It happens at least once a year. We get a call from a teacher or the principal about Parker. He’s a good boy, but he is definitely not the typical student. In addition to his medical struggles – a seizure disorder that has him on meds that make him tired and sometimes sick to his stomach – he also struggles with his vision.
Born with a cataract in his left eye, Parker had to have eye surgery at 18 months old to remove and replace the lens. He has nearly perfect vision in his right eye and is nearly blind in his left. Seeing that differently from his two eyes makes everything – from success in gym class to reading notes off the white board – that much more challenging.
Overall, Parker has a great attitude about all of the challenges he has. Instead of crying about having to have his blood work done every three months, he looks forward to the milkshake reward he gets for going through it. Instead of giving up on learning when things get difficult, he spends extra time memorizing information that will help him get through his classes.
Occasionally, all the frustrations converge on him at once and he gets angry. This usually happens when some impatient, thoughtless act is directed his way from a child in his school, criticizing him for being “bad” at Volleyball or for slowing down the class during some inane competitive challenge. Most times, he just comes home to us with a broken heart and we boost him up and encourage him to try again. Sometimes, though, he lashes out.
This week, a girl in Parker’s class who has been verbally harassing him throughout the year made a comment during gym, yelling at him. Parker gave her a shove. He deserved to get in trouble. We do not condone violence as a reaction in any way. He deserved to sit in the hot seat in front of the principal, take responsibility for his action, and face the consequences.
What frustrates me is that the kids who manage to keep their bullying to verbal jousts are allowed to get away with it. Those words end up hurting a lot worse than physical pain sometimes. What’s funny is that Parker refused to tattle on the girl while he was meeting with the principal. He said it didn’t matter what anyone else did, he shouldn’t have gotten physical. His own attitude saved him from an in-school suspension, I’m sure.
I know that as a responsible parent, I’ll be sitting down and having that conversation with my kid where I tell him that he did something wrong, that I’m disappointed in the choice he made. I will require him to apologize to the girl. And I will make it clear to him that violence won’t be tolerated. He’ll probably even lose privileges. But I’d love to give a phone call to the parents of the girl who has decided Parker makes a great verbal punching bag and ask them to do the same with their child.