help you?

Me: I need to talk to Mr. S right now please.

Secretary: Whom may I say is calling?

Me: Full name. Tornado S’s Mom.

Secretary: One moment.

Principal: Hello?

Seriously I’ve never been connected so quickly. So this is bad. I pulled on my authority voice.

Me: Mr. S. This is Full Name. Tornado S’s Mother. I heard there was an incident. I was hoping you can explain it to me.

So apparently a boy, who was getting over being sick, mentioned his mouth was bleeding after eating the brownie. The three other boys heard it and teased Tornado S about it. The 5th grade girls overheard it and told the teacher on duty. Tornado S was very hurt by the incident. There will be a consequence, and it will happen on Monday. But rest assured, there will be a consequence, and Tornado S did not do anything.

And let me say, I wasn’t assuredly rested as there had been an incident earlier this year with Tornado E and another boy. I stared at the email. I shut down my computer and grabbed my stuff and ran out of the school. I made it to the boys’ school in record time.

Hell has no fury.

I walked in to the office like I was wearing my combat boots instead of Mary Janes. I told the secretary that I was there to talk with Tornado S’s teacher; she waved me on. The principal saw me and made I contact with me. I smiled like murder was on my mind and gave him a nod. He ducked into his office. I marched on to Tornado S’s classroom.

And she wasn’t there.

I sweetly asked the secretary where she could be; the secretary suggested I check outside.

Where I found two of Tornado E’s classmates and a mother of a different classmate. Apparently Tornado S’s teacher was working on the talent show. The girls offered to let me go before them, but I declined and waited until they were done.

When Tornado S’s teacher saw me, she immediately apologized. She told me everything that happened, which was a slightly different story than I got from the principal. Shocker. And that the principal was going to let it go, but the teacher was adamant that these boys have consequences. These boys had been causing trouble all year, but their parents defend them. These boys decided to take down Tornado S, who is sweet and kind-hearted. The teacher loves Tornado S. The girls in the class love Tornado S.

When Tornado S refused to tell the teacher what happen, the teacher called for Tornado E to come and talk with Tornado S. Apparently there were tears on all sides. Tornado S was allowed to accompany Tornado E to art class.

The teacher was so angry. She told me I could keep Tornado S home for the last week of school. But I told her Tornado S had to stand his ground. So she told me the art teacher could take Tornado S if he wanted. I said that the bullies needed to know that Tornado S wasn’t pushed around by them. She nodded. She planned on dealing with them in her own way, but she was insisting that the principal suspend them. If she couldn’t make the principal do that, then she would let me know, so that I could throw a fuss. Fine.

We talked a little longer about my boys, about middle school, about high school, about the walk out. Tornado S told her all about the walk out and the protest. “He’s so proud of you.”

When I got home, I let the issue go. Until the next day. After we read Harry Potter, I asked Tornado S about what happened. He lied. He couldn’t remember. I told him I needed the truth. He lied. He said it was no big deal. I told him I needed the truth. This dance went on for 30 minutes until he finally told me what happened. His story was like the teachers. Except no one knew how it ended. Tornado S got up from the lunch table and walked away, leaving the boys to make fun of him to his back.

I hugged Tornado S and told him that was brave.

I sent an email to the principal with Tornado S’s side of the story. I reminded the principal that kids take advantage of the end of the year to cause trouble because they think they would get away with it. I asked him as a mother and a teacher to discipline the boys and give them consequences. They were suspended.

And then the teacher emailed me. She would separate the boys when they got back and monitor them every moment. Another little boy went home and, crying, told the story to his mom. That Monday the boy brought Tornado S a birthday present. The girls formed a tight little gang around Tornado S, making sure the bullies wouldn’t mess with him. I fear if these boys do not go to another school, they will never have a date.

When I got home, I learned the teacher also got Tornado S a present.

I’ve been expecting Tornado S to be bullied for sometime now because he has a bunch of weird quirks. He’s been lucky to have classmates that understand him. These bullies are new to the school, and the leader will not be back next year. I am so glad Tornado S has so many friends.

Next school year, I’m throwing a huge pool party at the beginning of the year to celebrate these awesome kids.

Also I’m going to use this as a wedge to drive Tornado S away from the Dark Side.

Good-natured fun?

After school let’s out, Tornado E and his friends run around playing in the cement courtyard until us mothers decide it’s time to go.  The kids are bursting with energy, playing tag, searching for treasure, throwing toys.  The moms enjoy talking to other people who completely understand.  (You mean your son/daughter is still in pull-ups at night?  Thank God, I thought I was the only one.  Did you hear about this great sale?  The zoo is having a great free exhibit this weekend.  My son won’t eat meatballs either.  When are you going to our hairdresser; she’s great and cheap.  No, seriously, I can watch the kids for you . . . any time.)

Lately I’ve noticed a new game among the boys.  Wrestling.  It’s good natured.  But I keep my eyes open because they’re wrestling on concrete and that no matter how good natured it starts out, some one accidentally hurts someone else.  The surprising thing is I’m the only mom who notices when a wrestling match breaks out.  Maybe it’s because I know my son’s a little more aggressive than the other boys or the fact that he just loves to be physical when playing.  Or maybe I just know boys.

Since it’s been going on, I’ve noticed Tornado E likes the boys to chase him and get him.  Nothing new.  Except now when they get him, they all start wrestling.  Two against one.  Three against one.  It’s enough to make me really pay attention.  Especially since Tornado E is a head smaller than the other boys.  Oh, they’re laughing and smiling, but I can’t hear what’s being said during these wrestling matches.  I can feel the tension in the game building.

Last week, the wrestling was three against one. Tornado E was backed into the corner.  I’m talking to another mom, watching the wrestling, waiting for some sign that it would all turn bad.  Then Tornado E threw a great hook and got the biggest boy in the head.  The boy immediately started running towards the rest of the moms, to his mom, whom I was talking to.  At ear shot, he started to whine and snivel.

Tornado E hit me!!!

Thank God, I was with a pro.

And what did you do to Tornado E?

I broke in and mentioned the wrestling match, and perhaps Tornado E had become too aggressive.

She nodded and told her son no more wrestling.  The other boys had stopped, waiting for the verdict.  They moved on to a new game.

But it was yesterday’s game that made me really sick and nervous.  Three against one.  Only one of the boys would grab Tornado E’s hood and swing him around.  Tornado E would fall onto his hands and knees from the force.  Then the other boys would wrestle him to the ground.  I watched and waited.  I wanted to jump in and break it up.  I wanted one of the other moms to notice and call off her son.  But no mothers noticed.  Tornado E didn’t cry out; he didn’t look angry; he went back into the scuffle, fighting for all his worth.

Then the boy, who kept swinging Tornado E around, swung Tornado E into a bush.  Tornado E fell into the bush onto his bottom.  He looked up at the boy and yelled, “Stop it!  You’re being mean!” Tornado E stood up and faced the boy, who was a head taller than Tornado E like the other boys.  I started easing my way towards the boys, waiting for some one to move.  Instead the mom called her son to go home, and he ran off.

I asked Tornado E when we were leaving if he enjoyed wrestling with the boys.  He told me yes, but he wanted to know why the other boy was being so mean.  I said maybe we need to make some rules to keep people from getting hurt.  I told him that if he didn’t ever want to wrestle to tell the boys no and if that didn’t work to go play with someone else or come talk to me.

Even as I write this, I feel a little sick in my stomach.  I can only see this game ending in a bad way.  Obviously I don’t want to be the one to end the game in case it’s my son initiating the fight or that it lowers Tornado E in the social circle.  I just can’t believe I’m the only mom who has noticed this game, and I wish someone else would have the same issue.  Maybe I’m overreacting because I know my brothers used to love to wrestle with their friends.  But I’ve never seen the odds so unfair.  I keep wondering if there is come under current I’m not picking up on.  Yet Tornado E handles himself well.  Ugh.  Is this just boys being boys?  Or is this something else?

Can someone say therapy?

I’m writing the night before because I told my mom and grandma that I would help make some Polish cookies that I have no idea how to spell, but as you need many hands to make it reasonable to actually bake, I, of course, volunteered.  When I said Tuesday afternoon, I meant like 3pm, after naptime, after blogging time.  When I said Tuesday afternoon, my mom and grandma assumed 1pm or so when the boys were napping at my parents house, so that I would come over for lunch, put the boys down, and hang out with my dad while my mom plays computer games.  Super.

I was going to write a post about the different schools we’re looking at and write the pros and cons.  Then I realized you might not understand the horror that is for me to send my child to a private school, or to the private school I went to.  So I felt I should explain myself.  Just so we get this straight, I feel like I had to go through the fire to become the ceramic piece I am today.  But fire is fire, and it sucks to be in there.

First off, I don’t remember much from grades three to sixth.  I’m sure you’re thinking, “Fae, that was a long time ago.”  Well, by the time I was in high school I couldn’t remember them.  I could remember pre-kindergarten up to third grade with clarity, but I had few memories of those years, which makes me think I blocked it all out.

Fourth grade was the year my best friend of three years left me for the popular group, and I remember my mom pushing me to join.  I remember trying by going through with a dare of kissing a boy.  It just gave them more ammunition to make fun of me.

I got a new best friend, but she left before junior high.  She didn’t even tell me she was leaving.  Everyone else knew but me.  I heard it from my mom who accidently heard it from another mother.  I cried for hours.  When I asked my friend, she shrugged it off and spent the next few months making fun of me like the popular girls.

During this time I had a bully.  Yup.  Do you know how rare it is to have an older female bully?  Girls tease in packs, and usually they don’t keep tormenting a younger girl.  But I was lucky.  Unfortunately so was the girl.  She was the niece of one of the other teachers, so it was always my word against hers.  She always won.

During these years, if I stepped out of line, danced to a different tune, the popular girls would ignore me, setting the example.  After a few days of being alone, I would cave and march to their drum, killing the last friendships I had.  Those friendships were with two boys.  Because they were boys, they weren’t swayed by the female orders, so I was shunned into cutting off my own allies.  I’m not proud of that, but I did go to high school with one of the boys and was able to make amends.

In sixth grade with all the bullying and teasing, I came home crying most days.  My mom went again to the teacher.  I remember the teacher telling me how she was teased as a girl.  As though that was to make me feel better.  As though that was a reason to let the kids do it.  As though that was a justification.  I was also told boys only tease girls they like.  No.  Boys that tease are mean snots who should be taught manners.

I hated my life.  School was hard for me as I struggled to teach myself to learn.  Sports were hard for me as I didn’t have natural talent but tried any ways.  Popularity was elusive because I was poor.  In this vain, I would like to point out that the reason uniforms are good is because they make the playing field equal, disguising the poor kids and the rich kids is BS.  Kids notice shoes, jewelry, hairstyle.  Kids find ways to make some one the loser.

Seventh grade my life changed.  I remember very well.  First off they divided the class of thirty-two into two classes for the harder subjects of math, science, and grammar.  For the other four classes we were one large class.  To divide us, they took out math scores and divided the class in half.  I missed the other class by two points.  My mom was pissed.  She went in charging into the office to ask what kind of moron isn’t up to date on child psychology to do a stupid move like that, making the kids feel stupid, making the math teacher think they were stupid.  The powers to be assured my mom the class was going to be taught the same.  My mom was not satisfied with that answer until she talked to the new teacher, who promised her he would teach them the same.  And the crazy thing was he taught like a college professor, and this right-brained, word-slanted kid GOT IT.  I actually understood math for the first time ever.  I got it enough to actually tutor some other kids.

In the beginning of the school year I was in the bathroom with a friend before a volleyball game.  My bully was there hair spraying her bangs even higher for the game.  When she noticed some dry hairspray clogging the nozzle, she let out an “eww” and wiped it on my friend’s shirt.  She apologized to the girl and said she thought the girl was me.  She started to come closer with the spray bottle.  I pushed her twice at the shoulders, sending her into the paper towel dispenser.  For a second I was amazed that I did that and that the move my father taught me actually worked.  The second wore off as I saw her glare at me.  I grabbed my friend’s hand, dragging her behind me as I ran back to the courts to where the grownups were.  I didn’t want to die.  My bully never bothered me again.

This was the year I gained more teasers.  A boy, who was held back, took special delight on tormenting me about my braces.  But I studied the source, thinking this kid is Ugly.  He was pasty white, overweight, and didn’t brush his braces so there was crud all over them.  Then he was not the brightest penny in the fountain.  My problem was he sat next to me, where he would whisper insults at me during class.

Several months into the year, the girls started shaving their legs, and it scared the crap out of me.  One of the girls showed us a long hideous cut on her leg where, she explained, she tested the razor to see if it was dull.  As an adult, I know better, but as a kid who didn’t know a thing, I was freaked out and disgusted.  It wasn’t long until the boys noticed I wasn’t shaving.  They pounced.  When the girls found out about the boys teasing me, they pounced.  I was miserable.

Then one day a boy, that I had known since I was four years old, handed me a razor and told me to go shave my legs in the bathroom.  I handed it back, patted his cheek and told him to go first.

The teasing intensified.  A few weeks later, he handed the razor to me again.  I just handed it back.  When I got home, I cried and cried.  My mom got the story from me and was on the phone, demanding the principal.

Now that I’m older I realized that if he hadn’t brought the razor to school, no one would have done a thing.  Because he brought it to school, he brought a weapon.  The idiot still had it in his backpack the next day.  But my mom demanded justice.  I had been tormented long enough.  I had to submit a list of my tormentors.  My mom was in the principal’s office for an hour. 

Finally the principal called me in, and after she heard me out, she called in the boys.  The boys, who weren’t part of the razor joke, were warned and forced to give an apology.  No detention.  Though I received detention if I talked in mass.  The other boys were forced to call their mothers, mothers who had known me since I was four or six years old.  THOSE mothers were righteously pissed.  While those boys had to write an apology saying they would never do it again and received detention, their mothers forced them to call me and apologize as well as tell my mother how sorry they were.  I remember one mother telling my mom that her son was stupid with hormones and she didn’t know what got into him, and then the mother threw The Look at the boy, who cowered.

Then it dawned on me.  These were mean boys.  These were mean girls.  Why the heck (because I didn’t cuss when I was a good Catholic school girl) did I want to be their friends?  They could go to hell.  So I went to school not caring.

Oh, and they tried to make me care.  The popular girls gave the order to ignore me.  After the first lunch where no one said a word to me, I starting bringing a book.  For two weeks, no one said a damn word to me.  F- them.  Finally one of the girls disobeyed the order.  As she was new, she was not ruled by the absolute authority.  She was slightly outcasted because she was not just Hispanic, she was Greek and Japaneese.  She was slightly outcasted because it was assumed she had no money, she had a strange name, and no one had seen her father.  It turned out she was the richest kid in my class (not the school, my brother was best friends with the heir to the third richest man in Mexico.  Weird)  because her father was a specialist food taster in Japan, where it turns out they take their marketing and food very seriously.  And this girl spent her summers in Greece with her grandparents.  Um, go figure.  This girl liked me because I made her laugh.  The ice thawed a bit.

My eighth grade year I didn’t care.  My mom had tutored me in algebra because we got a new math teacher mid-year because the old one was fired because all the kids blamed him for their failure though they were the ones not doing their homework.  This new teacher took two days to teach my “slow” class a concept versus the one day the “smart” class did.  In eighth grade I was one of eight kids able to do the algebra that was expected.  I was put in the smart math group. Oh and the best friend who dumped me in fourth grade, well, she was one of those eight, but she declined it so she didn’t look too smart for the popular girls.  I couldn’t care less about my peers.  F- them.  I told my mother if she was going to send me to the Catholic high school with the rest of them, then I would get myself expelled within the first week.  I didn’t know what I would do, but I would do it.  If I couldn’t get expelled, I told her, I would commit suicide then spend anymore school years with those evil kids.  She let me go to public school as long as I stayed in Honors English.  Fine.

While all the other kids that I would join a gang or do drugs or screw a bunch of guys, I only thought nothing can be worse than the hell I just survived.  After the first week, braving the fights only to gain the respect of the kids who tried to fight me and finding my own nitch, I was ok.  Though I did hear some of those kids DID do drugs and DID screw a bunch of guys.

The moral of the story?  Well, first off I know why those boys did what they did at Columbine.  I could have done it too, if I was forced to stay with my tormentors.  The second, the principal that was there when I was a kid is there now.  I didn’t see anything on bullying policy like in the other two schools.  I do know Columbine changed a lot of minds about how to deal with bullies and teasing, but I don’t want my kids to go through what I did.  I don’t know why I was singled out; I just know that I was.  I also know as boys they have a better shot than a girl.  Boys aren’t harassed as much, especially if they play sports, but I don’t want to test the theory. 

So while I try to make up my mind, I can’t seem to shake the ghosts of the past.  I think I would kill the little punk that hurts my kid.

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