The hardest thing for a parent to do is to sick back and watch their children struggle. For all of the struggles that my family as a whole has endured my children have emerged relatively unscathed.
As a young parent, I stayed awake at night hoping that my children would never struggle in school, with bullying, or addiction or any other gremlin that would rob them of their happiness. I have known so many kids, my peers, and even their children, who were promising and well-adjusted kids until they crossed paths with that one force that eventually led to them dropping out, giving up or worse. It is a subject that I am well versed in.
When I was in 5th grade I was given a double promotion because I was breezing through my curriculum. My mother resisted the idea, fearing that such a leap would put me with kids much older and larger than me. I liked the idea and I entered a new school, we called it Junior High where I’m from. I was immediately the target of every asshole in the school. I was called names, slammed into lockers and my books were constantly knocked to the floor.
Within the first full year of 6th grade, my grades plummeted. I was called “stupid” so many times I started to believe it. My parents, God bless them, didn’t pick up on the signs and I didn’t mention it. They were too busy focusing on the trainwreck that was my sister, who we had just adopted at 7, and all of the drama she could provide that the Nuns didn’t prepare us for. Long story short, my interest in school faded and I was a C student until it was too late to make a difference that any college would care about. Fortunately, I was a decent artist and got into college by means of my portfolio.
My oldest 3 children had a few scraps on the playground but nothing life-altering. They were taught that if hit, to hit back. They did and bullying was not an issue. Academically, they were solid and to my knowledge never had a taste for alcohol or drugs. My youngest, however, had to deal with some mean girls at an early age.
She began to come home from 3rd grade crying. Some of her classmates called her “the poor kid” and made fun of her clothes. One even went so far as to say “your father must not have a job”. I was particularly incensed at that one considering that I spent a lot of money I didn’t have so that she wouldn’t get a shitty crack like that.
So we went the diplomatic route. We met with the teacher who could offer no help except to say that she knew it was happening but not in front of her. We knew the parents, all were wealthy high-profile families in town. Not particularly concerned about our own popularity my wife and I went to the Principal and asked for a meeting with them. It was granted and we all got in a room together, at which time all parents denied that their sweet little cupcakes would ever do such a thing. So I stood up and said:
“OK, I’ll make it easy for all the fathers in this room. If my fucking daughter comes home in tears one more fucking time I’m coming to your house. And then you’re going to cry”.
We were asked to leave. But it only took 2 school days to realize that it worked. Still, I will never forget the helpless feeling up to that point watching my little girl going through such a thing. It was heart-wrenching to see her cry because of heartless, cruel children. I was so very relieved that it never happened again.
I flashed back to those days last night. My little girl, now 16 has hada terrible patch of dry skin around her eyes. Red and swollen it really is concerning, She went to the Dermatologist yesterday and fortunately made a diagnosis and provided a treatment. But the caveat is no make-up. My daughter loves her make-up and to her knowledge, none of the kids in her new school have ever seen her without it. She told me she would have to go au natural for a week and her eyes, no joke, looked like a raccoon. With our shared hatred of the mean girls, I felt bad for her. Kids can still be cruel.
In addition, she was dealing with a mean teacher who refused to meet with her and explain why she had rejected a thesis topic, leaving her in a frustrated panic last night. That was something I could help her with. I told her to stand up for herself to the teacher and explain that she needs an alternative idea or an explanation otherwise she would go to the Dean of Academic Affairs. She kept refusing to do it until I finally convinced her to face her fears (she was afraid of this nasty teacher) or she would fail the assignment.
This may not all sound like much but I was on the phone with her for 2 hours last night and she went to bed very upset. I didn’t sleep well. I wanted to snap my fingers and make her rash go away, I wanted to storm into her classroom on a white horse and vanquish her enemy but I couldn’t.
She texted me at 3 to tell me that her face had almost cleared up overnight with just one dose of medication and that she gave her teacher the riot act and she now has a new topic and an extension. It worked out. I’m proud of her.
The world can have all the fun it wants with me. Just don’t fuck with my kids.