October 20, 2010
Today Huck returned to school after two days away recovering from strep throat. He spent the weekend in awful pain, mostly sleeping and hardly eating anything at all. By Monday morning the miracle of antibiotics began doing their thing and by Tuesday he was almost back to normal. We kept him home yesterday to be safe and by mid-day his delightful energy had returned. The two of us needed some fresh air so we took a walk to the park and found a bench in the sun to read our latest Andrew Lost book followed by a nice lunch at the Greek diner up the street where I witnessed the return of Huck's appetite. Several folks asked Huck why he wasn’t in school and he would awkwardly tell them, “I have a strapped throat.” It was nice having my boy back home with me again.
But today he’s happily back at school and he’s wearing a purplish shirt. Troy and I are also in purplish shirts (we really had to dig in the closet for that color), taking part in GLADD's (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Spirit Day to honor the six young gay men who committed suicide in recent months due to homophobic bullying. The message to these young men and women is that “it will get better.” If they can get through this difficult time in their lives, they will one day see people change their attitudes and love them for who they are.
And that’s all any of us can hope for our children, that they be loved for who they are.
A couple weeks ago Huck came home from school on a Friday telling me of an incident at recess. It seems a couple of kids from the other kindergarten class didn’t want their good friend Luca to play with Huck because he wasn’t in their class. Luca and Huck are old friends and had been encouraged by their parents to find each other at recess so they could play together. Apparently the boys successfully separated the two and Huck spent the rest of recess by himself. Troy insisted that it would work itself out, that it was hardly a case of serious bullying, that teachers and parent helpers would take care of it. I spent the weekend talking to Huck and encouraging him to tell the boys, "We can all play together!" while fantasizing about conducting a required kindergarten seminar called "Huck is a Wonderful Child and You Must All Be Friends With Him."
Happily, it did work itself out. First of all, the parent helper on the playground that day talked to the boys and relayed the story to Luca's mom so she could be aware of what happened. One of the boys went home and told on himself to his mom (a good friend of ours) and they spent the weekend talking about it, too. By the next school day he was holding Huck’s hand, aggressively and lovingly being his friend. (I was the parent helper at recess so I witnessed this from afar with a relieved smile on my face.) Apparently all four of the boys play together at recess now, finally accepting that it's okay to mix classes. Obviously I don't mean to compare this situation to the homophobic abuse that those five teenage boys endured, but bullying is punishing someone for being different and it's never too early to put a stop to it. Especially with a group of cute, compassionate five year olds who were more than willing to make things better.
When I was in kindergarten a couple boys threw rocks at me during my walk home one afternoon. One rock drew blood as it hit my mouth and I cried all the way home, alone and terrified. I needn’t have been scared, for my dad marched himself to the school and told my teacher what had happened. She then contacted every parent in the class and warned them of the boys’ after-school antics, and the two of them were kept after everyday for several weeks to let the rest of us children get home safely. I’m sure the adults’ response was a little over the top, but the point was made. Abuse of any kind would not be tolerated, and I felt safe. (And I should point out that those two boys' bullying careers ended that day. They were quiet, kind young men all the way through high school and I should probably look them up on Facebook.)
Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase, Asher Brown and Billy Lucas were older than Huck and his school buddies, but only by a few years. We parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends need to be ever vigilant to teach our children how to treat each other, as well as how to be treated. Of course this begins with how we grown-ups treat the people in our lives who we see as different, difficult, weird or even wrong. We can't force everyone to love our kids the way we do, but I’m very happy that Huck’s lonely recess turned itself around and some new friendships were made. And I think it was because the moms were on it.
Happy purple day.