Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bully On The Bus

About a month ago, Joe-Henry begged me to let him walk up the hill from the bus stop by himself. He loved how it made him feel - so independent, so carefree. He'd walk in the door so pleased with himself. "Hi Mom! How was your day at work?" I loved giving him this little snippet of independence, even though it meant that I literally counted the seconds from the time the bus roared by the house until I heard his hand on the doorknob.

Then a couple weeks ago, he came home looking, not upset, just puzzled. "Mom, what does this mean?" he said as he held up his middle finger toward me. Nothing like having your eight year old flip you the bird for you to shake off the afternoon sleepies. I have to admit, I'm getting pretty good at not looking or sounding like an airhorn when I'm alarmed anymore. I calmly told him what it was, and that I never, ever wanted to see him do it again. He said that one of his classmates "girlfriends" flipped them off when she got off the bus. Apparently she's an older woman in the third grade.

The next day he mentioned this same classmate with the classy girlfriend were kissing in the boy's bathroom. Oy. Really? Second grade? Holy crap. This particular classmate lives right down the street, and has a brother in fifth grade, and they are known to just roam the streets for hours. We've had them over to play a couple times, but after this next incident, it's not going to happen again.

They have assigned seats on the bus, and two days ago, Joe-Henry walked in the door, hung up his coat, and walked over and threw himself face down into my lap. The fifth grader sits right across the aisle from him and he's been bugging JH about this and that for a couple weeks, but this was the last straw. "S. called me a fucker. He wouldn't stop teasing me about football and said I was a liar and a fucker! I couldn't help myself mom, I flipped him off, and he said if I did it again he was going to punch me in the face!" I lost my cool, collected mother impersonation and out came my airhorn. "WHAT?! He said WHAT?" He repeated exactly what he had just said.

First off, I reminded him that we NEVER flip anyone off, that there is ALWAYS another option, and we would discuss the consequences after I talked to S. I put on my jacket and with JH wide-eyed behind me, I headed down the hill. "Pick on someone your own size, you little shit" was screaming in my head, but when I got to his house, his Aunt answered. When I asked if he was there, she said "What did he do now?" I explained that he and JH had words on the bus and I wanted to resolve the issue. He wasn't home, and we were one our way out the door to piano lessons, so I knew I wouldn't get a chance to speak with him before the next day.

I emailed JH's principal and explained the situation, and yesterday she handled it - quickly, and with the cool remove of a professional. I mostly wanted for him to be able to move to another seat on the bus, but I also wanted her to be aware of what was happening - and not being dealt with - on the bus. She called the boys in and let JH have his say, and let him confront this boy (and, it turns out, another boy) with an adult present. They said their apologies and before JH left her office, she reminded him that he needed to take responsibility for flipping the bird. He promised NEVER to do it again. Which is a shame, because he has that big finger, and it would sure come in handy, even if it isn't the right one!

The principal called me and said that JH mentioned, after the other boy left the office that he had pushed him when they were crossing the street after they got off the bus, and she asked why he didn't mention it in the meeting with the other boy. He said "I forgot until right after he said he was sorry. The timing didn't seem right because he'd already said he was sorry, and I didn't want to make him feel worse." Oh, my kid. He's inherited his mom's Lutheran streak.

He was in a much happier mood yesterday - he was his old self - super talkative, and truly appreciative of his principal. And I have to say - me too.


Living In a Girl's World said...

I am so glad that your have a great principal who took the situation seriously. This parenting gig sucks some days and are fantastically wonderful the next. Hang in there, you're an awesome mom and it seems that JH appreciates it.

kari said...

wow -- it's like you're living in a minefield. glad you have a good ally in the principal, though. keep fighting the fight, anniemcq -- you guys are turning out an incredible kid.

Lisa L said...

I'm kind of proud of him for being so brave as to give a 5th grader the finger! Awesome! What *does* concern me is the 2nd and 3rd grader making out in the bathroom.. wtf?

Anonymous said...

This brings me right back to my stint as an elementary counselor last year. I was *shocked* at the behavior of kids. I know I sound like an old fogey, but seriously, kids these days! We did NOT act like that when I was in elementary school.

I'm really glad your principal handled it effectively.

anniemcq said...

Hey all, thanks for the comments and the sympathetic outrage. Lisa, I had the same reaction as you about the kissing in the bathroom! I do feel like the staff at the school - especially his teacher, principal and counselor are really top notch professionals who care so much about the kids. But sometimes I worry about what they are up against with the parents!

suttonhoo said...

you're my hero.

I, Rodius said...

Man. It's easy to forget what a battlefield elementary school was once you've lived through high school. Good luck, J-H, and keep on fighting the good fight. It ain't easy being the righteous one with the good parents.