Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Big Questions

Well, it happened. That day we tried hard to prepare ourselves for, watch for, warn others to try to avoid. But it was, unfortunately, inevitable. I wish it wasn't, but it is. A sad statement, that.

One of Joey's classmates thought it was funny to teach him to say "bitch." Then they thought it was hilarious to take around the room and have him repeat it to his classmates- who all laughed and thought it was funny. So Joey thought he was being funny, and went with it. I'm sure we all know that those kids were laughing at him, not with him.

What tools does Joey have to defend himself against such an attack? What does it say about our society that such an attack, child against child, would even be imaginable? Yet not only was it imaginable, we had already started trying to teach those skills of coping with anti-social behavior of others. Teasing. Bullying. Nastiness.

I am assured that there was discussion and teaching and correction all around, action taken, the substitute who was supposed to be with him spoken to, etc. etc. etc. Certainly Joey understood what had happened at some level by the time he came home and we talked about it, some with Grandma, some with me, some later at bedtime. We have not heard the word repeated here, other than when Grandma asked what had happened, and he explained to Grandma what had happened, including the detail of what the word was. We knew enough about the incident to fill in the blanks he had left in his description of the event.

All of these things are already in his IEP to address, but it leaves ringing in my brain the response to the goals: Our kids aren't like that, the new teacher insisted, backed up by another staff member of the new school. Sorry, folks, but this is a very small system. We have one school per level. Joey will be going to school with the same kids he is going to school with now. If your kids "aren't like that" now, get ready. It only takes one.


Andy and I were engaged in a new routine of bedtime activity, the Watching of the Videos. He loves him some Fuzzy Fuzzy Cute Cute, and Nigel Marven, and Walking with Dinosaurs: Live Edition. He's allowed three before storytime, and we were coming to the end of our third, a clip from Chased By Dinosaurs, when he burst into tears.

I was shocked. I stopped the film. He's seen the show a million bazillion times, its one of his favorites, and this clip is of funny bird-penguiny-things swimming around, and Nigel mentions most them do not live to a ripe old age because there are so many ways to be eaten in the Cretaceous oceans. Eaten? Uh-oh.

"I'm afraid I'm going to die!" he wailed, inconsolable.

Death has been a huge trigger around here since the fish died. Both little guys are having a lot of difficulty processing death and the loss of their fish, made worse by the fiasco of trying to replace them. Joey is constantly getting caught in cycles of talking about this person died, or that toy died, or his fish died. For the last two days, Andy has piped up and asked him to stop talking about dead things.

Then came the terrible blunder of our YouTube moments, one of the videos of silly dinosaurs included the eating of a pig, and Andy loves pigs. To get around this, I showed him the Warm Bath video, which he loves. He made the connection between the two pigs, and we finally settled on that the pig wasn't eaten, that he was just joking with the little dinosaur and drew a picture to fool him, and the big dinosaur carried the pig to the farmer to be put in the nice warm bath, and the big dinosaur burped because he thought burping was funny (see the video to see what I'm babbling about), and that's what happened. No eaten piggies.

Are you with me? Because now I have a child who, about to turn six years old, is suddenly petrified by death.

"I dont want to die! I don't want to go back to God!" How does one cushion the fear of death in a six-year-old? I haven't a clue, honestly. We did the best we could. We assured him that we love him, that he wasn't likely to die anytime soon, the God takes good care of all of us. And we love him, and do our best to keep him safe and help him learn to stay safe. And we love him. And Grandma wasn't going to die right away, and Mommy wasn't going to die right away, and Daddy was still here, and Joey was safe. And we love him.

It's the kind of discussion that makes you wander into his room and check to make sure he's OK every, oh, fifteen minutes. All night long. Just in case. Because we love him.


farmwifetwo said...

"Our kids aren't like that"... Yeah right.

Call the library. I remember over the years there being other discussions about children and death and I know there's age appropriate materials out there. The librarian should know.

Niksmom said...

Oh boy. Both of these make me want to wrap Nik in bubble wrap and keep him home with me forever! Since I know I can't, I'll be watching and listening to learn how you (and other moms) handle both of these.

I like FW2's idea about the library; I wouldn't have thought of that myself.

Chaoticidealism said...

I know how your son feels. At least, I think I know. I'm petrified by death, too, and have been since I was about three years old. I know they say three-year-olds can't understand, but my circumstances made it easier--I had a death in my immediate family, combined with my own extreme self-awareness. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find a solution.

I think this is autism-related, because of how culture serves as a buffer against existential anxiety for most people. Being part of something larger that will live on seems to bring a great deal of comfort--but when you simply don't assimilate into your culture because you don't mirror people, you are always, always aware that you're mortal and so is everyone you love.

Your son's lucky, in a way. He'll still accept explanations that include pigs not really dying. I wish I could still do that.

Miz Kizzle said...

Unless you're vegetarians, Joey is going to make the connection pretty soon between the delicious pork chops that he loves to eat and pigs being killed for food.
It's all well and good to reassure him that the cute little piggy really didn't get eaten but such subterfuge only works for so long and when Joey learns the awful truth, what then?????
BTW, kids have been making other kids say naughty words like, forever. Usually the victim is a younger child or a child for whom English is not his or her first language. It's not nice but kids find it pretty hilarious. Children aren't angels. It's a Lord of the Flies kind of world in the playground. I recall a kid named Oscar who cheerfully ate just about anything upon request from his more savvy peers. I'm sorry it happened to Joey,

Joeymom said...

Actually, Andy is the one having trouble with the piggie- and he LOVES bacon. I would consider it "subterfuge" if I had just said, "Oh, no, piggie wasn't eaten!", but that isn't what happened; he came up with this on his own, much like a pretend friend- does the child know there really isn't a dinosaur following him around? Well... actually, yes, they are very aware that pretend friends are not real. And yet they are. It is part of the processing.

We are aware that children pick on other children. The huge difference is that most children know how to handle such situations, or figure it out really quickly when it happens to them. They also usually have a pretty good sense of when kids are laughing with them, and when they are laughing at them. Joey does not have these skills and awareness. The idea that teachers in a school would think their kids don't do these sorts of things is just incredible to me. Of course kids do this sort of thing! And our job is to help Joey negotiate the situation. After all, for Joey, any language is kind of like a "second language."