Pull Out All The Stops

Something was wrong, I just knew it.  But I also understood, having been down this road many times before, that I had to wait until Sam was ready to talk.  And so I anxiously exercised my patience, knowing the signs, all too well, that something was wearing on him.  The constant deep-in-thought look, excessive sleeping, and verbally lashing out at the family were all symptoms of Sam being harassed and bullied.  After four days he was finally willing to open up, sharing the pain of his latest emotional wound.

As a member of the high school pep band Sam is required to play at sporting events, most recently for the girl’s hockey quarter-final game.  While sitting in the bleachers waiting to play, he glanced over to see a group of his fellow classmates pointing at him and laughing.  He knew immediately he was the target of their ridicule because the group was comprised of some of the same boys who hurl derogatory comments his way on the days he musters the courage to eat in the high school lunchroom.  He tried to ignore them, but glancing back a second time he was shocked to see several of them, still extremely amused and pleased with themselves, taking photos of him with cameras and cell phones, the purpose for which neither of us even wanted to imagine.

My heart broke as he shared his sadness, asking me why kids have to be so mean.  I had no answer, my standard responses for such mean-spirited actions already having been used to exhaustion.  And so I just listened as he exorcised the demons he had kept alive in his head since that day.

When he had completely purged the experience from his mind I asked, “What are their names?”  My tone not masking my hurt for my child coupled with my anger toward those kids.  But Sam, wise beyond his years, knew this was not a battle he had the strength to fight, and therefore simply replied, “I don’t know.”  End of discussion.

In the wake of yet another school shooting in Ohio this week, which is already speculated to be caused by a history of harassment and bullying between some of the children involved, I share Sam’s experience with you as an example of the type of behavior students are exhibiting toward one another all across our country.  Ugly, disrespectful behavior that is always at someone else’s expense, the cost of which, too high for any child or family to pay.  In extreme cases the consequences culminate in violence, while in other incidences children choose to harm themselves or simply sink into a pit of despair and depression.  As for Sam, once he revealed what had happened to him he became physically ill and is now missing a day of school to recover his mental and physical health.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I will join forces with anyone who is willing and able to pull out all the stops to put an end to this blatant disregard for common decency and respect.

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7 Responses to Pull Out All The Stops

  1. kaisermiller says:

    My heart just breaks for kids who continue to be bullied. It breaks for Sam. I wish that the bullies could feel the pain that they inflict. It occurs to me that there are kids who aren’t bullying who could/should stand up for kids who are getting picked on. Give Sam a hug for me.

    • DJC says:

      I’m with kaisermiller on this one. It is a bleeding tragedy that so many of our kids…people I’d want to have working under me, for crying out loud…off themselves because they can’t put up with the bullying for reasons they can’t help. I know what it’s like. I probably would have been dead before the end of grammar school but my brother was willing to administer a little beating to anyone who came too close…that could have saved my life. I would want to talk about how it gets better…it’s so good to be surrounded by colleagues who don’t think of you as some sort of “weirdo” or “spazz” because you prefer to vanish for a couple of days when you have work to do. They don’t NEED to know the technical details…I’m just Dave, the guy who “works like a machine” to them, and they always take my side and cover for any problems that might arise. That’s all I am. Dave, the guy who “works like a machine.” But they take care of me and no one knows about the Aspie thing unless I tell them. Moral of the story: I guess it does get better, or at least to the point where it’s tolerable. It’s all about finding an environment where you can have camaraderie and avoid hostile outsiders. My cycle of the journal has that and we have closed and controlled spaces we can use (you can’t get NEAR my office without going through three locked doors). Guess I’m rambling. It gets better, or it can. I promise. I’m looking forward to this article coming out.

  2. katja says:

    Oh, so, unfair and wrong. I feel for you both, what an exhausting fight this must be, just for the basics of human decency. Your blog has touched my life, and has helped me talk with my 6 year old about gender and decency and bullying. We go to a UU church, and the pastor shared a story where a “deep voice” called the secretary for directions to the church and asked if everyone was welcome, she said yes, and the voice said, “even if I’m wearing a dress?” and the secretary answered, “Why, is it an ugly dress?” I shared the story with M, and how everyone is welcome at our church, and how we should be kind to everyone, and we talked a little about how the person on the phone was probably born a man, but always thought and felt like a woman, and M said, “It must be hard when how you look doesn’t match how you feel.” It gives me hope that your blog, and talking and being open, and appealing to what is good in our little ones will help heal the world. Maybe not Sam today, but soon, I hope. I would hope she my M will continue to think this way, and I try not to judge those children who are teasing, and try not to judge their parents and their churches, but it is hard, and I can only imagine how hard it is for Sam. It DOES get better though… As an aside, I talked with someone who is in her fifties, with a transgender child who is thriving in her twenties. Maybe I can connect you two… I imagine any support and hope is helpful during these dark days…

  3. Sara says:

    How heartbreaking! I wish that we could all promise Sam that when he gets out into the adult world that things would get better, and indeed, I think that they mostly will, but sadly, ugliness remains and all that we can all do is keep trying to make the world better than it is now. Sigh. Hang in there.

  4. Inukie Koji says:

    Uhm. It seems like Sam is very hurt by having to go to school in a place with such mean people. People who knew him before and all.
    I’m a transmale college student, and I know it drove me half mad being stuck around people who knew before even in a school without bullying really.
    With transpeople, who worry ‘What if they think of me as a girl?’ literally all the time, it can be really really painful to have to be only around people who knew before. And going through middle school without stealth either? That’s beyond agony
    What I mean to say is, why isn’t Sam living stealth? Why isn’t he going to another school? Close friends? If he’s not willing to name the boys who did this, it seems like it isn’t refusing to give up.
    I’m sorry, I just really want to ask after reading all of this blog and wondering for so long.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your question – no need to be sorry, it is a common and good question! A few years ago we looked into switching schools thinking it would provide a fresh start for Sam, however there were two reasons he decided not to make the move. First, we have learned that going ‘stealth’ has its own set of stressors that can make every day a living hell worrying that you will be found out. The likelihood of that seemed certain given the fact it is such a small world. Inevitably we felt that no matter where he went someone’s aunt, cousin, neighbor or friend would know someone who knows someone who knows Sam and the secret would likely be divulged. The second reason was academics. Sam’s high school is one of the best public high schools for college prep in the nation, and that means a lot to him. When I mentioned that many area schools also have good academic reputations he informed me that he had researched the test scores of their students and overall none were close to our school. He then looked at me and said, “Why should I have to be the one to leave?” It was at that point we decided to follow his lead. Hope that helps and thanks again for reading this blog and weighing in!

  5. Melanie says:

    Minnetonka implemented an anti-bullying program for which my husband created this video: http://kstp.com/article/stories/s2387397.shtml — It would be great to see Edina do the same.

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