Tomorrow is the first day of school. Parents around the country are jumping for joy, and truly, on this day, teachers and schools are probably given the appreciation they deserve. Some parents, however, worry about and dread this day. Will their child be bullied? Who will keep him or her safe? What can be done to protect their child?

If I had the answer, I'd be a famous lecturer or best-selling author, traveling world-wide. I don't. I'm just a mom. However, after reflecting on two events that have occurred in the last week, I've come up with some ideas that I think could help.

Troy is going to be baptized soon. In order to schedule the date, he and I had to attend a class together at the church. They needed to make sure that he understood what the act meant and that he was truly ready.

[Side note: If you are new here, Troy has a variety of special needs. The most notable are autism and ADHD. He does not wear a t-shirt announcing this, and I do not make it a habit of announcing it everywhere we go.]


There was a table that the children were directed to sit around. The parents sat in chairs, circling the table, so we could all listen in to the conversation. There were two adult leaders, and they took turns talking to the children about Jesus, the reason for baptism, and what would happen when they were baptized.


There were probably about twelve or thirteen children there. Troy stood out from every other child there. First, he couldn't sit still. He fidgeted and twisted around in his chair constantly. He also would play with his hands and raise his arms into the air wildly. He seemed like he was paying zero attention. Then, he began to pick his nose. Over and over again.

I was not sitting near him. There were about three parents closer to him than I. I considered getting up and walking over to him to try to get him to stop, but I feared that it would have disrupted the serious conversation at the table. So, I didn't.

However, as I watched him, I couldn't help but notice other parents watch him, too. One mother, in particular, did not even attempt to hide her disgust. She could not take her eyes off of my son. She sat up really tall in her chair, her mouth was pursed, and her eyebrows were raised. She twisted, uncomfortably, in her seat. I kept watching her, hoping she would look at me so I could give her a smile or a nod. She never did.
My son had her transfixed. She would turn her attention to her child for a moment, but then, the judgmental body language began again.

You have no idea the relief I had when the table discussion ended, and we were charged with a parent/child assignment. I sanitized Troy's hands and had a quiet discussion with him about not picking his nose. He told me that he just couldn't help it. I explained that it is gross and not polite and that he has to try not to do it. Then, we did our assignment.

As we drove home, I asked him a few questions about the things that had been discussed in the class. He was able to answer every single one. EVERY single one! When I was sure he wasn't paying attention, I was wrong.

Anyway, I was fuming about that woman and the way she had looked at my son. Really, really fuming. I told my family about it. I told my co-workers about it. I was so hurt and angry.
I realize that this is not very mature, but I'm being honest. I was judging her for judging my son.

Days passed, and the fuming lessened. It's been in the back of my head, and I've planned about three different blog posts in my head about it over the past week, but as things do, it has sort of faded.

Today, it reentered my mind.

After church, we went to a shoe store for back-to-school shoes. Laura was sitting on the floor, shoes all around her, and a mother and her adorable daughter walked in. They came toward us. The girl was around five-years-old and was disabled. She wore braces on both feet, she was grinding her teeth, and she waved her rubber toy wildly. The mom and I exchanged some pleasantries and small talk about school shoes shopping, and her daughter stood to the side, occupied with her toy. Evidently, the mother decided to try another size, and she walked to the next aisle, about three feet away.

After they walked away, Laura looked at me with a disgusted look and said, "What a silly child!" It was not the fun sort of silly that she meant--she meant it as a very negative thing. I shot her the mom-look. You know the one. It must have been pretty intense because she immediately apologized.

I did not lecture her there in the shoe store because I was hoping and praying that the mother and child did not hear her comment. I did not want to call attention to it and possibly upset them.
I saved the lecturing for the car. Trust me--she got a lecture. I hope that she will be more sensitive and polite in the future.

What do these two events have in common? And what on earth do they have
to do with bullying?

The adults are the common link in the stories. Do you remember how many children I said were at the baptism meeting? About a dozen. All were there with parents. How many parents showed absolute horror over my son's behavior? ONE. The adults sitting with him at the table didn't bat an eye. 99% of the parents in the room didn't act like they wanted to vomit. And guess how many of the children were mean to him or stared at him. Zero. Not one single child at that table, not even the ones sitting right next to him, paid him any attention.

When I thought about that today, thought about the fact that I was focusing on one person's actions and ignoring the fact that the rest of the room was treating him as he deserved--I felt a bit silly to tell you the truth. However, it also really drove home the power just one cruel person can have.


Today, in the shoe store, when my daughter was insensitive to a child with special needs, I addressed it with her.
No, I can't promise you that she will never make a flippant remark again, but I can promise that I will continue to work to make her understand how wrong it is to treat others like that.

Bullying is a difficult issue. Troy was not bullied the other day, and the little girl in the store was not bullied today. They were not treated with respect and understanding though, and I think that those are the underlying issues when it comes to bullying.

Teachers and staff at schools care for students, and they do everything in their power to keep every single student safe. However, they can't do it all.

So, I have four requests for you:

1. Talk to the kids in your life. Explain to them the importance of treating other people with kindness and compassion. Encourage them to speak up for those who are unable to stick up for themselves. Ask them not to bully.

2. Model appropriate behavior. When you witness a child in the middle of a meltdown, being pushed in a wheelchair, or even, gasp!, picking his nose in a baptism class, instead of snide remarks or rolled eyes, why don't you offer to help? You could try to distract the child, hold open a door, or offer a tissue.

3. Be willing to discipline bad behavior. If you do find out or witness your child being unkind, please, please, please do not let it go. Act on it immediately, and use it as a teaching opportunity for future behavior.


4. Help your child see beyond the bully. If your child comes home and is sad because someone has been cruel to him or her, sympathize and comfort him or her. Also-try to get the child to see beyond that cruel person. For over a week, I let the anger I had for one woman's actions blind me from the fact that there was a room full of people who were being kind.


Will these requests cure bullying? I know they won't. However, I do believe they can help.
We are all in this together, and truly, although it's cliche', it takes a village.

Have a great school year!

 
 
I have always processed my life events and feelings through my writing. I have always been extremely open about myself. Some call it oversharing, but I genuinely feel like it is my life’s purpose to help other people. If my writing or speaking can make a difference in someone’s life, I feel as though I have achieved what God has put me on earth to do.  So, once again, I’m going to open up about a very real, very personal situation that I am trying to deal with.

I want a baby. There! I have said it! There’s the big secret that’s not at all a secret if you spend any time with me at all. I am not, at all, unlike the millions of other women around the world who feel this same desire. I know that. I’m struggling with the fact that it probably, most likely, almost definitely will not happen for me. Again, this does not make me different from a world full of women in my same shoes.

Do you believe in signs? Some call them God Winks. Some call them coincidence. Some call them nothing at all and think it’s preposterous. Well, I do believe in signs, and every sign tells me to give up this hope and desire.

But I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I wish I could, but I cannot.

I have three beautiful children.  I adore them and would give my last breath and then some to make them happy, to keep them safe, and to ensure they always know how much they are loved. I love them more than I could ever express.  Please, believe that. This desire has nothing to do with them.

What does it have to do with? I don’t know. Biology, maybe? A dear friend was at my house about six or seven months ago, and I told her my desire. I said I felt selfish to feel this way, and she stopped me, mid-sentence, and told me that was ridiculous. It is in our DNA, in our human/animal nature to reproduce. So, now, that is my defense I use. Who knows though?

Why can’t I have a child? Let’s go through a list, shall we?

1. I’m not married. When I said this to my co-workers the other day, they looked at me as if I was insane. I have three children, after all! I adopted them, on my own, when I was not married. They couldn’t see the difference and laughed a bit. To me, it is completely different though. I’m not visiting a sperm bank, and I have not been in a relationship that led to that. So, for this, for me, marriage would be ideal.

2. My boyfriend is not interested in having more children. As we have been together for almost three years now, and the children and I are pretty fond of having him around, it is a very significant issue. Having three special needs children takes a significant amount of work—all children do, of course. However, the amount of specialists, appointments, meetings, day-to-day struggles we face are more challenging than those for typical children are. He feels like having a baby is more work than he/we can handle.

3. My biology. You would not believe the number of times I have been asked, when people learn that my children are adopted (usually with a lowered tone and a sympathetic facial expression), “Are you unable to have your own children?” The question always offends me. It implies that my children are consolation prizes to faulty reproductive organs! They are not! My reproductive organs are fully capable of every process necessary to create and nurture a new life.

That being said, I will be 35 in two months, and my sister reminds me of the various risk factors that increase if I were to become pregnant with each passing day.  Here I am bragging about how functional my uterus is, but the truth is that some problems have arisen over the last year and a half that have led to repeated discussions about the possibility of a hysterectomy sooner than I ever dreamed of being possible. I will spare you from the details, but they are not issues that would prevent me from becoming pregnant, and every time a doctor brings it up, I immediately  start bawling at the thought that, truly, pregnancy may not happen for me.

There are probably more than these three issues, but these are the biggies. Why don’t they convince me to give up this silly desire? I wish I knew. I wish they would. They don’t.

I’m a fairly intelligent person. I skipped second grade, after all! I was in the gifted and talented program. I graduated from TCU with two bachelor’s degrees. I taught for over ten years. I am working on having my second book published. These are not accomplishments made by someone without a brain. So, why is it so hard for me to realize just how blessed I am with what I have and quit crying over an empty womb?

My life is hectic, stressful, challenging, and unique. Logically, I should know that it would be insane to bring a new baby into this household.  The man who loves my children and me and who literally does everything for us does not want another baby. Logically, I should understand his many arguments and reasoning about it and agree with him. My doctors are suggesting a hysterectomy to relieve some truly awful problems I’ve had. Logically, I should welcome that relief. Logic, logic, logic! Ugh!

I asked if you believe in signs. You see, I’ve been wondering if my recent medical woes are truly a sign that I am not supposed to get pregnant.  Is the option, possibly, being removed for me to give me peace about this? I imagine some readers are rolling their eyes reading that! It is, however, a question I am asking myself.

I had another “here’s your sign!” moment the other day. At work, I have the fortune of being about eight feet from a restroom. It has its perks. Often, someone will come into my hall to use the restroom, and it’s already occupied. It is very common, therefore, to have someone plop down in my office to chat while he or she waits. This happened a few days ago, and in the conversation, my situation came up. My co-worker said, “Perhaps, this is happening for a reason. Perhaps you are, instead of touching that one life, going to touch thousands of lives. Perhaps, your writing and speaking will allow you to inspire and make a difference for so many more people. Perhaps you will foster and adopt other children. Perhaps sharing this struggle is one more way to reach other people who need you.”

Perhaps she is right. Perhaps her words were yet another sign that I need to let this go.  I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.