Monday, August 26, 2013

She's Strong!

*** LONG ***

Summer is OVER and school has started…WOOO-HOOO!! This has been a very busy summer for ladybug, hence for me. She’s done a sleep away camp and a six week sports camp at UC Berkeley, which really kept her busy. They did a different sport every hour for six hours, every day! Ladybug went from dodge ball to tennis to water polo to chess to archery…. She came home exhausted each day and LOVED it! LOL!

I’m glad she had such a great summer, but do regret not arranging more play dates for her. I realize that she needs more interaction in that way, especially given our new school situation. We decided to move her to a new school, for reasons I’ll detail later, but bottom line ladybug needed a different environment both academically and socially. And it had been an extremely difficult year for her. We had taken her from the only place she’s ever known, what had come to be a cocoon of sorts, and a whole community of friends she knew as family  – good, bad, and ugly-  and moved her (fifteen miles away) to a new environment that was completely foreign to her. New teachers, new kids, and new ways of doing things.

It was so hard for her both academically and socially. The kids were slow to warm to her and just weren’t very welcoming, FOR MOST OF THE YEAR. She even ran into her first real bully. She did everything she could – initiated conversations and interaction; joined Girl Scouts, Volleyball, and Band. Nothing. You see, they just wouldn't interact with her ‘willingly’, and they just didn’t see her, like she was invisible, and that’s more painful than them being mean to her. And like at the old school she was ‘the only one’ in her class - the only African American, which I do feel played a small role in her difficulties. I didn’t see it at first I think because I was more focused on what everyone else was saying... that it's a difficult age/grade; that kids/girls at this stage can be so harsh/mean; etc... The school, although primarily Caucasian, is in the middle of urban area and pretty diverse compared to her old school, but her class is the only one that has no clearly identifiable African American students. There's one boy that I think may be black, but honestly, he could easily be identified as two or three other nationalities before black. Even though the school is relatively diverse for the type of school and where it is, her class is not, and I feel that most of the kids suffer from lack of exposure and basic manners (at least that’s how they behave) which was more of an issue. She was not made to feel welcomed on the most basic of levels, was ignored, and as her mom, it was more than extremely painful and difficult to watch my beloved be treated such a way. Even her teacher could see what was going on, and it broke her heart too. To her credit, and the principals, we met often to discuss the situation, they tried hard to see our side and understand, and tried to address it as best as they could. But then, how can you legislate good and decent behavior, and basic manners?

We usually got to school a bit early and would sit in the car listening to music to motivate her, talking about this and that, then her regular “have a great day, daddy loves you” call to Juan (she’s grumpy if she doesn’t talk to him before she heads off to class!). This has become one of our many 'favorite times of the day', but one morning in late February she sat in my lap (in the car) and cried. She was so tired of dealing with it all. She just couldn’t understand what was wrong, why they treated her the way they did. Oh, my heart broke for her. There was more crying later that night at bedtime. This time she really boohooed, and I told her to let it all out, that she deserved and had earned a good hard cry! I cried with her. For her. And for me as her mom, not knowing how to help her, short of burning the damn place down. It was all I could do to NOT walk up to those kids, and their moms, and smack the hell out of most of them!

Juan and I told ladybug to buck up and let them know she wasn’t a punk. I also gave her what I wished I had been given… Detailed insider info from someone who’s been there, and still remembers intimately what it’s like to be 11 and in the sixth grade. So I told her exactly what to say, what not to say, and how to say it; how and when to react, or not; we even role played and practiced too. I can’t fight her battles for her, so I want her to be as prepared as possible so that was the best I felt I could do at that moment – without going to jail!

We told her that she's the new girl, who still hugs and kisses her mom openly, plus she has a mom who walks with a funky cane and 'wiggles' (tremors) a lot. We also explained that, in a way it wasn’t the kids’ fault, really, that it was due to lack of home training in the most basic areas of manners and politeness – it starts at home! And it showed. Even the moms weren’t very welcoming to me either. Don’t get me wrong, they were always ‘polite'.  However, very stand-offish, or even curious (I was once grilled about our background and pedigree by a seemingly rude mom who showed little civility) it was painfully clear that many of them didn’t care to get to know me, or their children know mine. As do the parent, so does the child… or something like that. Only two or three moms actually stepped up and said “welcome”, and one then immediately offered up a play date with her daughter, which I readily and happily accepted. They seemed to get along great, and she had a great time at ladybugs birthday party too. However, the young lady was always quite cool towards ladybug at school, and it seemed she didn’t want any classmates to know she’d done any socializing with the new kid. Ladybug was hurt and confused, said even though she ignores her at times, the girl has never been mean to her. I explained the whole peer pressure thing and that, to me, she just seems extremely shy. Oh how I hoped that was the case.

I could weep as I replay this.
Is it a sixth grade thing? An eleven-twelve year old thing? A tween girl thing? A socio-economic/race thing? Probably a mix of all of the above. To an extent, I don't blame the parents either. They're busy living their lives, rushing to soccer, dance, volleyball, work, etc... I'm sure the whole concept of diversity, and how to teach their kids about it, just doesn't occur to them. Let's be real, most of the families at this school probably don't really come in to much meaningful contact with those of a different back ground, no let me not sugar coat it, black folk, outside of having them ring/bag up their groceries, selling them something at a retail store, seeing them standing at a bus stop on their way to and fro - if they even notice. What's probably more likely is as the subject of a news piece about crime or some other kind of foolishness on the evening news. I digress, don't mean to turn this into political commentary, will save for another post... I say all this to say that it's amazing how what we think, or don't think about, what we're comfortable with or not, effects how and what we think, therefore, how we behave. 

Then again, maybe I was spoiled at our old school. Yes, the teachers were warm and friendly, but incompetent, uninspired, and severely restricted. The administration/principal was horribly lazy, allowed bad situations to fester and often instigated or made them worse, and just didn't want to be there. The kids were smart asses, precocious, and into things that just weren't appropriate for their age (even though it was an older class where most of them were a full two years older than ladybug). And yes, some of the parents were a hot mess - I had to go to the Diocease about one family in particular, I wrote about it here...DRAMA! But the kids loved ladybug, showed me respect and many showed me affection, and all had manners and were polite (I can overlook or forgive quite a bit if someones polite or has good manners). And almost all parents were simply amazing. Most of us actually liked and loved each other, enjoyed and wanted to spend time together, we even started a monthly 'moms night out' in first grade, that continues and I'm still part of today!

Anyway, ladybug survived of course, and brilliantly I might add. Although hard most of the time, both socially and academically (looks like there's some minor learning challenges probably due to prematurity...I’ll fill you in on that later!), it really was the best 10 months because it gave Juan and I an amazing opportunity to teach her some critically important life lessons about who she is and what she's all about, that we couldn’t have re-created any better. Ladybug is better for it. She is able to see and identify bullshit and call it out for what it is... if she so chooses. She knows exactly who she is and what she's all about (as an 11 year old) , and is clear about her convictions. She just continues to amaze me really. Other than the one day of double melt downs -in the car then again at bedtime - she never once let those kids get under her skin; never once allowed this new and strange and unwelcoming environment affect who she is at her core in any negative way; and she never gave up.

A coward she is not.  

Be well ♥


Tiffany Fleming-Lynn said...

My oh my look how shes grown.... in my first glance i thought she was you and you were someone else. Wow Angela she had grown into such a wonderful young lady not thst anyone ever thought otherwise. I have been where she has been and where you where we all get tired and Lord willing we get stronge. She has to wonderful Parents who love her and are wise enough to take time with teach and prepare her for this world and all that she faces. I must say if you hadnt figured out all ready that I love your family and I Pray for you all Lady bug is going to be a better person her entire life for that shes been through. I have two pen pals here if shes intrested who can relate Kamryn and Kapryse are always looking for friends. keep on smileing...

angela said...

oh wow tiffany, thank you so very much!! i know that prayer is what keeps us going. i'm so glad you still stop by, and yes, ladybug would love some pen pals, so shoot me a private email (via 'contact' on my profile page) and let's connect.

be well :)