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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

An Open Letter to the Kids Bullying My Son

An open letter to the kids bullying my son,

I wish you knew the boy I do.  The one who wakes up every morning and is genuinely happy.  He’s been that way since he came to live with us at one years old.  He is a light to those around him.  In fact, his name, means “bringer of light”.  My son is logical, caring and loving.  He isn’t afraid to hug and kiss his mama in front of you, even though is now 13.  My son is great with younger kids. They adore him, but he understands his limitations relating to you and being accepted by you.  He tries so hard, but my son knows he falls short.  He knows you see him as different solely based on the way you treat him. 

My son was supposed to have attended his first middle school summer camp last weekend.  I am certain he would have had a wonderful time.  However, he was so overcome with worry and fear about being alone and bullied that he told me he couldn’t do it.  My heart broke.  I understood…he had no special friend to go with and no one to stand up for him. 

Truth is…while I see many of you hanging out, spending the night at each other’s houses, going to the movies, I see that my son doesn’t have any friends to do that with.  Last year when he was sick and couldn’t attend the sleep over with all the boys from the class, you reminded him for weeks over and over again what a loser he was for missing out.  My son still recalls this event and how much he wanted to participate.  And my heart breaks all over for him. 

I wish you knew the boy that I do.  The one that has overcome so much.  The young man that spent the first nine years of his life in some kind of therapy to help him.  My son has spent hundreds of hours in a combination of physical, occupational and counseling therapies.  He has worked hard to accomplish skills that come natural to you.  I have heard doctors tell me that my son might not hear, or read, or know how to understand money, or function independently.  Yet here he is proving every one of those doctors wrong.  My son has undergone several ear surgeries and heart surgery.  He has the diagnosis of ADHD, Tourette Syndrome and childhood onset glaucoma.  Yet none of these labels stop him from trying to keep up with you, relate to you and be friends with you despite how you have treated him. 

I know the boy you think you see.  The one who stands a little too close and doesn’t quite understand how that makes you feel uncomfortable.  The one whose eyes twitch and wink, or the boy who clears his throat over and over.  You see the boy who blurts out answers without being called on and has a hard time staying on task.  And one who forgets his homework and struggles with comprehension.  My son likes to be right, even if he is wrong and is often argumentative.  But he is quick to apologize and the first to check on you if you are hurt or upset.

Also, in his eagerness to participate in the classroom discussions, when called on, takes double or triple the time to complete a thought.  I understand how that might be irritating or frustrating.  However, it doesn’t excuse or make it ok to ask my son if he has taken his ADHD medication and then tell him he should take five more pills.  It doesn’t make it ok to tease him, or to take the food from his lunch box and eat it in front of him, or call him slow, dumb or stupid.  My son is anything but that! 

Please don’t ask him to stop his tics (eye winking, twitching, and clearing his throat).  My son has no control of his tics, and when you ask him to stop it only makes them worse.  He can’t stop.  Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder that eventually one day he might outgrow.  You might see my son trip or run into things (including you).  He isn’t doing this to be funny or to upset you.  His peripheral vision is diminished on both sides (glaucoma) with the left side being worse than the right.  He has to take meds for this too.  He also needs to face the white board straight on 
Don’t steal his things and then tease him.  He has enough difficulty keeping track of his belongings.  Please don’t make up games about him and provoke him.  Don’t pick him last or not include him on your sports teams.  Stop stealing his basketball and stop playing keep away from him.  Do not make fun of the fact he plays baseball on a special needs team and then tell him it is not real baseball.  You crushed his spirit when you did that.  Don’t sit around in a group and tell him how you all are not his friend and then when he has the courage to advocate for himself to an adult call him a tattletale.  Don't call him a "little sh*$" on the playground. Is there really nothing better to do with your time than to work on crushing the spirit of my son?  How difficult is it to shoot some baskets with him, or play card games, or chess or checkers?  Things he adores and is good at. 

You should know, this boy you bully, my son, is my hero.  Despite everything stacked against him, he is there, at school, fighting day in and day out.  He works so hard to keep himself together and try and keep up with you in the classroom.  You will always read faster, write better, and comprehend quicker.  Skills will come easier to you always.  You do not have to point it out to him every time he makes a mistake.  He already knows anyway.  My son is aware.  He tries to conceal how you make him feel.  But I see it.  I see the weariness in his eyes.  The defeat in his demeanor.  The tears that roll down his cheeks, the questions he asks me about why you say certain things or act a certain way.  About why he was made the way he is.  I build my son back up after you tear him down.  I put the pieces back together day after day after you rip him apart. 

I drop him off at school the next day and as my son springs out of the minivan, he is already yelling good morning to whichever classmate is in front of us.  You shrug him off, and I want to yell at you!  I want to scream, “Don’t treat my son that way!  Don’t you see what a gift he is giving you?  Yesterday you treated him like garbage and today he has totally forgiven you and is once again trying to befriend you.”  And I drive away with tears streaming down my face for the injustice of this world.  I say, “it’s not fair” over and over and over again, as if expecting someone to console me.  I know the universal truth that life is not fair.  And then I pray.  Because really that’s all that is left to do...Pray.

It is this mama’s hope and prayer that one of you…one of my son’s peers, sees him for who he is and befriends him.  That one of you, somewhere in my son’s life would choose to go against the crowd and see him for the amazing human he is.  My son is genuine and loyal.  He loves animals, especially dogs, Star Wars and reading.  He loves to fish and hunt with his dad and is an excellent marksmen.  It is difficult to show you how he excels in those areas within the four walls of a classroom.  He really is quite amazing.  Maybe if you quit trying to be “cool” you might get to experience the incredible gift of friendship my son has to offer. 

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