The “B” word

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I am unsure as to how many times since I have been writing this, the number of times I have talked about bullying.     Yet, here I am again, and I am sad to say that I doubt it will be the last time I will address this subject.

I feel sorry for bullies.     I feel sorry for them, because they are insecure enough in their own personalities that they have to try to propel themselves to a higher standing in their peer group by showing the world that their nasty side is far too close to the surface.

I was bullied all through school.    I was the fat kid.     I was the quiet studious one.    I played in a brass band.     So many things to be bullied about.       It made me hate school.    I did have some amazing friends who were always there for me, and they just about made it tolerable.       I grew up with such low self esteem, that even now, I find positivity on a personal level really difficult.       I hate – a word I really dislike using, but I really hate the thought of my boys being bullied, to the point that just talking about it makes the tears flow.     Bullies leave life long scars that can’t be brushed aside.     Kids being kids is not a mindset we should allow to ignore bullying.     “Sticks and stones might break your bones but names will never hurt you” has to be one of the biggest lies I was told as a child.    Words can be deadly, or at least so hurtful that they replay in your head, again and again.

Bullying happens everywhere, but does that mean we have to just shrug our shoulders and say that it makes it acceptable?     I think not.      We all need to take bullying seriously.       I don’t want D to grow up thinking he needs to put his fingers down his throat after every meal, the way I did, because some toe rag thinks it makes them look big to their mates to criticise the way he looks.       The media and society generally have a lot to answer for by giving people unrealistic images of what one should be like.     However, it is not the only responsibility.    Bullying is a learned behaviour.     I say lets teach our kids to respect each others differences rather than feel the need to point them out in a nasty manner.

M’s social awkwardness and lack of ability to really understand friendship has led to many incidents of him being the target of bullies over the years, and I do wonder if this in some way has led to his present mental state.

It is however, D that has been going through hell again recently.      D has been bullied on and off since he started interacting with other children.      He is a big lad which leaves him vulnerable, but he is such a gentle giant that I feel his personality doesn’t fit what people might judge him to be.      I had one mother tell me once, that her daughter doesn’t like boys, but she liked D because he was much nicer than normal boys!      It made me laugh.       I can however see what she means when I see him with a group of other children – other than his closest friends, where he backs off from the group, doesn’t want to put himself forward, and avoids confrontation at all costs.       D gets on with everyone most of the time, I think like me, he finds it much easier to be pleasant with people than not.      He can however end up being overly trusting, and even when people have wronged him previously he will give them chance after chance, never wanting to shut the door on a potential friend.

The child that has been bullying him recently has done so on and off since nursery.      After each time D says he wants nothing more to do with him, but will let him back in, and for a while things will be fine, but it always starts up again.

Middle of last week, D came home from school in a foul mood.    Now, there is nothing too unusual about this, as the pressure of holding things together all day obviously takes its toll and he needs to unburden himself.    It does usually calm down pretty quickly and he gets on with his evening, however this day it didn’t.   He was stewing over something, but all I got when I asked him was a very teenage sounding “nuffin”.        Eventually he said he had been threatened as he left school.     I asked him to say what had led up to the event, and the tears started as he spoke of incident after incident that had happened of the previous week.     It seems he and his friends had been playing a game of super heroes when this other child joined in and started ramming the others because he was a wrestler.        He refused to stop when they told him he was being too rough.       The next day he took D by the neck and threatened to twist his head.     He let go when some other kids came over.     D hadn’t told any adult at school about it.     We once again had the conversation that he must report any acts of violence when they happen – D does have trust issues with reporting bullying after ways it has been dealt with previously.    His Dad said he would email the school to ask them to look into it, but D insisted he didn’t want that to happen as there was a party they would both be attending on the Saturday and he didn’t want to cause any bad feeling.     It was agreed that we would leave it, but he had to promise that if there were any more incidents than the school would be asked to do something.    Monday he came home saying he had been threatened again with the child pushing him and asking him if he wanted a fight.     When D said no, he shoved him trying to get D to react.     He didn’t.     The bully did get a reaction though when he grabbed D by the head again, and the only way he could free himself was to grab at the leg of the child and pull him over.       This was the final straw, Hubby emailed the head straight away.        Once the bully had got D to react, the worry is that D is going to be caught defending himself and be seen as the aggressor – he is twice the size of the bully.       D was quite worried about going to school as he feared reprimands of reporting it, but luckily he had a day of special activities to do with his class project, so he got to school.     I told him to tell the truth, as that is the only way to handle the situation.

Yesterday, Hubby received an email from the depute saying she would be talking to D and the child in question.        I was worried for him, but knew his definite sense of right and wrong would get him through.      Mid afternoon I had a phone call from the depute to say she had spoken to both D and the child.      All that D had told was admitted by the child.        I have to say I give credit to the boy for not trying to cover his own back.       The boys teacher would be informed of the situation and he would be watched for behaviour on the playground.

I put the phone down, pleasantly surprised that the situation had been dealt with.       Previously when bullying has been taken to the school, there has been some very wishy-washy responses.     When in P1, D was basically told it was his fault he was being bullied and to make himself less vulnerable if he wanted it to stop.          There have also been times when as long as the bully has apologised, then it is seen the incident has been closed.    How easy is the word “sorry” to say compared to how difficult it is to actually mean.       As a parent, you get to the point when you understand that the lack of concern can only lead to a negative mind-set from your own child.     It was therefore great to see that not only had it been taken seriously but that the child had been told off.      I am hoping that D seeing this positive action will help boost his confidence to feel there is a point in reporting incidents when they happen so they don’t bubble away inside his head.       I do understand how difficult it is to open up about bullying because bullies have such a way to make you feel that you have bought it upon yourself.

D came home from school much happier than he had looked for ages.      I think speaking up had taken the weight of the world of his shoulders.      I just hope that for now it has put an end to it.      The bully in question though did say to one of Ds friends that he was annoyed that he had got him into trouble – its good that he feels he has got into trouble, but I hope he’s not out for revenge.      I have told D that it was not him that got the boy into trouble, but the child’s actions that have got himself into trouble.

Only time will tell how long D will be free of bullying this time.   I do however see the way this has been handled by the school as a very positive move.        I am just hoping D sees that it speaking out is the best way to handle it.

Sick Kids.

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I think one of the hardest things as a parent has to be being able to tell the difference between a child being unwell and a child just not wanting to go to school.      I know I used to try it on, and never succeeded as my Mum worked on the premise “they’ll send you home if you’re not better by the time you get there!”     Needless to say, I was sent home on more than one occasion as I was genuinely poorly!          It is even harder to tell if a childs ailments are genuine when they have reasons for not wanting to go to school.        D went through a phase when he was in his first year of not wanting to go because he was bored, but now he’s being stretched now he doesn’t try it on so often!         M on the other hand has been so unhappy at school recently that knowing if he is physically or mentally unwell can be quite difficult.

Last week was very stressful for M.     He doesn’t like homework at the best of times, but a page full of double digit multiplication just sent him into screaming hysterics.      I tried for a couple of evenings to get him to sit and try to do them, but he just shut down, having made up him mind that he didn’t know how to do it.     In then end, Hubby sat with him on the floor in our passage where we have a blackboard, and talked him through the process – he just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that each sum had 4 sums to get to the answer.      He eventually got it, and I could hear almost jollity as he got excited as each answer came.     It did mean the information transferred to his sheet to hand in was just the answer and not the workings out but over two hours of work meant I wasn’t going to push things.

Friday evening he came in from school looking washed out.     He said he had a tummygrain – what he calls a migraine as they start with a sore tummy and then the head comes, the doctor says the abdominal migraines are more than likely stress related.      I told him to go and have a lie down to see if it settled.        He reappeared at tea time looking horrible – you know what I mean.     Just one bite of his food and he was running to the loo to be sick.   I see this as a good sign as Hubby says when he vomits it does help his migraines settle.        He then went upstairs to lay down.     I went up a while later and he was sound asleep, but in my bed!!!!        That night he was really restless, running to be sick on a regular basis.       He was also running a high temperature.

Saturday he didn’t want to eat – which I could understand.      Every time he had something to drink, even that was making him sick.     He has prescription anti-sickness medication for when he has a migraine, but he was vomiting so much, it just wasn’t staying in his system.      He slept pretty much all day.    He was quite upset at this because D was off to a party with one of his closest friends and we had said we would go out somewhere with him – we’ve had to promise a day out when he is better.

Sunday morning, his temperature was heading back towards normal.      He was extremely washed out, but more like his usual self.      He asked to eat which was a brilliant sign.    He managed a Weetabix – yes, just a single one, and for a boy who would eat a packet in one sitting that wasn’t much.       He didn’t want anything at lunchtime but was drinking well.        I gave him a pancake, thinking it would help bulk him stomach, but he just picked at it.      I made him a cup of soup for tea and it must have been freezing by the time he actually finished it!    He did however manage to keep the little he ate down, so he was definitely on the bend.

This morning he looks brighter.   I have kept him home from school as the 48 hour rule applies with him being sick most of Saturday, but also without properly eating since Thursday, I need to try to get some nutrients into him.      You know what its like when you’ve been poorly, it almost scares you to eat, just in case it makes you sick again, and that is where he is feeling right now.     I am therefore making him graze, by every now and then taking him something small, a smoothy, toast, apple, just enough to top him up, in the hopes he will feel more like eating later.

Hopefully he will feel more like himself in the morning and be back to school, I will make that call tomorrow.     It does however seem to be a bug doing the rounds as I have heard over Mums talking about similar.

Every time one of the boys is sick, my first thought is “why do you want out of school?”    But when they are genuinely unwell, I just wish I had that magic wand that worked quicker than cuddles and snuggles.

Sore Foot

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D is accident prone.     No, that is a total understatement.    If it can be tripped over, he will trip over it, even if it is nothing there.     He can’t help himself.     With his hypermobility, we do make sure he’s not doing himself any real damage, but I am a great believer in the kiss better school of medicine.      I think many children see adding the extra fuss when they’ve had a little knock gives them so much attention that it makes it worth while.    As parents, we have to weigh up the difference between a real hurt and an exaggerated one, not always getting it right!        When M was only 4 he fell of a wall and hurt his arm, it wasn’t until the next day we took him to the hospital as he still wasn’t wanting to use it, only to find it was broken – bad Mummy moment!       So, getting it right isn’t always easy, in fact it can be an impossible thing.

Because D is always hurting himself, it has become a bit of a family joke, which he also joins in with.     We now call a fake cry, a “D”, because he puts it on beautifully.     If he doesn’t do a “D” when he hurts himself, it usually means he is actually hurt.

Towards the end of the last school term, he kept complaining he had a sore ankle.     I took a look at it, and nothing was visible, so I put it down to wanting to get out of gym – he enjoys games and exercising, but does get extremely self-conscious of his size when getting changed at school.       I told him it was possible he had twisted it, and so it would feel better in a couple of days.      As a child I was always twisting my ankle so learnt to ignore the pain.       D continued to say it was sore, and pointed to the back of his heel.      With still nothing visible, I gave him a tubigrip to wear, which seemed to help for a bit.

Towards the end of the school holidays, he was in obvious discomfort when walking.    He could barely put his heel down some days, and would come in after just short periods on the trampoline – somewhere he could live ordinarily, saying it hurt too much.

We decided enough was enough and made him an appointment to see the doctor.    yesterday was this appointment.

D was brilliant during the appointment, answering the questions he was asked.     I was also really impressed with the doctor who talked to D rather than me during the examination.         He prodded and poked at D’s heel and calf, with D hitting the ceiling when he touched the sore bit!

He concluded it was a problem with his Achilles tendon, something he says isn’t uncommon in children this age because of all the growth spurts they are having.        He opened a picture of a foot on his computer to explain to D exactly where the tendon was and what it did, which D lapped up.        The doctor said that while quite common, the fact it has been going on for so long he thinks it needs to be dealt with.       He has given D some stretching exercises for his calf muscles, which involve leaning on a wall, and looked hilarious as D and the doctor gave it a go!        He has also suggested a week of regular anti-inflammatories, which he says should settle it enough to allow it to stretch to how it should be.       If this doesn’t work, he thinks it might be a good idea for D to have physiotherapy to make sure it is strengthened.    He is concerned that with D already having joint problems, he needs to keep everything as strong as possible.    D isn’t keen on the idea of physio as he still remembers in great detail the pain he was put through after his knee operation.     He called them evil then, and I think it will take a lot to change his opinion of them.     I just hope that at the end of the week of tablets he is honest about how the pain is feeling, rather than say its fine just so he doesn’t have to have the appointment with the physio.

It is a sign that he is growing up, as it is the first time he has had tablets, rather than liquid medicines.     He got a little confused with swallowing and drinking to help it on its way, but got there before it began to dissolve in his mouth.

We will see how it goes, and fingers crossed it will settle before the next growth spurt!