I have written about bullying before, referring to my own experiences as a child who was bullied. I have gone to anti-bullying seminars as a camp counselor and as a teacher. I did not think that I would be thinking about bullying and my 5 year-old daughter who is in kindergarten. I thought had a few years to deal with that. I was wrong.
To be clear, I do not know or think that Lilly was bullied in the sense of what the new laws call bullying. But old-fashioned bullying? Yeah, that happened to my kindergartner.
It started with headaches and stomachaches in the morning. Crying, telling me that she didn't want to go to school. Classic signs that something was wrong. It took a little while to tease out the situation, especially because Lilly was commuting with me into Hoboken each day. It is a long, sometimes ardous commute. I wondered if it was the commute alone that was causing her distress.
About 2 weeks ago it came to my attention, because Lilly tells all, that a certain child in her class was bothering her. Usually physically (punching, hitting, etc.) but also doing some other things that really frightened her and made her feel uncomfortable. I wrote to the teacher and principal and was told they were working on the issue, because it was not just my daughter being targeted. However, the incidents kept occuring. Little ones, but something every day. It was notable to Lilly when she had a day without an incident. Yikes.
Here is where it gets a little tricky. Lilly goes to the school where I work. Her principal is my boss; her teacher my colleague. Our district allows BOE employees to bring their children into the district for schooling. (with special permissions, of course) I had an inkling that the commute might be too much for Lilly. Heck, it's too much for me some days. Lilly is such a good kid and rule follower that I had not anticipated problems in th classroom.
The bottom line is that I realized that Lilly did not feel safe, emotionally or physically, in that classroom. The school did offer other solutions, but combined with our crazy commute, my husband and I decided the best action to take would be to put her in our town school system.
Our new school staff has so far been a pleasure to work with, even holding a space for her in the room I requested. Lilly is going to be with her BFF Christian, about which she is over the moon excited. She will not have to be in the car for an hour each way. She will eat breakfast at home, not in the car, and Daddy will bring her to school. She will not be so exhausted that we cannot do anything after school. We had not been able to start Irish dance yet or even see her MumMum who lives the next town over because of the sheer exhaustion that we both have had. She was tired and super cranky every day. It was noticable to other people, even.
I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I was getting so concerned with doing the right thing for Lilly. I wanted her to know that she could get through this difficult situation and we would face it head on together. I did not want her to think it was okay to quit or run away because it was hard. However, I really wanted her to know that I trusted her feelings and intuition. She may not have been able to tell me that she felt unsafe in so many words. But she told me the actions and words of others, and I saw her reactions to situations. I needed to listen to my daughter. I needed to trust her feelings, and she needed to know that I trusted her feelings.
I am confident that Vinnie and I took the correct action for Lilly's well-being. I am excited for her as she begins this new chapter of kindergarten. Lessons learned from this? Trust your child. Be their advocate. Trust your parent intuition. You know your child best.