A couple of weeks ago when I picked up Doodicus from school, he was clearly upset about something. I have to admit that at first I tried to ignore it because he can be overly emotional about what should be very insignificant things: I combed his hair wrong, his pants are too long, his toast wasn’t cut exactly down the middle; however, not even with me being a hardened bitch could I ignore his attempt to not cry.
It took some gentle prodding for him to finally admit that a couple of his classmates were making fun of his name. At first, I imagined the name that my SIL had once called him when Doodicus was a baby: “Maxi”. Sparring Partner immediately read her the riot act for obvious reasons. And if it isn’t obvious to you, then you were never a school-aged child.
Instead the name they called him was Office Max. I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal, but they must have needled him to no end about it. I tried to convince him that he should have just replied, “That’s the best you could come up with? You guys are idiots,” but snappy comebacks do not come natural to 9 year olds. By the end of the day, it had all but been forgotten.
Some days later I was reading the People magazine which highlighted the deaths of several young people who had committed suicide following some form of bullying. Inside were stories from other students who briefly described the bullying they had been exposed to, including one who said she was bullied “just because.”
I knew after reading those stories that I had to say something to my son’s principal about it, especially since the recent name calling was not the first time Doodicus had been upset at the end of a school day. A few months ago, he joined the Y contact football league for the first time. He was so pumped about it, and while we knew he would never be NFL material, we were thrilled that he was putting in the effort of going to practice, a brutal 90 minutes two times a week and the one hour games on Sundays. But after the first handful of games, he suddenly stopped being excited about practice and asking if he could stay home. He finally told us that one of the kids on his team, who also was a classmate, would tell Doodicus that he should just quit football; that he sucked and he shouldn’t come back.
As you can imagine, I was furious. To make matters even worse? This kid’s dad was one of the coaches. At the next practice I pulled aside this coach to let him know, and he seemed genuinely concerned. He agreed to address the kids as a team about how this was to be a learning experience, a fun experience. Doodicus told me later that the coach had reminded the kids about what was expected of them as a team, but the haranguing from that kid did not cease until football season finally ended. I doubt Doodicus will return to football this coming fall.
If you hadn’t put two and two together yet, one of the kids that had been poking fun at Doodicus’s name was the same kid from football. When I sent the principal an email about these incidents, I did name the kid as the bully. The principal replied that they would be on the watch for future interactions, but I honestly have the feeling he didn’t take it that seriously.
Here’s why I am taking it seriously. VERY seriously. As I have mentioned, Doodicus is very sensitive and emotional. He recently got into trouble for something at home and lost privileges to his new ipod for a week. He was so upset, he told me he doesn’t deserve to be alive. You can’t possibly know what that feels like, but I can tell you my blood ran cold while at the same time the surge of adrenaline nearly blinded me. The only thing I could do was to calm and reassure him that it’s the action we were displeased with but that wouldn’t change how much we loved him for him.
And this is not the first time he has made this kind of statement. What scares me more than anything is that we know it won’t be the last. You think I am worrying for nothing? Almost exactly a year ago a nine year old committed suicide in his school. He had been sent to the nurse’s office for disciplinary reasons, panicked, and hung himself in the bathroom.
He had been taking medication for mood swings and for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and had been having suicidal thoughts for about two years, the police report states.
In 2007, [his] parents, [J] and [D], sought treatment for their son for ADHD.
And yes, those are the parents’ initials (for those who know us).
So I hope you can understand why the bullying cannot – and will not – be taken lightly. I am afraid. Please don’t tell me not to be.