Middle-School Life Crisis

I wonder what an astrological or biorhythm expert would say about me this week. It’s been such an emotional week.

Regular readers of this space will know that at the beginning of the school year I was filled with doubts about whether I was sending my oldest child, Daddy Junior, age 12, to the right “middle school” (grades 7 and 8).

There was an “alternative” school I liked for him, very small and community minded. But he wanted to go to the big “regular” school all his friends were going to.

I liked the alternative school, thought it suited him better. But he was adamant about the other. I had to weigh what I thought was best for him against what he really wanted, which was really tough, but in the end, going a little bit against my better judgement, I let him go to the one he wanted to. I realized he would probably hate me if I unilaterally forced him to do something he didn’t want to do.

So we sent him to the big school. And many of you were kind enough to weigh in when I was agonizing over it and say: “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.” And also to express your compassion and sympathy for what I found to be an extremely difficult decision I agonized over.

But you know what? I think we made a mistake, I think we did do the wrong thing, so, agonizing as THIS also is, we’re pulling him from the school he’s in and putting him in the one I liked for him originally.

I still think the universe is unfolding as it should. I think Nick had to see for himself why going to the bigger school was a mistake, had to make the mistake for himself – or let’s not say mistake, let’s say, as they do in the corporate world “not the right fit”- so he could go to the other, smaller school with a happy heart, and not with a heart seething with anger and resentment at a tyrannical father who was forcing him to go to a school he didn’t want to go to.

And he is going with a happy heart. There are things he will miss, as he has told me. He’s made friends, he’s on the volleyball team, he likes his teachers, and his best friend goes there.

But he’s also being terrorized by a bully, and in general is finding this school not as home-like a place as he would like. The principal got mad at him and gave him a detention for trying to get his pencil sharpened. His Media Studies teacher informed his whole class that they’re ALL getting C-minuses because they’re “too loud,” which is crazy.

My son the straight-A and A-plus student, also a very quiet and soft-spoken person, does not deserve such rough, blanket treatment.

Also he said this bully – a kid who claims to be “rich” and says he doesn’t care if he gets suspended, his parents just laugh and give him money and sending him shopping for $200 jeans- beat up a kid in the library with two teachers watching and they did nothing!

Also, he told one of his teachers he was being bullied, pushed to the ground and called names and so forth- and the teacher did nothing.

Finally, I talked to a teacher who talked to the guidance counselor who said she could do “something” about the bully.

But I don’t know, Ms. Daddy and I have come to the conclusion it’s too little, too late, and rather than fight these problems we’ll just say it’s the school’s problem and take Daddy Jr. elsewhere.

But it’s not a decision that’s been without tears, second thoughts, recriminations, squabbles amongst ourselves (I got in terrible trouble from Ms. Daddy for voicing second thoughts about the decision within earshot of Daddy Jr., who is already stressed out enough about the whole thing and wondering if it’s the right move- and she’s probably right:, he needs his parents to be sure and present a united front).

But I think it is, though. I think he’ll be happy in the end. And I’ll be happy to see this week, and this decision, recede into the past.

Author by David Eddie

One Point by The Editor:

A switch of schools can help. I am a teacher and I can assure you that in both the public, separate and independent school system, the issue of bullying is wide spread and handled differently from school community to school community and from administrator to administrator. Martial arts can give a child self discipline and confidence but bullying is not just a matter of “self defense”, it is a complex issue. A great book that covers the topic honestly and whole heartedly is by Barbara Coloroso. She looks at the bully and the bullied. She also notes that most kids who are bullied (and this is not news to anyone) are being bullied by their parents, siblings or others and therefore these kids want to exert power and control on somebody else. My own kids are not into karate or contact sports. That being said, I have made sure I have equipped them with emotional and social intelligence (check out Gottman’s books on these topics) and to stand up to a bully. It is easier said than done no matter how self assured a child is. Our world is made up of bystanders. Look at adults. We witness humiliation, destruction, violence directly and indirectly in our day to day lives and few of us have the courage to take the steps to speak up about a fellow colleague who is being harassed or advocate for the stranger lying in the next bed to our family member who is receiving less than adequate nursing/medical care or the other injustices of life that we walk right by on.
Some school communities have parents who buy there way out of trouble. Their kid gets into trouble and it’s kept hush hush. Other schools have strict behavior codes and enforce them. In other communities people have their hands tied. Depending on the demographics and mosaic of the community, everybody errs on the political correct side to avoid human rights issues. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes guts whether one has a kid of their own, is being bullied as a child or an adult to speak up. My philosophy is keep asking questions and doing what you need to do for your kid until your kid is happy. Sometimes it means drastic measures and other times, it means a more subtle approach. It takes more courage to stand on one’s own and alone than in a group of others. If a parent and child is not happy with an outcome with a bullying situation, do what you need to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Do what is right for your unique situation and child. Check out both books. Great resources!