you think you’d recognize it

“Come on, honey, we’ve got to leave for school now. ” I call out at 8:00 a.m. to my middle son.
“I don’t feel good. I don’t know what’s wrong.” I’m surprised to hear this, he was fine only minutes ago. Up until I told him it was time for school.
“Are you still sick? You missed all last week already.” I think of all the make up work he’ll have to do.
I watch my then 10 year old son run to the bathroom and vomit. He’s been vomiting since December 27, and the day was January 11.
“Honey, you’ll have to stay home again. I’ll call the doctor, and we’ll go in.”
I’m stumped. This will be our 3rd visit to the doctor, and it appears to be a long standing flu. One without a fever and no aches or pains, but a questionable flu.
I call and make the appointment, and we head to the clinic. The doctor sees us again, and asks me to wait outside his examination office, while he talks to my son. Odd, I think, since I’ve never been asked to leave the office before. I stand outside the door, not anticipating much. Perhaps some more medical work ups need to be done, like blood work? I wait to find out.
The doctor opens the door and asks me to come in. My son is looking down at the ground, and my heart begins to pound, and I feel light headed. My son has a funny look on his face, and I don’t like not recognizing it.
The doctor begins the discussion this way, “your son is under a great deal of stress,” I interrupt, “from me? What did I do? I’m sorry, what was I doing? Why didn’t you tell me, honey. Is it too hard to do all the laundry alone? I can help  if you…”
The doc stops me, and says quietly, “no, no, it’s not home. It’s a situation at school. Why don’t you tell your mother what you told me.”
My eyes widen, and I’m afraid of what I’ll hear. I feel queasy and hot.
My son begins, “I don’t know why I get sick when it’s time to go to school.”
The doctor tells him, “go on..”
My son tells me, “I just don’t want to go to school.”
His doctor takes over. “Your son is getting teased daily. Some of it is bullying. I’m going to tell you something right now. He needs to be kept home for awhile til things settle down.”
I begin to cry. I know a lot of things about myself. One thing I clearly know is that I am an aware mother. An aware mother. I keep repeating that in my head. Up to that point, I thought of myself as an aware mother.

I fall into the chair in disbelief. How did I miss it all? Now, of course, I see it. The vomiting at the mention of school, the excuses to get picked up at noon with a stomachache, the full lunches coming home, never any food eaten. The weight loss I had been noticing. The quiet rides to and from school, without conversation. Never a birthday party invitation in the almost 2 years at the school. The standing alone at the playground, when I’d pop in for a visit. The angry outbursts at home, along with the short fuse. The waking up at 3 a.m. telling me he just didn’t want to sleep anymore. All these thoughts filled my head entirely, within just a few seconds.
How could I not have known? How could I have not seen this and put the puzzle together? How? I think because no one expects their child to be bullied.
I brought him home, and pulled him out of school that afternoon. We kept him home, and homeschooled him for the rest of the year. He did so well, and gained back 6 pounds within 2 months. His vomiting immediately stopped. His insomnia, disappeared.
When I called the parents in the classroom to find out what they knew, most told me that their children had told them that my son was being bullied daily. Daily. It was hard not to burst into tears with every phone call where I heard that word. Why hadn’t anyone told me? Why hadn’t he told me?
He was taunted for his name, it’s unusual in the culture here. He was taunted for his ways. He is a quiet child, who does not participate in sports to the degree of other boys his age. He was taunted for being unusual, and not like the rest of the kids. He was taunted because he was different.
This happened 3 years ago, and our son is completely healed now. He is doing so very well, and has found a group of friends who enjoy his company. He tells me often how much he likes his life.
I think he’s forgotten what happened. I don’t know. I know I still think about it when I see the kids who were in his class at the time, in our small town, and their parents.
I’m grateful for an astute physician, who recognized what I didn’t. I’ll have to forgive myself for that. I’m grateful I was able to keep him home, and teach him. I’m grateful that this story has a happy ending. But it makes me think, what of a family, where a parent is not able to keep the child home and remove him from the caustic environment of bullying? What if there is no doctor to see what the mother misses? What if the bullying had been physical and he had been injured? What if the bullying had become something other than what we had? What if the bullying had been something that he could not have worked his way out of, the way we did?
These are very, very critical questions to ask. And both sides of parents need to be involved. The ones being bullied and the ones doing the bullying.  We need to recognize the signs of being bullied, and parents need to ask their children, “Are YOU doing any bullying?”
The awareness of bullying, and what it can do, and has done, needs to be discussed from BOTH sides.  And it has to be talked about now. Because, bullying can happen to any child, and to any family. And your child could be bullied, or be a bully. It needs to be brought out in the open for everyone to look at and recognize. This needs to be stopped in our world today, it just cannot continue to destroy lives.

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