Tuesday, May 29, 2012


As a child, I was never particularly successful socially. I was loud, intense, and too smart for my own damn good. I was awkward, and while my behavior was simply a desperate attempt to fit in and be liked, a lot of the time, it totally backfired.

As I got older, I got more awkward, and the kids just got.....meaner.

Which made me more awkward.

Which made me more of a target.

This was a cycle. This may also explain why I was smoking by the age of 12.

These days there is a lot of talk about bullying, and a lot of Zero Tolerance policies, and a lot of ways that kids can be horrible to each other away from the supervision of grownups. Even if the adults know that something is going on, a bully is going to bully.

It can be hard to tell whether the line has been crossed from teasing to bullying. There are checklists, and message boards, and all manner of experts who would be happy to break it down for you - but when you are in the thick of it, it is very hard to decide: how far is too far?

This morning I was informed that my son came up with the term "Donkeyhole" and felt that it was an acceptable - nay, hilarious - turn of phrase.

Clever little monkey, isn't he.

Donkeyhole. This is definitely a highlight of my parenting career.

Is it bullying to call someone a Donkeyhole? I can't say for sure. Maybe I am too close to the situation to make a call on that. I want to believe that when my son called someone a Donkeyhole, it was not meant to be mean, probably more to entertain and get a laugh. I can't imagine that it could even be said with a straight face. But I suppose anything is possible.

What about calling someone a loser? Can that be said in jest? I'm sure it can. But if my son called someone a loser, he would be spending a very long time in his room thinking about all of the privledges he had just lost for using that word. WHO'S THE LOSER NOW, DONKEYHOLE?

I heard about this Donkeyhole business during a meeting - a meeting during which I had to keep a straight face and pretend to be the grownup in this situation because OH THAT'S RIGHT I AM THE GROWNUP. We had this meeting because last week, which began with the infamous Teabagging of 2012, ended with my son being called "gay" a "loser" and told that he "sucked" a number of times.

I am having trouble finding the humor in that.

Do you remember 5th grade? Unfortunately, I do. And the next year - I didn't believe it was possible, but it was: middle school just got worse. In fact, I was absolutely miserable until I got to high school. And I have no intention of watching history repeat itself.

So what does it say about me as a parent, when my child came home day after day with these stories, and I was supporting him by asking things like "What did you say or do to make them act like this?"

How is it that I immediately assumed that my child had somehow egged them on, or brought it upon himself? And then one day, he came home completely defeated. "We were singing, and this kid said I tried to kiss him, and then his friend said to me 'Stop touching your dick.' AND I WASN'T Mom, I swear I wasn't doing that. I was singing."

My jaw dropped open. I realized at that moment, when my son felt he needed to defend himself to me, his own mother, that something was terribly wrong. Something had shifted - the balance of power, the tone of the conversation, the personal - sexual - nature of the teasing.

Is that the line? Could someone please show me the line so that I know when to get all batshit mama bear crazy? And when to just give my kid a hug and go out for ice cream?

It's not like the adults haven't been addressing this issue all week long. Letters of apology were written and received, tears were shed, rules were clarified. And still it continued - and escalated. And my boy defending himself by calling the other guy a Donkeyhole.

Because my son, for all his many human weaknesses, truly doesn't have the ability to be cruel. Obnoxious, yes. Absolutely. Bossy? Yep. Emotional? That's putting it mildly. But he's not mean. Donkeyhole was his way of fighting back. A real tough guy.

I'm surprised I didn't find him tied to the flagpole.

So what, exactly, is the solution? If the kid tells a teacher what is going on, he's tattling. If kids are just joking and one of them over-reacts or feels picked on or gets his feelings hurt, was he bullied? I called a little girl a bitch once on the playground. I was six. And just for the record, she was a total bitch. Was I a bully?

Maybe I should have called her a donkeyhole instead.


Jen said...

Oof. Unfortunately I have no words of wisdom, just commiseration. My brother is 6 years younger than me and I still remember the day that he was in 6th grade and some 8th graders made fun of him on the bus. I wanted to pound those kids into sand.

I can't stand bullies, mean girls, the whole shitshow. You're right that it bubbles large right around middle school, but I still see them every day in adult life - at work, at parties, on blogs. I think the best way to get through it is to learn to really just LIKE who you are and realize you have a bunch of friends and family who like you too. Maybe that's some inspiration for helping your son through the next few years? Helping him to like himself and feel confident, no matter what donkeyhole he encounters?

xo J

Leslie said...

Good questions, and I have no answers. I think the best we can do - you can do - is stay involved and find out as much as possible about the situation and just keep talking to your children about it. You have to figure these things out together, I think. Sounds corny, but what else are we going to do, right?
I have a 2nd grade girl and I also cannot stand mean girls. Who are their parents? I don't get it.