It took her a long time to mention it.
She didn’t even come right out and say it. Instead, she’d climb into my minivan at the end of the day and her narrow, angular shoulders would simply melt in relief and she’d murmur, “I’m just so glad to be out of there.”
It took me awhile to ask the pointed questions, too. But, finally, I couldn’t ignore it and I dug deep to find out what was going on.
She was being bullied.
There’s really no other word for it. The acts were small and petty, but constant and unrelenting. Calling her name repeatedly, then ignoring her when she turned around. Telling her she’s babyish. Making fun of her math difficulties. Cutting her off in line.Telling her the mini meatballs in her pasta salad looked like turds. Teasing her for being one of the slower runners. Knocking down the sand creation she made at recess.
She got through it, day after day, and then, one day, just collapsed in tears. “Mommy, I don’t know what to do. I decided to pay him a compliment, because I truly believe everyone needs kindness and he just laughed at me and said, ‘Shut up, C. I don’t care what you think.’”
And, at that point, I realized that all our tips for self-advocacy were just not enough. I emailed her teacher and special ed coordinator.
They are both wonderful and lots of things unfolded from there. Things are better, if not perfect, now, and I am grateful to have my little girl who enjoys school back.
I was eating lunch with the kindergarten special ed teacher yesterday. She knows C. well, as she worked with her in both kindergarten and first grade. I told her what had happened and how frustrated it made me. The thing is– despite everything he said and did? C. would be happy to be his friend. She really doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, despite her funny little cackle of a laugh.
Ms. J’s mouth tightened. She shook her head slowly and said softly, “Please don’t even tell me his name. It makes me so angry. I’ll want to beat him up.” Kidding, of course, but also a little serious. Anyone who has loved a child who was tormented knows that feeling. She took a breath and went on, “What I always take comfort in is this…”
She broke off and I ventured a guess, “C’s got a lot of people in her corner?”
“Oh, she does! Absolutely,” Ms. J. agreed, “but more than that. C. knows there’s something bigger than all of us. She knows who she was created to be and that, ultimately, it’s not her classmates or her teachers or any of us that she needs to answer to. She knows that. And I truly believe that’s how she remains both kind and strong through everything.”
I smiled, shakily, tears burning in my eyes. And I nodded, because, honestly, I couldn’t talk just then.
I went home, girls in tow, and they went outside to play. In typical fashion, G. found something treacherously high to climb and C. found a shady spot to draw.
I found her picture this morning, out on our paved driveway.
She’s going to be just fine, my little C. She’s got a wisdom that little bully doesn’t even know about.
(But I’d still kinda like to kick him in the knees. Not gonna lie.)