Predator and prey

September 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm 6 comments

     I watch the playground, wondering if it was so fraught with landmines when I was a kid, wondering when it became, in my mind, a war zone. It looks completely innocent with brightly colored plastic play equipment and smiling children running around. Everything seems fine on the surface.

     I watch deeper. For those of us that always look deeper, that have to look deeper, that are forced to look deeper, it is a far more sinister place. It is perhaps the most dangerous place at school except possibly the bathroom. It is the place where our kids, our very vulnerable kids, take the most abuse at the hand of the other kids.

     I watch C try to initiate play with a group of four kids who were particularly mean to him last year. I watch, as though from underwater for as long as it takes me to make myself believe their mean-spirited play is what I think it is. Not mean enough so that C will know, but mean enough that he doesn’t even realize – which is somehow even worse. The level of sophistication of their teasing and their awareness of C’s own obliviousness is incredible to me.

     I watch these children and marvel at their cleverness on one hand, while silently urging C to move on to someone else on the other. When I realize he’s playing along with them, I sit back to see what he will do. After all, I can’t be there every day, and I hope he’s learned from last year that these kids just aren’t nice. But when I see the one girl in the group start kicking sand at C’s face, I head on over to them.

     I watch the little girl walk away as I remind her she shouldn’t be kicking sand at someone. After she throws a remark to me over her shoulder in a sassy tone of voice (one I wouldn’t have dared use with my own mother as a child, much less someone else’s mother), I fight the urge to give her The. Look. Reminding me of what we called “crusties” in high school, The. Look. is a penetrating stare that conveys all the wicked thoughts in one’s head to the person on the receiving end. I resist. She is 8. They are all 8, I remind myself.

     I watch these children, and I’m not sure what disturbs me more: that they remind me of a pack of hyenas, so conniving and ferociously social, or that C didn’t even realize he was their prey.

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Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Foiled again Fruit from the tree

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mommy~dearest  |  September 2, 2009 at 11:00 am

    My heart is breaking because this story hits so close to home. My son seems to be drawn to the kids that were meanest to him year after year as well.

    I just want to launch those kids into a firey pit- but really, I’ll just hope to jeebus they get horribly disfiguring acne when they’re teens.

    Reply
  • 2. pixiemama  |  September 3, 2009 at 9:09 am

    I know. I HEARD a kid threaten to “get you at recess” to Reilly last year, and he perceived that it meant the boy wanted to play with him. It made me sick to my stomach. It all makes me sick to my stomach.

    Reply
  • 3. Kia (Good Enough mama)  |  September 3, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I can’t imagine how hard this is for you to watch. Actually, I guess I can. When DID kids get so mean? Or have they always been this way and we just didn’t realize when we were kids ourselves? I don’t know. I do worry for my boy too as he enters full-day school this year and thus will experience recess and lunch breaks.

    Hard as this is for you, I guess (shrug?!) it’s good for C that he doesn’t realize…???

    Reply
  • 4. Sheila  |  September 3, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    If my perspective can be of any help, I’d say C has a huge asset on his side with you being his mother.

    Reading your post reminded me of when I was in school and tried to tell my mother about the malicious things other students were doing to me.

    Imagine if you told C (once he was old enough to realize something isn’t right about the way he’s being treated by others) that others will be nice to him if he is nice to them and that people are not by nature mean.

    One last note…

    I hope people realize that these nasty kids don’t all of a sudden one day grow up and become ‘nice’. Most of the time, the only consequence to getting older is that mean people fine-tune their nasty ways into being more sophisticated and harder to detect.

    You are so right when you say, “For those of us that always look deeper, that have to look deeper, that are forced to look deeper, it is a far more sinister place.”

    I think I’ve hit the bottom of the barrel (I hope so anyhow) when it comes to being forced to look deeper. One can get so deep that most others no longer have a clue as to how sinister this world is.

    It’s good that you tell people, “I watch, as though from underwater for as long as it takes me to make myself believe their mean-spirited play is what I think it is. Not mean enough so that C will know, but mean enough that he doesn’t even realize – which is somehow even worse. Their level of sophistication of their teasing and their awareness of C’s own obliviousness is incredible to me.”…especially the part about it being even worse when C doesn’t even realize they’re kind of play is mean-spirited.

    I’m sure you (and many others like you) realize that it’s this nasty bullying behavior that desperately needs to be remedied (but probably is beyond repair now).

    Personally, I don’t think 8 year old children are too young to receive ‘The. Look’ In fact, they already have too many years of practice as evidenced by “their level of sophistication of their teasing and their awareness of C’s own obliviousness.”

    What age do parents think people should get to before attempts at bringing shame (i.e., disapproval) are made and/or discipline is enforced?… 16? 21?

    The more time society gives to kids to indulge in their malicious behavior, the more we will all suffer for it in the end.

    Thank you, Sheila, for your perspective. I always love to hear from you. I emailed you separately as well, but wanted to tell everyone here that various solutions and consequences have been tried, but this year, the methods are more aggressive than they have been in the past with the hopes of stopping this before it snowballs even more. There is a great team in place, including the playground aide, who is awesome and has been working hard to get it under control.

    If I had a different kind of kid, I’d homeschool him, truth be told. But C very much wants to be in school, and in the classroom he is as happy as a clam. He loves being in class!

    Reply
  • 5. therocchronicles  |  September 4, 2009 at 9:07 am

    The look–she totally deserved the look! Argh! I’m glad to read your reply to the above comment that this is being addressed. Every time I think about the future of school for the Roc I feel so sick to my stomach. I do think kids are meaner today than they used to be. I think our generation of parents has something to do with it. I watch my friends with typical kids let their kids get away with soooo much. So much more than I would have ever thought to try when I was a kid. I don’t know how to point out these teachable moments other than to complain to them about all the teachable moments I see people let slide in hopes that they will take a look in the mirror!

    Reply
  • 6. robinaltman  |  September 7, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    That’s so difficult. Seeing your kid trying to negotiate that sort of sneaky nastiness is the pits. I have a bit more hope that kids can change, though. There were a lot of rotten jerks from my kids’ younger years, that have gotten a lot better over time. One kid was so mean to Alex that I talked to his parents who yelled and screamed at me, and hate me to this day. Now Alex is friends with this same kid! Go figure.

    I wonder if the guidance counselor or a teacher could talk to that little girl in particular about “how it feels when your feelings are hurt”, etc. It might not help. Her parents might be hostile nut jobs.

    Reply

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