I heard the boys snickering and turned to see what was going on.
My son was awkwardly trying to catch water balloons, as several boys threw them at him.
It was the end of school party on the last day of second grade. The teacher was there along with several room moms. No one seemed to even notice.
Anger, hurt, shame, and frustration burned in me as I ran over.
My son was so confused. They were supposed to be doing water balloon tosses, back and forth, between two children. Why weren’t these boys following the rules?
My heart felt like breaking in two, right there on the playground.
We had already made the decision to homeschool about two months prior. I felt more secure about that decision than ever before. I had no idea that he would be bullied this soon. “Second grade?” I thought. It seemed surreal.
And yet, it happened, right in front of me. And who knows how many times it had happened before.
I spoke with another mom last week about her 13-year-old son, also on the spectrum. She and I were talking about the most difficult parts of figuring this motherhood thing out. Her words brought me right back to that playground.
“It doesn’t matter what we do with the school. The most difficult part for us is the bullying. It is constant and we are out of options to try to make it stop. My son is miserable, all the time, ” she said through tears.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and responded with the only words I could think of.
“I am so very sorry.”
An Example Of Bullying
Earlier this week, my husband and I were at dinner with friends. The guys were telling jokes and cracking up. I felt myself stiffen as one of them started acting like ‘Rain Man‘ at the table. My youngest son was there, but thankfully didn’t understand the reference. So were two other children.
I grabbed my husband’s hand under the table and squeezed. My mortified husband, quickly and loudly changed the subject. But I couldn’t shake the feelings of sadness and frustration.
How can we expect our children to understand the impact of bullying, if we aren’t taking it seriously ourselves?
When Your Child With Special Needs Is Bullied
I do not think that the boys throwing water balloons at my son really thought about what they were doing. They acted as though it was all in good fun. I do not think the gentleman at dinner really thought about what he was doing. He acted as though it was all in good fun.
But it’s not. It isn’t fun. It’s straight up wrong.
No matter how schools may teach against bullying, nothing is more powerful than example.
What example are we setting, as parents, when we make inappropriate jokes at the expense of an entire group of people? Or when we allow our children to ostracize and single out another child at the park for ridicule?
Maybe it’s because I have two unique children, that are often the outsiders. Maybe it’s because I have always rooted for the underdog. Maybe it’s because I see it more and more, now that my boys are getting older.
No matter what the reason, I’m tired of making excuses for the inexcusable.
My boys and I are having a very serious conversation this morning. Not about how they are treated, but how they treat others. We are discussing some of the other children in their classes and social groups.
I am making myself as clear as possible.
We are kind.
We reach out.
We laugh at funny jokes, not at other people.
We stand up for.
We are empathetic.
We build up.
And we do not bully.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.