Daniel was tense all afternoon, last Tuesday. At first, I thought it was because he had struggled with his morning routine that morning, leaving the house without a shower or lunch. However, that evening as he stood in the kitchen making the next day’s lunch, he burst out in angry tears.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. Everything is upsetting me and I just feel like crying!” he exclaimed.
I paused my piano playing to turn towards the kitchen.
“Don’t worry Daniel, in the grand scheme of life, a missed shower and lunch isn’t a game changer.” I reassured him.
“It’s not that!” he replied quietly, “Nobody likes me. They think I am weird.”
“That I am gay. That I have a PSP.” he blushed.
“What is a PSP?” I asked.
“A pretty small penis.”
I was instantly angry and stifling a laugh.
“Who says this? Is it just words or more?”
Slowly, painfully the story came out. A boy in Daniel’s math class had been verbally bullying Daniel daily. He would say that Daniel was gay, that he wanted to suck on guys’ penis (I was SHOCKED by the graphic nature of this 6th grade child’s lanuage) and played footsies with other boys. When the teacher stepped out of the room, this boy would kick Daniel in the shins or hit him. The physical attacks had happened 4 to 5 times. The PSP comments were coming from another ESE student in Daniel’s Learning Strategies class.
I immediately assured Daniel that this kind of behavior had no reflection on him.
“A bully doesn’t bully because of the person he is hurting. He or she bullies because of how they feel about themselves and their own lives.” I explained.
“But I am weird,” was Daniel’s replied, his head bowed.
“I know… and right now, your whole world is that middle school. However, there are 6+ billion people in the world and only about 2500 in your school. that means that your school is less then .0001% of the population out there. Some day you will leave that school and your weirdness is going to be what makes you stand out – in a good way. You will find people who appreciate your weirdness and see that your uniqueness is pretty cool. You might even find some people who like your weirdness right not. ” I explained.
“How do you know? he asked.
“Because, I was the weird girl.” I replied.
“You’re not weird!” Daniel exclaimed.
“Oh! Sweetie! Yes I am. I am weird in a lot of the same ways you are weird.” I laughed.
“Oh, well that explains why it didn’t seem weird to me.” Daniel smiled.
It was good to see that smile.
“We are going to deal with this immediately.” I promised him, “In the meantime, talk to your teacher if it gets physical again and ignore the words as much as possible because they don’t reflect on you, but rather on the boy saying them. More then anything, know that we all love you and like you a lot.”
“What is going on?” Robert asked walking into the room.
“Oh, I have been experiencing some bullying, Daniel explained. He already seemed calmer, reassured.
“No!” I squashed that idea, “We will deal with it Robert.”
The immediate reaction of all the men in the house was an almost physical push back. However, in first grade, Daniel would flip desks when he was frustrated by the boy tapping on the desk next to him. He has come such a long way learning to control his emotions and frustrations. I don’t want him to loose that progress because of a 6th grade bully. I need another way to give him the power back in the situation.
Tomorrow: How we resolved the situation – for now.