Mother Lion

Bullying sucks.

Sooner or later, just about every child has to face a bully.  It’s a sad fact of life, and as a parent, it’s a tough situation.  You want to jump in and defend your child, but you also want them to grow and be able to deal with bad people on their own, because you won’t always be there.

But what if…….

What if your child can’t take up for herself, and probably will never be able to?  Imagine your child can’t talk, has poor balance, doesn’t understand things very well, and is just generally pretty weak.  Then imagine someone hurting her.  On purpose.  Then imagine how you would feel about that person, his parent, and the people who were supposed to be monitoring the situation.


But then imagine something else.  Imagine that the bully in question is a lot like your daughter.  He doesn’t understand things very well.  Oh, and he’s in a wheelchair.

That’s how my day went yesterday.

There’s a boy in my daughter’s class who is a repeat offender.  Nearly everyone who has contact with him has suffered scratches (at least) at some point or another.  This is the second time he’s got my daughter–this time right down her left eye and cheek, and when she put her head down in response to the attack, he got her again on the back of the neck.  She cried–the girl who seldom cries.  She was scared, upset, hurt, and confused.

Know what happens when you bother a mother lion’s cubs?  Yeah, she kills you.  Then she feeds you to the cubs.  Then she lays and watches while the jackels and vultures clean up the scraps.  I was there yesterday.  It was as mad as I have been in a while, maybe ever.

I don’t know why it hit me so hard yesterday.  Maybe it was a combination of the weather (gloomy), the time of year (gloomier) and my general bitchiness.  All I know is something broke loose yesterday.  The camel’s back broke–use whatever cliche seems most appriopriate.  Ever since Evelyn started school, I’ve dealt with fear on a daily basis.  It’s been the source of a lot of teasing and little jabs from the people who know me–jokes about Mother Hen and all of that.  But here’s a secret–I don’t trust anyone with my daughter.  I don’t trust my own family, and even to a smaller degree my own husband!  And yet for some reason it’s supposed to be okay for me to ship my daughter off to be kept by strangers for half of the year.  It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do anyone’s ability to take care of her (although I secretly believe no one can care for her like me), it’s more my own fears.  True, but from my perspective, irrelevant.

Then something like this happens and I spend the evening saying things like, “See! This is why I don’t trust people to take care of her!”

But for all of that, a much larger issue spread through my mind like poison all evening (and night, I’m sorry to say).  What do you do when the bully can’t really be punished?  Suspension is pointless.  Behavior modification is a joke.  Then there’s the real problem:  his mother is worthless.

Now, that’s a harsh statement, but those who know me know I don’t care.  I’ve met her.  Remember my post, Trained Idiot?  I mentioned some people I observed that day, but I left one out.  It was her.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Although she would fit pretty well in the martyr category, that’s not completely accurate.  I didn’t mention her, because something went beyond mere annoyance–I didn’t like her.  Her attitude, her comments, everything about her, from her long curly blonde hair to her pointy-toed high-heeled boots, pissed me off.  I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time, but my instincts just said, “Get away from this woman.”

Now that all of this has come to pass, I see my instincts were pretty good, as usual.  Her son has attacked numerous people, and she is on the receiving end more than anyone.  You know what her philosophy is?  He’s punished every day of his life because he’s in that wheelchair, so it’s not fair to punish him for his bad behavior.

I’ve encountered this special-needs parenting philosophy before.  It’s a lot more common than you might think.  I personally think lots of people are guilty of this, not just with special-needs kids, but with any kid who has had a rough time in some way.  You feel guilty for giving them a consequence, because you think, “Haven’t they suffered enough?”  It’s easy to see how a person could feel that way.  Hell, it’s hard not to.

But here’s what I’d like to say to Goldilocks and all those who subscribe to that particular bit of sentimental parenting: You are crippling that child in a way that the wheelchair never could.  You are making him a social outcast, and you are guaranteeing yourself and him a miserable life.  Special needs kids need structure and discipline just as much as any kid, and truthfully, more so.  I know it’s hard–believe me, I do.  It’s taken me almost two years to get Evelyn to stop hitting when she’s mad.  A thousand times she had to hit and I had to correct her.  It sucked.  But guess what?  I’m a parent–specifically her parent, and that’s my job.  That’s what I agreed to when I got pregnant.  Here’s the thing about ingnoring bad behavior–it isn’t just your kid’s problem.  The minute he puts his hands on someone else, your crappy parenting is effecting others.  The rest of us don’t have to tolerate it because you’re ruining your son with pity instead of raising him with love.  I have pity for your son, but not because of his condition.  I have pity on him because of the life he’s missing out on because of you.

I had a really tough time yesterday keeping myself in check.  I have this Jeckell/Hyde thing sometimes when it comes to my temper, only I like to think of that “other side” as Redneck Mommy.  She has a bad attitude, a foul mouth, and big, man-like arms from all of the heavy lifting.  She longed to kick somebody’s ass yesterday.  Let me tell you, even though I knew what had happened, when my daughter came down that hall yesterday and I got my first look at her, it was a struggle.  I’ve always heard the saying “I saw red,” but until yesterday, I’m not sure I actually realized that this is literally what happens.  If the bully’s mom had been there…..well, I don’t know what would have happened, but it couldn’t have been anything good.  But I kept it together (well, mostly) and left with my dignity in tact.  I went through the proper channels to get the situation handled and to make sure it never happens again.  I’m actually kind of proud of myself.

But if it does happen again?  Well, let’s put it this way–Goldilocks, Redneck Mommy is kickin’ your ass.


Trained Idiot

If any of you out there in readerland have a close friend or family member with special needs, then maybe you are familiar with the avalanche of paperwork that comes with being involved with any sort of government program.

If you have your child (or sister, as the case may be) enrolled in any of these programs, such as the I/DD Waiver program, then paperwork becomes downright frightening.  Apparently some government official somewhere decided that six thousand pounds of paperwork a month wasn’t enough, so now they have decided that anyone who works with the special needs “consumer” (that’s their new term for the disabled individual) has to have lots of specialized training.  Since I am one of my sister’s “providers,” I am required to have this training.  I technically don’t have to do the training, but then we won’t qualify for the services provided by Waiver, and that would be a major bummer.  There are TONS of qualifications that have to be met, and this whole day of training is one of them.

The purpose of this all day training session is to educate people like myself on how to care for people like my sister.  That’s just in case I haven’t figured it out in the past twenty years or so.  The largest part of the training is called “Crisis Intervention.”  What that means is the government has too much time, too much money, and not enough sense.  No, sorry, what that means is when a special needs person has a “crisis,” we are trained how to handle it.  Now, a crisis is different for each person–some people scream, some people hurt others, and some people hurt themselves.  The point is, there are certain ways they think you should handle the situation.

I’m not going to get into what the actual training consisted of.  By far the most fascinating (and infuriating!) part of the training was studying the people who were there, myself included.  For example, I realized there is a good chance that I have that adult attention thing.  I literally cannot sit still for more than twenty seconds or so.  Also, one of the fluorescent lights kept blinking, and it nearly drove me batshit!  I doodled on the papers, squirmed, shifted, and glared at the blinking light for approximately seven hours.  Good times.

I guess the only thing that kept me from either dropping dead of a heart attack or jumping up and running screaming from the room was being able to watch the others trapped in paradise with me.  I was, as I always am, fascinated by the different personality types represented in the room.  Here were my favorites:

The Stupid Question People:  You know who they are, and you know what they do.  In any group of people, there are at least of couple of these wonderful folks.  Example:  the instructor said, “Right now we are going to talk about how to get out of a one-handed grab. We will talk about two-handed grabs in just a minute.” One of the SQP’s responded immediately by saying, and I quote, “What if they grab you with two hands?”

The Smug Guy:  Oh yes, he was there.  The guy who knew it all and knew it best.  Not only that, but he was incredibly convinced of his own wit.  One of the first things we talked about was identifying changes or escalation in behavior, and he said, “Let’s just take a step back here.  How exactly are you all defining ‘behavior’?”  He even did the air quotes thing.  He knew exactly what she meant–we all did.  We all have special needs people in our lives.  He just had to be cute.  He had some narcissistic need to show everyone how smart he was.  I can observe most of these people with disdainful detachment, but I’ll be honest, this guy got to me.  I think some of my neighbors were equally disgruntled.  I was afraid it would escalate to the point where all of us, driven by irritation and lack of food, would rush upon the Smug Guy en masse and whack him repeatedly over the head with our Crisis Intervention handouts.  Given the heft of these papers, he would have, at the very least, been put into a coma.

The Late People: Isn’t it wonderful to be somewhere on time, and then have to sit and wait for people who apparently can’t tell time?  We were supposed to start at 8:30 sharp, and we were pre-registered, so the instructors knew there were some people missing, and they kept saying things like, “Just a few more minutes,” and “We’ll just give them another minute or two to get here.” Finally the stragglers wandered in, but two people go there at 9:00, after the class had started.  Not only that, but the exact same people could not grasp the concept of a fifteen minute break.  The could not make it back on time, even though we never even left the building for the breaks!

The Random Thoughts Guy: Guess who was sitting beside this guy?  I’ll give you a hint: it was me.  He would sit quietly for a while, then just make some random statement.  From time to time he would morph into a Stupid Question Person, but really he was in a league of his own.  At one point, after watching a video about infection prevention, he said (I swear) “Did you hear about that athlete that had AIDS? And then they took all his blood out and cleaned it or something? And then he didn’t have AIDS anymore? I don’t know, they must have did it in some other country or something.  Seems like a shame they can’t do that in this country, you know?”  It was a long, long day.

The Martyr:  Oh boy.  Boy oh boy.  This was a young woman who has a son with autism.  I couldn’t say for sure what issues he has, because no matter what anyone said, this woman had to pipe up and tell about her son did or had the same thing.  And she couldn’t stop talking during the whole session.  Once, a comment was made about how the weather affects some people in a negative way, and she said, “Oh, the weather definitely has an effect on my son.”  When someone mentioned hitting, she said, “Oh, my son is definitely a hitter.”  Then she would nod her head sagely after each comment.  I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…….but you get the picture.  My first instinct was to be annoyed with this woman, like maybe she was looking for pity.  Hell, I don’t know, maybe she was.  All I could think was that she just wanted to be a part of the conversation, of the group even, if you can dig it.  Sometimes, having a special needs child can seem very isolating, and here was a whole room full of people who knew exactly what it was like to go through the daily struggles that we go through.  I get it.  She was a nice woman, you know, other than the fact I wanted to stick my ink pen up her nose.

In short, it really wasn’t the way I would have chosen to spend my day, but what can you do?  I did actually learn a few things, I guess, and I met some nice people.  A few of us are going to get together soon, and when you read an article in the paper about a man found dead under a mountain of paperwork, I have no idea what happened.


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