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? 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.