On Monday our youngest human member of The Zoo came home from wrestling practice around 5 o’clock. Normally, he is very jovial after wrestling practice but, on Monday, he came into my studio and folded himself into a chair.
Well, I didn’t have a very good day, he started.
Tell me more, I said.
Today in Monday Math a kid Eddie* was arguing with me about how his bike was better than mine. I told him I think my bike is pretty cool but let’s just change the subject and do our math. When we were working on our papers in library we were sitting in a couch and there was a low table, like a coffee table, and he kept grinding the table in to my legs. Then he got up and punched my left hand on top of the table as hard as he could. He said he was going to beat me up. I just ignored him because he says it like every two weeks. I never take him seriously because he always says dumb things.
Can I see your hand, I asked…and discovered a newly forming bruise.
Tell me more, I said again, willing myself to remain calm so I could gather all the details.
Then, in wrestling practice, after warm-up I went out to the hall to get a drink at the water fountain. Eddie and Charlie* came up to me and started pushing me. They were trying to get me into the staff bathroom and lock the door. I was trying to get away when one of them grabbed my legs and the other one pulled me down to the ground. They started kicking me. My eyes were closed so I couldn’t see who was kicking me but it felt like both of them. My friend Vinnie* ran to get Coach and he came out and kicked those two guys out of practice. Then we had a team meeting about safety and not bullying.
Ok, can I see where they kicked you?…again, another bruise, this one shoe-sized on the left thigh.
Moments like these in the world of parenting are fleeting. In all my trips around the sun I’ll never be adequately prepared to manage expressing empathy and love and warmth and comfort right alongside absolute rage. In these Monday evenings inside my sewing studio with my twelve-year-old I want to be the mom who keeps her shit together…who makes all the right moves that keep communication circuits like these open and welcoming…who doesn’t completely fly off the handle with threats of things like vengeance or arson or other not-only-illegal-but-frowned-upon activities.
…breathe, Thea, keep it together…
I hugged my son. I told him I was very sorry this happened to him at school. I assured him we would help make things right. You see, this kid Eddie already has history with our son. Last school year at middle school swim practice, Eddie was waiting outside the bathroom stall to blow smoke from his vape into our son’s face. On numerous occasions there have been what we’ve previously classified as dumb remarks. We’ve done our best to parent through these with all of the…
Middle school can be hard on people…
Middle school kids can have growth spurts and be really difficult one year and better the next…
Do your best to ignore it but let us know if you need some help…
With all that said, once Jamie Gyde learned the details of the latest Eddie run-in…the worm, in fact, turned.
On Tuesday morning the three kids and I went to the pediatric dentist for check ups while Jamie went down to the middle school for meetings. He started with the wonderful Assistant Principal who called down the police officer on duty. Charges were pressed. Two counts of assault for Eddie (one for the library and one for the water fountain) and one count for Charlie. After several interviews with everyone involved, both boys finally admitted what they did. They were arrested and went to jail on Tuesday night, where they remained until their hearing on Wednesday afternoon. In the meantime, the arresting officer called to say the entire incident was captured on the hallway video monitors. The incident was just as described.
Jamie and I attended the hearing where we watched the judge tell them how deeply disturbing their behavior was. She told them they committed a class IV misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. She told them that because this was their first offense that she would give them what is called a “diversion” which is like probation. Under the terms of their diversion they must admit to the crime they committed and complete all the tasks outlined by their probation officer or risk being brought back to court and going to jail.
In the meantime, they are both temporarily expelled from school.
We filed for an order of protection on behalf of our son in case either boy decides to retaliate. We are still waiting to hear what the court decides regarding our request.
So, here we are on Thursday. James has returned to school and wrestling practice. He seems to be doing ok. I’m not sure if those boys will be back at school. I assume they will and I really don’t know how I feel about it. I know there will be boundaries and, potentially, a court order but, still?
Jamie feels confident that James will be safe and those boys will stay far away.
Please know a few things:
First, names have been changed in this post because they are minor children.
Second, none of this is ok. A boy being hurt in math class (in a library with two teachers and at least one para educator) and then singled out and jumped at the water fountain is not ok. Two boys in handcuffs, in a squad car, and then jail for the night is not ok. Parents in court watching a judge do their job is not ok. Having our son say he doesn’t feel safe at school is not ok.
Let me say that again for the people in the back: having our son say he doesn’t feel safe at school is not ok.
Furthermore, letting the habitual bullying of our son continue is not ok. There are actions and reactions.
Three, our hope is that those boys have learned or will – over the upcoming year they are completing the requirements of their diversion – learn their lesson. In any case, we hope they will know to stay away from our son.
Glad these little monsters got kicked out of whatever sport they are interested in but they need an avenue to earn their way back into good standing. It just might divert them from growing up to be big monsters I don’t know of any effective way to handle bullying except how Kirk managed it.
Thea, I’m so sorry that your family is going through that. James is lucky to have two parents who know how to make him feel heard and understood. That’s no small feat. Every experience in life is an opportunity to learn. I hope the two boys will be supported by their parents in a way that helps them to grow. (Hopefully, that growth can happen somewhere far away from your child.) And, James. Geez. He sounds like an incredible kid. How amazing is it that he came to you and was able to articulate what happened and how it made him feel. I hope the school is supportive and keeps him safe. He’s a sweet kid and doesn’t deserve to feel unsafe in a place where he’s supposed to be relaxed and ready to learn. Sending love and light your way. – Sabrina
I hate the sucky parts of life, especially when our kids are involved. You are an awesome mom, you always show up and your emotional intensity is to be admired because you are fearless and I love that! Because of you, your son will be alright. Those other boys, not so sure. They have choices, we all do.