Venting In The Afternoon

A storm is coming. The sky is rumbling like a giant’s intestines. The rain is falling sporadically but in huge splats like someone is emptying miniature buckets of water onto the ground. Have you ever noticed the differing sizes of raindrops? It is quite fascinating.

It must be to do with the different shapes of clouds, but which clouds produce the big splats and which ones produce the tiny little pinhead drops remains a mystery without further study.

Sometimes the weather can mirror my mood. Today I am churning and roiling like the maelstrom in the sky. I have discovered that a boy who picked on my son, Nick, for five years at Primary School will be at the same high school as him next year.

I know I shouldn’t let this phase me. I know I should make Nick stand up to this bully, except that this is no ordinary bully. This kid makes Damien from The Omen look good. Seriously. Some of his skills include tripping, biting, stealing lunch money and pushing other kids down flights of stairs. And that’s when he’s in a good mood. The school and I had a big set-to over this kid which almost ended in litigation. I wanted him expelled (so did about ten other people) but the school wanted to give him a second chance, and a third, and a fourth because he came from a difficult background.

Oh puhleeze. I taught High School for 15 years in really tough neighbourhoods and I never had a kid push another one down a flight of stairs. I watched for incidences of bullying like I was a member of the Secret Service and I nipped it in the bud when I saw it. The worst thing you can do with bullying is to pretend it isn’t happening and that’s what Nick’s school has done.

I am so over it. I nearly pulled Nick out of the school at the beginning of last year but the new Assistant Principal talked me out of it. Things have changed under his regime but the most significant thing is that Bully Boy has been at High School this year so we haven’t had to contend with him.

I didn’t think I’d ever have to deal with him and his psychotic mother again (that is a story for another day) because I assumed (stupidly, it turns out) that Nick would get into the Performing Arts School and all would be well. I did have a back-up plan at the start of the year – I was going to send him to a mid-price private school but since my husband’s revelation three months ago that he suspects he will have to declare himself bankrupt by the end of the year (also a post for another day) I have had to shelve that $12,000 a year Plan B.

Bully Boy was at another school apparently but within a few weeks was up to his old tricks and had been suspended. By the end of the first term it was suggested he transfer to another school. It had to be Nick’s school, didn’t it?Β  I am sorry it wasn’t a school in Outer Mongolia. Or Chernobyl.

I have already spoken to the High School Principal. She has assured me Nick will be safe. I remain unconvinced. Bully Boy has a habit of getting away with things and now he is in High School he will be bigger and meaner than before. I just don’t want Nick to have to deal with that every single day. They say putting up with a bit of bullying is character building but I don’t see what is character building about being pushed down a flight of stairs, losing your front teeth and almost fracturing your skull when you are only 7 years old.

I know before I even finish typing this that I won’t be sending my son to that school but where he will go instead remains to be seen. Perhaps it is time to move out of Sydney completely. I can’t survive here anymore. I don’t have enough money to compete with the upper middle class mentality or enough martial arts skills to battle it out with the housing commission attack-first-ask-questions-later class. That’s how wide the socio-economic span is in my neighbourhood.

This morning I wakened at 4AM. In that space between sleep and wakefulness I imagined for a moment that I was in a different place. It was nice seeing the green fields stretching out before me, to see Nick coming home from school in his neat, well-pressed uniform, telling me he had a great day. Then the needle scratched across the record and I saw him with a black eye and a split lip, his shoulders hunched, his spirit broken.

There is a possibility I am over-reacting. There is a possibility Bully Boy will be expelled before school starts in February. There is a possibility Nick will be able to cope with being at the same school as his nemesis. What I do know however, is that there is no possibility of me handling the tension of waiting for something to happen with a child whose history I am well aware of. I am done with handling it. I look at the wet trees bending in the rain, creaking slightly, and know they are trying to tell me something. With a certain kind of subtlety they are giving me a sign, swaying and groaning by my window. I know my heartbeat has increased in time to their movement. I know I am breathing in rhythm with the wind. I know that the storm has broken my feelings of indecision. I know it’s time for Plan D, whatever that may be.

30 thoughts on “Venting In The Afternoon

  1. I’m sorry this has happened. But we don’t want you to move away from the place you love because of it. I’m sure you can work it out with the teachers. I know it’s just one more thing to worry about but Nick can stand up for himself. You know that. I know how hard it’s been and he’s been very unfortunate with the way some of the kids at school have treated him but let’s try and sort it out. I’m with you. You know that.


  2. MEL – I’m overreacting, I know, but I’m tired of dealing with this stuff. There are some nasty people out there. I don’t want to move away but sometimes I feel it’s the only answer. I don’t expect High School to be Shangri-Las. That’s unrealistic, but a little kindness wouldn’t go astray. To be honest, I don’t know what to do.


  3. I’m so sorry to hear about Nick’s horrible experiences. I haven’t got any wise words to offer, I’m afraid. Bullying seems to happen everywhere. My son was at four different primary schools – 2 state primaries in towns, one private school for a brief spell, and a rural state school. The worst bullying (generally – not all aimed at him)happened at the private school and the small one set amongst idyllic green fields. At the first town school he was at, it was a psychotic teacher that drove me to remove him from the school, not the pupils, and he was happiest at the second one. At this last school there was an inspirational head teacher and a sense of self-respect seemed to percolate down through the school. It wasn’t perfect but it certainly worked for him. It seems to me that in the end it is all down to luck and as a parent all you can do is hold your breath until they are through it – awful isn’t it?

    I wondered about Nick’s situation – it’s possible that this bully, now that he is at big school, might have had some of the aggression squished out of him – small fish in a big pond and all that? The other thought is that if he has been away from Nick for a year he may no longer be interested in him – he might not even remember him. Could just be wishful thinking on my part but…


  4. PUDDOCK – I’m so sorry to hear about what your son went through. I know how worrying it can be. A lot of it does seem to come down to luck, doesn’t it? I guess I’ll just have to run with it and see what happens. I’m hoping you might be right about this boy forgetting about Nick. That would be brilliant. I really appreciate your kind thoughts. You are very wise. Thank you.


  5. That’s gut-wrenching. Sorry for this, Selma.

    If he touches your son, perhaps you could report it to the police and take the school out of the equation.


  6. I am sorry that you and your son have to deal with this fear… it is just not fair!

    When my son was 7 we were at an art show in his school one evening. It was so hot inside of the school he asked me if he could go with his friends and stand outside of the building to cool off. Of course I said yes, I assumed he would be safe on school property.

    While he was out there a bully had ridden his bike to the school and was terrorizing the smaller children. At one point the bully peddled as fast and as hard as he could in the direction of my son and his friends. Once he was just upon them he called my son’s name. My son turned around to see who was calling him and at that instant the bully ran straight into my son’s face with the handlebars of the bycycle.

    My son lost all six of his front teeth, top and bottom. He also had seven recronstructive surgeries and expensive implants. My son went through Post Traumatic Stress; he simply couldn not understand why someone would purposely try to hurt him like that.

    Now, at almost 13 my son has adjusted and moved on, but that one night scarred him worse than just his injuries.

    Of course the bully had previous problems at the school, he had been given chance after one more chance again and again just becasue of hardships he had at home. Neither he or his mother ever appologized to us or offered to help pay the thousands of dollars in medical expenses that we had. However his mother did go to the school to make sure that her son would be able to attend the 5th grade field trip the day after this incident – which the school did allow.

    Thankfully that family moved away, I do not have to worry about him being in school with my son in the future. I can understand your concern. Do everything you can to protect your son. Sorry for taking up so much space in your comments – your story brought out so many memories of that time, I just wanted to say you’re not alone…unfortunately.


  7. I will be hoping that the bully doesn’t focus on Nick.

    Paula’s school has a problem boy in her grade too. This boy has done all kinds of horrible things. He is loud, aggressive, prone to fits, disrespectful of teachers and other students. His classmates all walk on eggshells around him, and he beaten boys at school. He has been suspended on numerous ocassions, but inexplicably, not expelled. Once, Paula spent a few weeks going to his classroom for advanced language arts, and he threw a fit because the teacher asked him to put his recorder (flute) away. He threw the recorder at the teacher and hit Paula in the head instead. They suspended him for that, but after a few days he is back in school. It’s frustrating.


  8. The amount of bullies I’ve had to deal with as my seven kids grew up was incredible. It is so easy to let it get you down, I know. But that storm will soon be clearing.
    As for ‘difficult background’ as an excuse, no way. There are thousands of kids with similar backgrounds who DIDN’T become bullies. I sometimes think it’s an excuse for sloppy teaching methods.


  9. Oh Selma, I’m so sorry to hear things aren’t looking great for the new school. Let’s all hope the bully has had a dose of his own medicine and will steer clear of Nick.

    Why do supposed civilised human beings tolerate bullies? When I worked in the public school district, I would see these dreadful children treat others like garbage, and yet because their home life was supposedly so horrible, nothing was done to correct the behavior.

    What utter crapola.

    Complaints abound how teachers aren’t doing enough to teach kids, but what I think it boils down to (at least in the USofA) is fear of litigation. Parents would rather sue a school distrct for “damages” rather than discipline their children and guide them to appropriate behavior.

    Of course, we have those who don’t understand appropriate behavior, or who say, “Well, what you may think is appropriate, isn’t right for me and my kids.” So their children treat others badly and no one can or will do anything about it.

    Someone once said it would damage a child to tell them “no,” it would break their self-esteem or stump their creativity if we tried to control their behavior.

    And look what we have now, generations of dreadful human beings who treat others like offal, and threaten to sue anyone who tells them they’re wrong to act like that. And worse? They don’t care that their actions hurt others. That’s the scariest part, in my opinion… they just don’t care.


  10. I recognise that type of weather….

    I also recognise the school’s attitude about the child being from a certain background and thus being given too many chances, there must be other ways to deal with bullying, you’re right, it needs to be nipped in the bud,

    Hope things work out….


  11. Oh Selma, In a word, this just SUCKS!!! 😦

    I am so, so sorry to hear about these problems with your son’s schooling and also the financial ones as well.

    Why do so many bad things happen to really good people? I’ve seen this over and over and over in my life and it never makes sense. All I can say is, you have my support and my good thoughts for better days and the right resolutions are coming via the cyber-waves.

    Hugs to you, take care and try to take regular ‘time outs’just for you, it is SO IMPORTANT. It’s the only way to survive, believe me. In totally different circumstances, Ive been through too many ‘wringers’. I wish then that I had taken time to care for myself. I ended up too sick to do anything for over a year, because I didn’t. We all have our breaking points, even if we are strong.

    BFN, G


  12. All I can say without making this all about me is that you’re absolutely doing the right thing by worrying about this. I hate to tell someone they should worry, but in this case I have to. I’ll carry scars for the rest of my life for being the 90 pound weakling in school. Out of nowhere I’ll start reliving those experiences and my heart will start racing. I found that once I was willing to swing back at those people they left me alone because they knew it would cost them something to pick on me. Okay, now I’ve gone and made this about me after saying that I wouldn’t. Have you thought about martial arts lessons? They did me a world of good.


  13. I’m trying to picture myself proudly wearing a sports team jersey from Chernobyl High. I just couldn’t frame it, though! πŸ™‚

    I understand when a kid comes from a difficult background. It’s usually not a choice. But it’s still unfair for others to be forced to share in the rotten fruits of his past when it’s neither a choice of theirs to have had a more normal upbringing.

    Hey, maybe Nick can wear a black t-shirt with the infamous Motorhead logo… it might just send the appropriate message! Worked for me!!! πŸ˜€

    Seriously, I really hope things turn out for the good of everyone. But worse comes to worst, you can always move to Wyoming… where the roaring wind is the lone bully. Oh yeah, and the alcohol too sometimes. Nothing much to do here so kids get drunk a lot. That’s one thing I regret about this place. Otherwise, it’s the west side of heaven.


  14. since i know the only actions you can control are your own,, i would begin now to find plan d and put it into order.. bullying does not build character,, and who ever said that was evidently never bullied… please let us know how this comes out selma…


  15. Oh, this makes me so bloody angry. As one who suffered quite the bit at the hands of a bully I want to storm the gates of the school and demand the little bastard is thrown out on his first day. Hopefully, the teachers will keep an eye on him and take action.

    I can never understand why schools take the little brats that get chucked out of other ones. This is what home schooling is for. Make the parents take responsibility for him.

    Nick is so lucky to have a mother like you who would uproot everything to make sure he is comfortable. Bless you Selma.


  16. I can only imagine how helpless you must have felt over the years with this situation. How horrible for Nick. Oh! I want to fly to Sydney and kick that kids ass.

    I agree with Paisley that it would be a good idea to formulate plan D. No, bullying does not build character. And the fact that the kid comes from a difficult background is absolutely NO excuse whatsoever. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this.


  17. Come to Melbourne, Selma πŸ™‚ You can come hang out with me.

    I agree with you (and other commenters) that a “difficult background” is no excuse for unacceptable behaviour. There was a fantastic article in The Age Good Weekend magazine recently about a teacher who turned an entire school of severely disadvantaged teens around. If one teacher can do that for dozens of children, then many teachers can surely keep tabs on the needs and behaviour of the few children they are directly responsible for day-to-day.

    Can you find a different school? Or do you have to move districts? I really think Nick (and you) could do without the extra stress of this hanging over him.


  18. Selma, my dear!

    This is not the 1950s, and reporting such happenings is not sneaking. You have the right to live where you like, and Nick has the right to go to school where he likes without hassle from such pond-life.

    Now, I don’t know the rules in Australia (I should; two of my sisters-in-law are teachers in Oz) but here, the staff of the school have a duty to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen … and, if they don’t, the police will. And, they call it ‘assault’, not ‘bullying’.

    Now, I was never a ‘victim’ myself, but I did once have to deal with someone who was picking on my brother and his friends. Imagine my surprise a few years later when he turned up in the Air Force … and I had considerably more stuff on my arms than he had! It was so tempting to ensure that he spent the rest of his career cleaning out the ablutions, but I didn’t … and couldn’t, anyway.

    But, the look of sheer dread on his face was revenge enough!


  19. DAVID – that case was devastating. My heart freezes in my chest just thinking about it. Oh, thank you, my dear friend for your support. It means so much!

    JASON – so nice to hear from you. Getting the police involved is definitely a consideration. Nick is going to start weight training with his Dad towards the end of the year as well as a bit of martial arts but it’s terrible for me to think that he must do that in order to survive at school. High school is scary.

    LINDA – oh, it’s definitely a crappy situation. Raising kids is hard these days, isn’t it? Maybe calling the cops is the way to go.

    WENDY – I really appreciate you taking the time to share your story. That is absolutely harrowing. I feel for you and your son so much. I am so glad he has recovered but angry he had to go through that in the first place. How awful. Oh, the poor little guy, he was only 7 years old! Thanks for taking the time to comment and I am sorry for what you and your son went through.

    INGRID – I’m sorry Paula has had to go through that. It always perplexes me when schools appear to give the bullies more consideration than they give the victims. What is up with that? I hope Paula manages to have nothing more to do with that boy.

    ANTHONY – agree with you 100%. It’s definitely an excuse for sloppy teaching methods. As I said, I taught for 15 years and I was on bullying like a ton of bricks. My first consideration, above even academic skills, was that the kids felt safe in the school. It is not difficult to implement strategies to deal with bullying but most teachers feel it is too much work. Very frustrating. Congrats on getting those 7 kids through the English school system. You really are my hero (in more ways than one).


  20. KAREN – I know. It is chilling to realise some people just don’t care. I think kids need to be told NO very loudly and proudly. Just like the little ones, teenagers need boundaries to be set. I have never understood what is so damaging to a child’s psyche to be told by a reasonable person that their behaviour is inappropriate. Maybe I’m missing something……

    CRAFTY GREEN – are there a few storms brewing in your beautiful part of the world? I’m sure things’ll work out. I really appreciate your kind comment.

    GERALDINE – how wise you are. Time outs are so important. I feel I really need one right now. There comes a point where you think :’ I just can’t take anymore.’ But never fear, I’ll be OK. I am resilient (and slightly mad). LOL.

    LETITBLURT – I am so sorry you went through that. The memory of it stays with us, doesn’t it? Awww, I feel for you. Picking on people is so unnecessary. Martial arts is definitely the way to go. And martial arts guys are hot. Look at Keanu Reeves in ‘The Matrix.’ Oh, yeah!

    CHRIS – as always you crack me up. I can just picture you wearing a Motorhead T-shirt. I had a Black Sabbath one which I alternated with Deep Purple. Aaaah, those were the days…..

    PAISLEY – you’re right. There’s nothing character-building about a fist in the face. I will definitely let you know how it turns out.

    BEC – oh, I am sorry you were bullied. I would have loved having you as a school friend. We would have had such laughs together and we would have thrown Molotov cocktails at the bullies. Your support means so much. XXX000XX

    EPIPHANY – you know, with everyone’s help here today I can feel Plan D formulating. How kind and insightful you all are. I feel quite emotional right now. Thank you, Epi, you have made me feel so much better!

    MELEAH – it is overwhelming when things like this happen. Initially I tend to overreact but then I think :’Now what am I actually going to do about it.’ The answer will come. Hugs to you, my friend.

    DAOINE – there is another school we can go to. And by the way, I HEART Melbourne. One of my Top 5 favourite cities in the world !

    TRAVELRAT – so the karmic wheel does turn, eh? What a great story. I would have loved to have seen the look on his face!


  21. By the way, I’m still good ole Richard Whackman. It’s just that I added my website to my profile and it sort of changed my screen name.


  22. Oh My,

    No words of wisdom here – I remember handing my glasses to a friend so they wouldn’t get broken when my bully wanted to punch me out.



  23. Selma, I am so sorry you and your son have to go through this. I don’t know how it is in your country, but in the states, bullying has become quite an issue in the schools. Kids are immediately expelled. It is the same for bringing any kind of a knife or gun. We have had way too many horrible experiences and we now have a zero tolerance policy. I will keep you and your son in my prayers.


  24. RICHARD – I knew it was you. Thought you might be going incognito or something….;)

    GROOVY – a hug from Groovy is the best hug of all. Now I really feel better. XX00XX

    CRICKET – I am all for zero tolerance. In Australia we seem to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour a little too readily for my liking. Thank you for your concern. You are so kind!


  25. AUTUMN – oh, thanks for stopping by. I’m sure things will work out. This has thrown me for a loop a little, but I have faith all will be well!


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