I've come to learn (third-hand) over the past few days that Nathan is being emotionally bullied at school. That's really hard to combat. That's why he's losing weight so fast, he's deliberately eating less and less because he has been called fat, among other things.
He has very few peer friends.
A good bit of this is his own doing. He is very sensitive and cries easily. He tends to associate with adults more (MUCH MORE) than his peers. He would rather stand with the teacher or be by himself during recess. He sits at what I've heard is termed "the losers table" at lunch... and I'm not entirely convinced he's actually EATING his lunch (he says he is, but ... to what extent I don't know).
He is interested in things that absolutely NO other 10-year-old is interested in, other than Minecraft and WWE. He has actually started taking his paperwork outside at recess so he can do his homework, rather than participate in any of the activities. Because nobody wants him in their little clique. I get that... I know what it's like to be the last one picked on a team. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, bumper sticker, and shot glass.
His mom tended to coddle him... and I don't. I'm not placing blame, not at all. But the fact that I am a little more "harsh" with him at times, in the eyes of some reading this, makes me a bad guy. The fact of the matter is he needs to learn not to get teary-eyed in front of others. They'll tear him apart. He needs to learn to suck it up, grow a backbone, and stand up for himself. Only he can do that, and only he can make the decision that he's ready to do that.
"Now com'on Chris"..... wait. Hear me out.
I know first hand all of that crap is easier said than done, because I went through the same thing myself when I was his age.
I was nearly the same way. I can count on one hand, with fingers remaining, the number of people I could count as "friends" from elementary school through junior high school.
I didn't exactly go out of my way to make friends, and the overwhelming majority of classmates at good ol' Cooperstown school didn't exactly make much of an effort to be nice to me either.
They went more out of their way to make sure my life was a living hell. They did an Emmy-award-winning job of it.
Cooperstown school was (and probably still is) a "status" school. If you were the child of one of the Cooperstown elite (the wealthy people), you had it made. You had the status. ESPECIALLY if you were the offspring of one of the doctors or lawyers in that town.
On the other hand, if you were from Hartwick, or some of the other outlying areas, or from the low-income group, you were a "ree-tard." And if you went to BOCES, you were a Bo-tard. (What BOCES is, is irrelevant here.)
People ask me to this day why I didn't join jazz band (given my piano skills) or do any other extra activities. There you have it. I only HAD to be there from 8:10 AM to 2:50 PM. They didn't get a single extra moment of my time. I left there the last day of school in June 1992 and have not been back since.
Anyway... contrary to opinion, I DO know what it's like to be emotionally bullied.
(Funny how times change... some of those folks might be reading this, as I'm "friends" on social media with some of these people today. Many others have tried to friend me over the years, several of whom got a very quick "delete request" click. They were buttholes to me twenty-odd years ago, so why on Earth would I want to talk to them now?)
So, yes, I know in a way what the kid is going through. The big difference is the obvious one: I didn't have a parent suddenly die when I was at a young age. My situation was different; I didn't have a male role model in the home, ever. I grew up with my mother and grandmother; my grandmother died while I was in high school... I wasn't 9 years old, as Nathan was.
Nathan was very stoic during the whole time around his mother's passing, and after a rough first half of the school year 2016-17, he finished strong, on the honor roll, and so far academically he is doing very, very well right now.
He is seeing a shrink. In all honesty, I'm not sure how much that is really helping things. He is very reclusive; his world is his computer, his fascination with fire alarms, weather radar, WWE, Minecraft, Robloxs, BeamNG Drive. He's not a "feelings" talker, and neither am I, which drives a particular close family friend crazy. We're just not all "talky-feely" like that. I'm coming to realize that's a bad character trait I need to change myself.
People fault me for allowing him to be "in" that "world" (his computer), but that's his safe zone. Much comment was made about how college students from elite schools, who were of a particular political ideology, needed "safe spaces," crayons, and play-dough after the presidential election because their feelings were so crippled. Nathan's computer is ... the safe space/crayons/play-dough. The difference is... he's 10, not 21, and a 21-year-old Harvard student should know better.
Yes, I'm strict with him, but I'm not a monster. "Go outside and play!" is easy to say, but getting him to do that... I would rather drive a cat through a car wash. Christine and I forced him to play soccer for a couple of years, and he spent 90% of the time standing stalk-still hoping and praying the ball never went anywhere near him, and the other 10% sitting on the sideline. I'm sure many shrinks and armchair-shrinks would say I'm in the wrong here, but I don't see what benefit comes from forcing him to play a sport when that's clearly not "him." Why make his life even more miserable than the misery he already has now?
Would things be better if his mother hadn't died? That's the easiest question ever posed: A million-volume yes. Did the wrong parent die? I'm not going to answer that. What would his life be like if his dad had suffered the heart attack and died? Nobody can answer that.
Physical bullying: I'm not aware if he has been physically bullied at any time. When asked straight-up, he denies. He does have my permission to fight back... ONLY if someone hits him first. Yes, he'll likely get suspended from school, but he has been taught that a well-placed kick followed immediately by a swift-and-firm uppercut to the face is perfectly appropriate self-defense, and likely will put an end to any further bullying he may experience. IF he is struck first. I wish I had done that when I was his age.
Instead I followed the "go tell the teacher" advice.
"Go tell the teacher" only works in fantasy-land. Eleven times out of ten, going to tell the teacher only makes things worse for kids.
Now just because I have assigned some of the blame on Nathan, and hopefully he'll be able to develop more of a spine before going over to Central Middle School, that doesn't mean the bullies get a free pass.
Fortunately I haven't found out who these bullies are... Nathan doesn't really talk to me much about it. It's probably better that I don't know, because I'm not afraid to get into a confrontation with someone.
Nathan wants a phone and he wants a Facebook account. TECHNICALLY kids aren't supposed to have Facebook accounts until they are 13 years of age. But I know a few 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds who are on Facebook. That's a shame... some bad parenting going on. But that's not my concern really. Mine is Nathan. He will not be on Facebook or any other social media site until I say he can. I don't run a democracy in my house.
Nathan does not need a cell phone. (I don't believe that ANY 10-year-old "needs" a cell phone... I don't believe their life depends on it.) He lives 2 blocks away from school. I am, as of this writing, unemployed. I can be at the school in ... LITERALLY ... 3 minutes. He is my only child. I don't have multiple kids going in multiple different directions every single day of the week. If he needs to contact me, he can ask to use the phone at school, which is what I did when I was young.
Why am I writing all of this? Telling this story? I don't know. Perhaps it will help shine a light on bullying. People seem to think that in this age of political correctness and all that bullying doesn't happen anymore. I call BS on that; in fact, I believe it's worse... much, much worse today than it was when I was Nathan's age.
I don't know what goes on in other peoples' homes. I honestly don't care. But if you're reading this, and your kid(s) bully others, perhaps you were a bully as well...? In fact, I'd almost put money on it. It wouldn't surprise me in the least that the children of those who bullied me all those years ago are just as bad (if not worse). What are you, as a parent, doing to instill a sense of moral values in your own child(ren)? Are you the kind that likes to punt on that responsibility, and let teachers and staff at school sort it out? Shame on you, if you are. Believe me, if I were to find out Nathan bullied someone else, it would most decidedly not end well for the lad. I don't have an issue with public shaming, and yes I likely would make him stand on a street corner for a few hours with a huge placard reading "I am a bully."
......or would you just cheer it on?
......or pretend it doesn't exist?