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Growing through the pain of bullying can be a great learning experience

Stink gave his class the Tourette Syndrome talk on Tuesday. His teacher – God bless her – canceled it on Friday since the kid who really needed to hear Stink wasn’t in school. I was glad this difficult student was once again attending class, as it would be an opportunity for Stink to practice some valuable life skills in a safe setting.

My mother had a different reaction to the situation: “Take Stink out of that school and put him in a setting that is more open to differences!” Translation: Spare him this pain.

Two years ago, I would have agreed with my mom – at least on a knee-jerk emotional level. It breaks my heart to see my kid being teased for something he can’t help. But now that five years have passed since his original diagnosis, I couldn’t feel more certain that keeping Stink right where he is – in a public school with all the good, the bad, the ugly and the fabulous –  is the best gift I can give him.

Life is fraught with trials and tribulations. If he didn’t have TS, he’d be teased for something else. No, running away from the problem would only set him up for failure in the future when he wouldn’t have life skills to deal with adversity.

Call me getting old and crotchety, but our culture — despite technology — is getting dumber and dumber. We coddle more and more. Just take a look at bowling alleys. Oooooh, we can’t have the kids bowl and have their balls go into the guttter! How sad that is! Let’s place long rubber tubing down the lanes so everyone gets to feel like a winner. Those pins will fall and make our kids feel so good and accomplished! Good job at getting that spare! Good job at being a winner at something you didn’t do!

TS is not easy, but it’s a perfect opportunity to live life on life’s terms. Those terms, correct me if I’m wrong, include:

  1. Suffering: We can’t escape pain.
  2. Strength: We all need to work on our gifts, not our weaknesses. (Not that ticking is a defect, but it’s outside the norm.)
  3. Humor: We need to laugh at the absurdity of ridiculous situations. This can even include chuckling at the concept of allowing a nasty 9-year-old boy to define the truths about who our kids are. That’s ridiculous!

And so, the night before the speech, I sat him down and said, “Stink, are you ready to do this?”

Stink: “Yes, but I’m sooooo sick of talking about my tics!”

Me: (Note to self: Back off, Mama. I’m trying! I really am!) “I don’t blame you, Stink, but you have to face this head on.”

Stink: “It’s annoying! And I’m tired of Pipsqueak giving me advice on it!”

Just five minutes earlier, Pip was aghast at Stink’s story about lunch. That same kid was asking about a silly band on his wrist. “You’re so immature!” he told Stink, huffing off to his Beevis and Butthead playmates who, likely, didn’t have silly bands but were pretty darn good at talking about first person shooter games, their favorite Chuckie movies and how many Coca Colas they could drink and burp out in one day. (I mean, it’s shocking these kids have no inner soul life, but I digress.)

Me: “I get that you’re over your sister telling you to find the teachers on the playground. It’s just she loves you and is worried about you.”

I take his hand in mine and look him straight in the eye.

Me: “But to your point, I don’t want to talk about your tics anymore either. However, you have them – a lot of tem these days – and kids are noticing. It isn’t fun, but you need to educate people. After that, if someone still chooses to act like a turd, they can’t claim ignorance.”

Stink: “What’s ignorance?”

Me: “It means ‘not knowing something.’ ”

Stink: “Papa is definitely not ignorant because he knows everything!”

Now how can you not laugh at that last statement? And duh… my husband knows everything. I guess we’ll have a cure for TS soon then! Hooray!

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