Sending Holden off to school has been a difficult process as a whole; not because he doesn’t like it, and not just because I’m still feeling selfish and want to keep him all to myself- but the adjustment has been a rough go that we still haven’t gotten completely used to.
We have to eat dinner earlier (which is tough to do with Thomas not getting home until after 6 most days), get the boys bathed and into bed earlier, eat breakfast earlier- actually get DRESSED when we wake up instead of getting things done around the house in our PJs until after 9am. Instead of stumbling around the kitchen in a foggy daze, I’m getting myself and two kids ready for the day, making breakfasts, eating, and getting out of the door on a strict schedule.
Parker and I still haven’t found our new routine as just he and I at home. He is bored most of the time, and he talks about Holden a lot. What I thought was a constant annoyance they had with each other clearly had a lot more sentimental value to Parker, because without it, he seems lost. Trying to find a way to fill the day until we get Holden included re-arranging lunch and shortening outside play time and getting bugged the entire time I’m drinking coffee, because we’d typically just have gotten dressed whereas now we’ve been dressed for hours and he’s convinced we should be doing something more productive.
As much as I had started off the school year being worried about what Holden was doing, after he got over not getting to ride the bus- it was smooth sailing. He loved school, he loved his classmates, he loved his teacher- he never complained about anything other than Thomas putting raisins in his lunchbox. He became the least of my concerns. Not that I didn’t miss him or wonder what he was doing all day- but it seemed like he was really excelling, had never received a warning- this whole Kindergarten thing was going to be smooth sailing.
Yesterday was an unusually bad morning. Holden had a giant stick up his ass from the moment he woke up for absolutely no reason at all. I mentioned something about how he was going to need to go to bed earlier if he was going to be such an ass upon waking- and wondered if it would affect his school day. When I dropped him off, though, he was back to his good spirited self- gave me a kiss, and went to sit down at his desk.
Around 11:30 that morning, while I was getting Parker down for a nap, my phone rang. I never answer the phone during this time because that kid takes that as a sign that nap time must be over. I need nap time to keep my sanity. After the last call I got from his teacher praising him, I recognized the number right away. A call during school hours? My stomach dropped. Usually a call during school hours means something not good happened. He got hurt, he got sick, he misbehaved to the point to where they’d call home immediately about it.
I’d missed the call, so I waited for the message, and shortly my phone blipped that one had been left.
The first few words I heard were “There has been an incident” – the words no parent ever wants to hear.
As the story unfolded, I just started to lose it. Holden had been involved in a fight. A fight. He was FINE, he had ice on his face, but he was fine.
From the message, through my tears, I heard his teacher say that another boy attempted to steal his lunch, that Holden hit him first as to not give it up, and then the boy hit Holden in the face. By the time the lunch moderator (yes, there is just one, for the whole room) got to them, they were “getting into it.”
I was horrified. This is the second week of school and my child has been in a fight, and even though the kid was trying to take his lunch- Holden still hit first. What did this mean? Was my child going to be labeled the aggressor? Was he in trouble?
He’s NEVER been a hitter. I think in his entire life he’s only hit twice, total. How did this happen?
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I was so upset I couldn’t call the teacher back to find out the entire story, so I asked Thomas to, and the version he got was a little bit different than the one left on the message.
This other boy, the one who tried to steal Holden’s lunch? Had been doing it for days. When the time came during lunch yesterday that this little boy tried to take Holden’s, Holden wasn’t having any of it. He did not hit this boy, he pushed him away- and that is when this child slapped mine across the face, scratching him under his eye in the process.
Even typing it makes me tear up because it makes me realize that something beyond my control really did happen. The thing no parent wants to happen: My child was bullied.
Sure, before Holden ever went to school, I’d thought about bullying. Who doesn’t think about it these days? Who doesn’t worry that it will happen to their child? I guess I never thought it actually WOULD. Not in kindergarten. I thought maybe someone would tell him he had a dumb shirt on, or tease him about how long his hair is… but a kid who has been going around stealing lunches and then comes after mine, only to have a “fight” ensue? That came out of left field for me.
Not only had this happened, but Holden had gotten in trouble for simply defending himself, thanks to the “zero-tolerance policy”. Just a warning, but if it happened again, there would be serious repercussions.
I understand why the policy exists, but at times it seems to be completely unfair to the child only trying not to get hurt. Especially in kindergarten where a child doesn’t really understand what to do when someone walks up and tries to take their food away from them forcibly. How would I ever think to prepare him for something like that?
When I went to pick him up from school, my stomach was in knots. How would he be? Would he be upset, or angry? Would he have questions about what happened? Would he be crying? How would his face look? I knew if he looked like he got beat up, I would absolutely lose my mind right there in the cafeteria, with all the other parents and kids.
Much to my relief, he was fine. His face didn’t look too bad, and he was in high spirits; but I knew we had a lot to talk about concerning the events of the day and how to handle something like this were it to happen again.
As a parent, we try to tell our kids the right thing to do, what follows the rules, but we don’t always agree with those rules. One thing I made sure to let him know was that I was proud of him for standing up for himself; although I also told him that while I knew he felt threatened, the correct response is never to put your hands on another child, even if they are being bad. I told him he should just immediately get up and go and get a teacher, and that is when he says to me “But Mommy, we aren’t allowed to get up during lunch. We have to raise our hands.”
How are you supposed to tell a 5 year old, who has no teacher directly watching over them to make sure this doesn’t happen, that he’s just supposed to let a kid steal his lunch and do nothing about it? That he just has to sit back and raise his hand and hope the one woman looking over an entire cafeteria notices. That if he simply pushes a child who is trying to take his things because saying NO wasn’t enough, he will get in trouble too?
It broke my heart. I want him to follow the rules, but I don’t want him to get bullied because he’s so afraid of breaking one.
I’m not sure what was more horrifying to me, hearing that he may have been labeled a bully, or that he had BEEN the victim of it.
I did the best I could to suck up this anger boiling inside of me for how he was treated because of all of these “rules” I didn’t agree with, instead to tell him that no matter what happened, the right response was never ever to hit back. I also told him that I didn’t care what the rules were, if this happened again- he was to GET UP and go and get someone. Not wait around hoping someone will see his hand in the air.
I know that in the grand scheme of things this isn’t that big of a deal. It was hopefully a one time thing, he’s only 5, and all the kids are still learning and adjusting to a new environment- but it shook me. Being realistic about it, bullying happens ALL the time, to all kinds of people, and all kinds of ages. It happened to me as an adult and it was hard to know what to do, imagine a child.
Prevention of bullying, whether the aggressor or the victim starts at home and the lessons we teach them and the people we mold them to be, so I began to think of the future. What I want Holden to learn, what I think we should be teaching our kids to put a stop to bullying; or at least teaching our children to know what to do if they find themselves in a bully situation.
We should teach children to be kind to others, to understand that everyone comes from different places, and to be accepting of those differences. To be confident enough in themselves not to let others bring them down with hurtful words. To stand up for themselves, but also to know that you have to pick your battles, because some just aren’t worth the fight. Teach them that rules are in place for a reason, and they are important- but sometimes they have to be broken. Most importantly, they need to know that no matter what happens- we will always be there for them.
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