Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Jungle Book

If I cry, do I look like a victim? Probably. Do I care about looking like a victim? Probably not. I am old and, for that matter, mean enough not to care how I look. I certainly wanted to cry this morning when a friend who was in school last week, said he had noticed that my son was unusually quiet and anonymous in class. My friend described him as "a different boy". Another person described my son's face, normally responsive, as "set" in the last recent while. Sheesh! This afternoon I went up to school to see for myself what was going on. I was informed that the child who had bitten him yesterday, today managed to "accidentally" sit on my son's head. The boy apologised - as you do when you accidentally sit on someone's head. OK, I will buy the fact you can accidentally sit on someone's head. It is possible; a shove, a fall-over, a stumble. Not quite sure about the follow-through kick to the hip. School is a jungle. As an adult, you know deep down that school is a dangerous place, you just choose to forget the dank hurt and slavering darkness. Until the day bleeds out into a tropical sky and you watch your own child disappear into the leaf-heavy gloom, whistling as he goes.

I am assured the school is taking it seriously. The committed and professional teachers seem as concerned as I am. There have been conversations and meetings; next week we go back for an official update with the head who is a woman in whom I have every confidence. You trust teachers with your children's lives, quite literally. I have no idea what happens when you do not trust the teaching staff. Panic horribly and home educate? God. The thought of home schooling brings me out in shingles. My children would get bullied then, by me.

In the meantime, like nice middle-class parents, we are checking with a nice middle-class doctor in case there are "spatial awareness" problems with our son. I am not quite sure how spatially aware you have to be to avoid having your head sat on. In any event, I have issued my son with the first few pages of his jungle survival guide: "Do not sit next to him. Do not stand near him. Do not talk to him. Do not play with him. Do not have anything to do with him. Do not pull a tiger's tail." He looked at me blankly: "What tiger?"


aims said...

pSorry your holiday ended this way, it certainly is not what one expects after being away. However, maybe the being away helped you to see better what is going on.
As you know - I am childless - and the two cats will fight no matter what I say to them.
What I want to say to you is you are great for bringing this horrible and progressing problem to the public's eye - everyone needs to be aware of these things but unfortunately most of us will turn our backs and be glad it's happening to someone else.
Whatever action you take - it is obvious that you have a huge supporting cast behind you and we are willing to be your shoulder to cry on.
Thinking of you.

jtschida said...

Abraham Lincoln once said, "The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him your friend." Perhaps you could arrange playdates with the various aggressors in your home, under your supervision, to see how they relate one-on-one. Sometimes just changing the dynamics changes the situation...

Helena said...

Well, it sounds slightly better than yesterday but WHY is it that no one today dares to call something by it's name nowadays? Your son is being bullied, this spatial awareness thing is just crap. He is being picked on by someone and that someone needs to be punished. But oh no, in today's PC world it's never anyone's fault. SO WHAT if you're the outsider? You live there too and have as much right as anyone else to have your child educated without fear.
Rant over.

Liz in Illinois said...

I am relieved to hear that you decided to go to the school and have a word with the staff. Bullying is not a case of "boys will be boys". As a former teacher myself, I know how to must look to outsiders ("How could she have missed that?") when bullying appears to be "overlooked" - you've done the teacher(s) a great service by bringing your concerns directly to them. Bullying is insidious by nature and can be missed - even when it may seem egregious to others.

On a slightly different note, I can't believe that this is the world of a six year old... I didn't encounter bullying like this until I was almost 13 (and the new kid at the school).

knifepainter said...

Hey Wifey, glad you are back, sorry for your trouble.

My easygoing, sensitive, aubern haired boy of 11 was getting viciously taunted on the bus to school for three months last autumn.

This bullying was over his hair colour !

He was punched, kicked and sworn at every journey.

Despite this he didn't tell us because he thought it was to be expected, starting High School and so forth.
It got so bad he was faking illness most mornings.

I couldn't believe my rage when I found out, I felt physically sick that my child was being abused.

Despite the fact that my wife works at the school, and I'm a governor there, we were completely powerless.

He sorted it out himself one Friday on the way home. All I know came from his best friend;

"Sam leathered them two bullies on the way home today Mr Robbins".

Jungle Book indeed.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your son and very glad you have been into school.Do the locals know who you are -they might be reluctant to get too friendly if they think they will end up as part of your blog!

mutleythedog said...

For goodness sake - they are all only six - give em all a slap and tell them to get on with it!

Emma said...

It's so awful when something like this happens to your child. My four-year-old son was pushed off a playground bench by an older boy during his first week at school, hit his head and ended up in casualty. You feel so livid - but powerless at the same time. You're definitely doing the right thing talking to the school - and if things don't get any better I'd just move him somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

anon of 8.38 - yes the locals know who she is and where she lives.

Anonymous said...

Wifey, You just need to get your priorities straight. Forget all this tosh about trying to be 'middle-class'. Who gives a toss ??

Forget the book, forget the blog.

Your son is the most important thing in your life right now. If he isn't, pass him over to some who will put his needs as their number one priority.

Steve said...

When our son got bullied, we told him to thump the bully next time he tried anything. He did. After that they were friends. Not PC I know, but it did the trick.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cath said...

How awful for you, Wife in the North.

Your poor little boy being bullied like that.

Do you think it might be something to do with you being southern and moving up to the north?

Thinking of you.


Flat Out said...

@ the last two anonymous comments: if you don't want to put your name to the comments - get off the air. Cowardly and stupid at the same time. Some sort of achievement...

WITN - you have the support of thousands. Keep on.

sunshine said...

wifey, I fear it is not a tiger's tail-- it is one of those bears your son said he feared -- life is full of bears in the mist -- and while you don't pull their tails, when one of them habitually pulls YOUR tail, perhaps one needs to set him straight. I favor the karate classes suggested by the "grocer". He would become comfortable with his body, increase his coordination, and be able to kick their asses off, if necessary. However, when aware of his own power, he might choose not to use it -- real maturity!

Anonymous said...

Bullying is everwhere. My 8 year old son was bullied by a local boy, but it was resolved when we spoke to the school AND the parents. Bring it out in the open, fear not what they say about you, your son comes first.

BTW, anon of 10:09 - does that mean all the locals don't like witn because she blogs?!

I Beatrice said...

Does your little boy talk to you about the bullying, himself? Children can clam up, I know, but it's sometimes possible to get them to open up in unguarded moments. When reading a story together perhaps? A story tailored to the problem itself would be good, of course - if you don't have one, make it up as you go along (Yes I know! Mothers of several young children seldom have time or energy to sit down and make up stories - that luxury belongs mostly to grannies).

The playdate idea might work. Though on the other hand, your son might be uncomfortable with it - and in any case the other child would probably behave impeccably! They always do, when no-one's looking.
Do you know the child's mother well enough to approach her about the problem? Perhaps she could come along to the playdate too.....?

Nicole said...

The last remark is quite astute- clearly the bully waits for you to sit down at your computer and then attacks your son and so if you never sat down to type, none of this would be going on. Or maybe the two things are completely unrelated? I think I am leaning toward option two.
I honestly think that you are doing everything right and most definitely need to keep going up to school every single time something happens and insisting on a proper explanation and reaction. As you pointed out, if your son was getting battered like this at home, social services would have removed him. Can schools really just absolve themselves of all responsibility by saying "oops" every single time? It doesn't seem right. Good luck. Hopefully your involvement now will make them get serious about putting a stop to it all.

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for a while and felt I needed to say my bit today. I have had exactly the same problem at school with my children. The bumps and scrapes were written off by the teachers as 'playgound exuberance'. In the end I told my younger child to just hit them back harder.. not the thing to be telling them but it's better than me doing it! As for the older one, he has always been maturer than his years and is a lot different than his peers in terms of both maturity and intellegence... singles him out. I have had words with the schools who have taken it seriously and spoken to the children involved but bullying doesn't really stop does it? Having been through episodes of bullying at school, I know looking back, that things like this does happen and it either stops, or the bullys divert attention to someone else, but how can you tell that to a child who can only see his present suffering. I've therefore made a conscious decision to enroll my children into karate and cross the consequences bridge when that happens. At least my children can give as good as they get then. Rant over. Anon.

Anonymous said...

That's an outrageous comment. How does writing a blog interfere with caring for your child?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe these negative comments! Don't let them get to you - ignore them. People are so quick to leap to judgement.

I don't see any nonsense about 'trying to be middle class' - there's no trying, you're being what you are, seems to me.

And it is perfectly possible to be dealing with your children's issues as well as having something else going on in your life! God, why is someone trying to make you feel guilty about doing this blog? (Jealousy? Resentment?)

Good luck with it all.

L. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alice said...

Bullying takes different forms and does not end when you leave the playground as a couple of unpleasant anonymous messages on this blog have demonstrated.
People have different ways of resolving this sort of problem and you have to give your son the confidence to find his own way. For some it is physical - the 'leather them' approach and for others it is words; some choose to step forward and take on the bullies and some prefer to walk away. Whatever your son learns now will be a foundation for the way he approaches problems later as a teenager and as an adult. If the lesson is that it can only be resolved by his parents and a lawyer he will become a very powerless adult. If he learns that he can take steps to help himself it will be a positive experience - however horrible.
My own son started mini rugby when he was six and it helped him in all sorts of ways. He became more confident physically, learned how to work in a team environment, moved into a more male world than he had been until then and gave him something special to do with his father. It has been an enormous benefit throughout his teenage life. This may not be the right thing for your son but I am sure that there will be something that will help him find his feet in the community that you live in.

botogol said...

Anonymous of 10:09 PM said...
yes the locals know who she is and where she lives.

Some unpleasant neighbours you have there wifey.

Perhaps bullying (whether playground- or cyber-) is simply part of the culture at all levels in the grim north.

I hope it works out. With determination it IS posssible for bullying problems to be sorted out at that age level.

Michael said...

Here's a good book about teaching your boy how to deal with bullying:

"Sticks and Stones: 7 Ways Your Child Can Deal with Teasing, Conflict, and Other Hard Times" Scott Cooper

Are there any martial arts classes nearby? They are good for self-defense, but also self-control and physical coordination.


Marianne said...

There is nothing more gut-wrenching than having your lovely, sensitive child ill treated by others and there is no justification for the number and severity of the incidents you have described. The school must take effective action. Now.

Much as we want our children to learn to become independent and to integrate, as a parent you sometimes have to intervene and systematic bullying such as this is a case in point.

All the suggestions I have seen in the comments - be persistent with the school, go along as a volunteer - you can offer to hear children read to see for yourself what is going on, joining the Board of Governors, asking any particular child he likes to come and play - friends, even just one friend, provide the best protection. Children always pick on an isolated child. If the worst comes to the worst, you should consider taking him out. Sometimes a change of school can work wonders - if you get it right. Tolerate this, you cannot.

When it happened to my son, I tried everything, but finally a change of school was the only answer. I wish you the best of luck. You will resolve this.

wife in the north said...

Bleeding and Obvious
I am not publishing comments I consider offensive to other contributors. They are always anonymous and usually very boring to read. Foul language published on this blog is, by and large, going to be mine.
I may well publish abusive comments aimed at me. I may not. It entirely depends on whether I have a headache.
You are welcome to read this blog. If you keep reading this blog even though you know it makes you really cross, it may well lead to dyspepsia, possibly a fit and certainly chilblains.

Anonymous said...

I was the one advocating going nuclear and still feeling sorry sorry sorry for your little boy.

Here's a happy thought though - school's out for the weekend!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Wife! Watch your back on those unlit country lanes, anon of 10.09 sounds alarming. It took me a few go's of banging on the table at my child's school before the bemused, 'gosh you really are an over-protective mother' smirk was removed and they took the bullying seriously. In a somewhat galling turnaround, my daughter is now very friendly with the former bully! Good luck x

Norman said...

With these bullying problem[s], been there, done that. I have four adult children who have kids of their own. All have been through it. I think you're doing the right things about it. Just remember, ITS NOT YOUR FAULT in any way shape or form. There are plenty bits of practical advice drifting about. The best I can do is spare you a thought every time I log on to your site. It WILL all resolve, - eventually. Having said that, you could do without it.

Silly Mummy said...

Listen up WITN (Mummy), this is not a spatial awareness problem this is bullying. Do NOT try and comfort yourself with believing this is anything else - take it as old fashioned bullying.
Sorry to sound stroppy but as one who was badly bullied at school, I recognise what your son is experiencing and it is horrible for him and for you as his parents.
Please do not tiptoe or tread carefully around this issue or hope it will improve with him ignoring the boy that sat on his head (God I am so angry that I want to sit on that kid's head myself!), it needs proactive intervention from both staff at the school and you.
I am not suggesting that you are treating this lightly (the two latest posts show how disturbed and preoccupied you are with this- who wouldn't be?) but please have a definite 'plan of action' with the school.
The bullying that I experienced as a child has affected me all my life and, coincidentally my husband, who was stupidly taught 'turn the other cheek' feels the same about his experiences of being bullied.
Give your lovely son a huge hug from us, I am SO upset for him, and be tough with the school (I am not suggesting they are lax but your son has to come first in all this) - er, welcome back from your hols, I have missed you!

Stay at home dad said...

I don't have advice in this regard, but I do have a couple of observations. In our local playground I have felt the need to intervene twice in the last couple of weeks in cases of bad behaviour. Once when a boy was throwing stones at other children and then when another boy was threatening children with a stick. I don't know where or who the parents were but why they didn't step in before me I have no idea. Bullying children need their parents to read them the riot act, unfortunately I guess the reason they act like that in the first place is just that lack of guidance.

Given the efforts you are making I'm sure things will work out.


bex said...

Having been a victim of bullying myself I know how your son must feel.I am now a 36 year old mother but I still have periods of insecurity which I know are directly related to what I went through in school. Bullying must be kept in the public eye until schools are held accountable for their role in allowing this barbaric "rite of passage" to continue.I was bullied in high school, but as with everything these days children are bullying and being bullied at a much younger age. The mental scars remain much longer than the physical ones. Keep up the pressure on the school to sort this problem out. We are all behind you (except the cowardly anonymous comments)

southern gal said...

find another school if they don't listen to you and stop the bullying.

Razzle said...

Dear Wife in the North
I have never posted a comment on a blog before, but I feel compelled to write. Because I have been there. Village school, small child (daughter), parents who wont do anything about it because they are relieved it's not their child, hints that it may be because something is wrong with your child (leading to...they are 'asking' for it, meaning that it is their fault they are being bullied).
When it happened to us I found myself ostracised for protesting,'making a fuss' and naively thinking that the bullies would be 'talked to'.
Many of the mothers 'closed ranks'. I can still hardly believe that they knowingly let a small child suffer.
To my lasting regret,my daughter was further traumatised by my 'suggestions' of how she could cope. It is no good saying 'just thump them back' to a gentle child who has been 'cowed' for a long time by thumps, kickes and verbal taunting. It just re-enforces how powerless they feel.
This is a time when calm persistence is needed at a time when you feel anything but. I keep re-typing this because I feel enraged for you, so I will stop and just wish you and your boy the very best, and hope it will be resolved soon

MikeyP said...

If I were you, I would find out where the nearest martial arts classes are held and enrol you son there. In my experience, both of life and playing Rugby in the front row for 35 years, there is nothing bullies like less than than effective retaliation. It will teach hime discpline and fitness and will stand him in good stead all his life.

Maybe not PC, but BALLS TO POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, this is real life, says I!!!!!

debio said...

On thinking about this further, and, reading some of the comments from the locals 'up north', have you asked yourself why you are not packing up and going 'home'? These rural communities never accept outsiders (although some pretend to)and, whilst you are able to rationalise, children can only be themselves and, God knows, why should they learn to be anyone else just to fit in? And why would anyone want to fit in just to avoid being bullied?

Pack up and get the wagons rolling - head for where you can be middle-class without apology; and before your children adopt the accent!

Anonymous said...

If you want to fit into a small rural community, make friends and fit in, this is not the way to do it.

You are making our lives into a soap opera and people are afraid to talk to you for fear of being the next topic.

How many people sought your company last night ?

james higham said...

As a former head, if a parent brought such a matter up, it was investigated to the nth degree and if clearly guilty, the culprit was suspended while the parents of said culprit looked for another school.

KatyStrange said...

Yikes - welcome home.

My best friend's duaughter had similar bullying problems at the first Northumberland village primary school she attended. If it's any consolation, since deciding to move her she is a different little girl. Private school I'm afraid - who said a child's happiness is cheap?

Hope things resolve themselves soon.


It's a bit tough in the playground. I gave my boy some training in how to have a fight, because the teachers, dinner staff etc...weren't listening to him. I didn't want him to be a victim. He's too 'nice' to ever give it back. There were, and still are, constant issues: he came home with footprints on his back, jacket torn, T-shirt torn etc...fighting back wasn't the way to go; girls were the main culprits, and he'd never hit a girl. He 'told', but no one would listen to him. I talked to the teachers and they were unreceptive. There are still incidents now. One particular boy, who was his friend, has now turned on him: on the last school trip he was put in the boy's group, much to my son's annoyance. Why should he spend a day with someone who is mean to him, says he hates him and tells the class my son in gay? (Not that he cares too much we have gay friends) It's difficult, the school does take some responsibility but ultimately, whatever your stretch of life, there are bullies along the way. Even mums bully other mums with their cutting looks and glances, as do work colleagues etc...If it's any consolation I went through grammar school with two girls who sat on my head. One went on to be an RE teacher, the other a shop assistant.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Yes folks, that's right, it's all the fault of Northumberland and the close-to-savages that live here and speak with such an oiky accent. It's not as if bullying in an international phenomenon, is it? Unlike some place, though, the little bullies here don't tend to take guns and knives with them to school in the morning.

And of course the locals know who the Wife is - she has a column, complete with photo, in the local paper.

X&Y said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Well said eminem ! I wonder what Rilly Super has to say on the topic?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you're not really having an easy time of things.I moved when i was a little older than him and got bullied as i had a really different accent, but once my family got to know parents of the other kids and teachers etc through community activities like PTA it got easier. I'm sure there must be a few people who have moved from elsewhere that you could get together with if you feel shut out? As for your little boy, I do have some advice from facing a bully- get him to talk to a teacher whenever anything happens, even if it is name calling or whatever. I would get him into a meeting with a teacher he trusts with you there and between you explain that if he needs to come and talk about it he can go to either of you- it really helps just knowing that if it all gets too much he'll be able to talk to someone he trusts even if you're not there.keep talking to the teachers- they need your support on this matter as much as you need theirs and good luck! Samantha Ellis xx

Rare Breed said...

Dear me, wifey - what a lot of hostility there is on this comment section, and they are all locals. Why are the locals being so hostile, I just don't understand?

This is about the bullying of your son, not about whether you blog.

People are just odd, I wonder why they can't see through the words to your pain?

Bullying in ANY form should not be tolerated.

Anonymous said...

'Bullying'? 'Agression'? Where? Not in this teeny tiny village school. Us 'up North' are proud to live 'up North' and would prefer not to have to defend our school(s) from the outsiders who think it's their job to move up here, take over and do nothing but rip the locals apart. Our community is proud to be just that. Maybe you should find somewhere that bullying really does take place and then feel you have reason to complain.

Anonymous said...

Poor, poor boy.

Don't let your middle class manners dilute your anger though; I did - once - when my own son - then 9 - was being bullied. I thought polite letters and civil conversations meant the right people would listen to me. They didn't - not until I started banging my fist on desks which made my husband look at his feet apologetically (rather than look at shrieking banshee wife). But my yelling came too late: darling boy too bruised by bullies to carry on.

We pulled him out and put him into a new school. Six years later and he's a strapping 15 year old who nobody would dare bully as he's so big.

Mother's instinct always right. Just wish I'd listened to mine a little earlier and trusted that more than the experts.

I learned that the most important thing - when a child is bullied - is that their mum believes in them: that's what counts the most.

Good luck.

reluctantmemsahib in Africa

Sandra Montgomery said...

To Annon at 5:22 [near the end]

Who are you, the village idiot? No bullying in your teeny tiny school? What, you think she makes this stuff up? If she did, you wouldn't have your knickers in such a twist at having your lives displayed like a 'soap opera' would you? So you can't have it both ways. Either this is all fiction, so quit your moaning about having your tiny, insignificant lives on display or it's truth and her son is suffering. And I am betting dollars to doughnuts that it is YOUR son who is the bully. Because it seems to me he has quite the example on how to be plain nasty in you.

Wife, there has been a lot of good advice on here as to how to deal with this. I am writing this a year after you posted so I am hoping it has been dealt with. Soundly. As someone who was bullied in British schools - and there is a particular savagery to bullying there that I did not experience when I moved to Canada - I have heaps of sympathy for your son. As a mother who saw my daughter being bullied in school here in Canada, I jumped on it right away and made sure a stop was put to it. No child should have to put up with that and as parents we are their first line of defense.