Thursday, May 8, 2014


The other night, Pardner and I watched Bully. I almost wish I could unwatch it. I sobbed through the whole movie.  I am NOT the one who needs to watch these movies that show how awful bullying can be and make points about why we should not bully. I’ve always been in the get-bullied category, along with G. (Also, it was like me watching Forks Over Knives  or Glass Walls. That is, I am already vegetarian, and it HURTS to watch this stuff!)  

Bully should be required watching, though, for all students and all parents just in case. And all schools. All people, okay? If you are around children and/or teens in any capacity, and have the possible capacity to influence them in such a way as to potentially prevent bullying or protect someone from bullying…PLEASE DO. You could be saving a psyche or a soul…or a LIFE.

In honor of this sentiment, I have decided to publish a post I wrote long ago but never published. This situation – which occurred four years ago - was so tender to me that I long worried that I might have risked writing with bias, or out of anger. Enough distance and space have passed to feel comfortable in what I say, and to know that the post is as objective as it ever will be (bearing in mind that I believe strongly in truth and integrity, but also know that there are always a range of perspectives!).

Thank you for reading.


This is the story of one of the worst things that ever happened in our household.

One time, when I went to pick G up after school, two older girls were teasing him. I saw them from afar, heard singsong voices. G ran to me crying and said they were “bullying” him.

I approached Parent A. She had a talk with her daughter and her daughter apologized and in fact became a friend to G.

Parent A knew that
1.      kids sometimes act thoughtlessly cruel and that
2.      they should be called out on it, sensitively of course, but firmly, and that
3.      most kids will grow and do better, if given the opportunity to do so.

I approached Parent B, the father of the other child. He agreed to speak with his daughter.

However, when he did so, his daughter completely denied any teasing or bullying. Parent B then called me, and insisted that his daughter had not teased my son, despite my having witnessed it, despite the other girl admitting to it, despite my son’s words and tears…

I knew Parent B’s daughter sometimes had problems with lying, and my son had told me she was teasing him on several previous occasions (just not through tears – he had been able to “handle it” the other times). I knew that accepting our children’s lies and not giving them consequences for misbehavior cannot be a good thing. But what was I going to say to someone so determined to believe their child that they would ignore the observations of three other people?

So I let it go.

Really, what is there to say in such a situation?

A few days later, Parent B approached me in the parking lot of our children’s school. I had both kids with me. G ran into the car as, to my surprise, this man began to yell at me and get in my face. Gutsy, tiny Z stood her ground, holding my hand in her little one.

He began by berating me for what I was wearing: “Look at you!” he sneered. I looked at myself. Yes, I was wearing a sundress. I am sometimes “guilty” of an Aspergian disregard for propriety and convention in attire and other areas but: sundress. He proceeded to yell at me for what felt like a million years, with choice bits such as, “"You have a problem and I am going to make sure you know it and pay for it" and “You’re gonna get what you deserve!” and “You know why this is all your fault! You know why you feel guilty! You know you have a guilty conscience!" and so on…

Have I mentioned I was completely blindsided?

I am not at all good at responding to aggression for many, many reasons, some neurological, some psychological…When overwhelmed by emotions and/or sensory input, my processing speed drops to ZERO. I am -- quite literally -- unable to feel and think at the same time, never mind talk. The only coherent things I was able to utter, each more than once, were: “Please stop yelling at me in front of my children,” “What are you talking about?” “Please step back!” [he was all up in my grill, sort of under my grill, actually, as he was shorter than me], and – the only even slightly offensive thing, but in itself kind of a 1950s B-movie sort of utterance -- “You have a lot of nerve!”

Plus, I wasn’t able to defend myself because I wasn’t even sure what he was talking about: What did I deserve – and why? Why on earth was I “guilty” – and how did this rather random fellow know all about it when I did not?

Also: why the rage???? Clearly, he was trying to “defend his child” – but from what, exactly? From the consequences of her actions? And what about her actions? Considering that he never once mentioned his daughter during the entire tirade, something else was going on there!

I was so confused.

Then he went on to my parenting: “Everybody knows there’s something wrong with [G] and you’ve done NOTHING about it!”

After some more choice invective, he concluded with, “You obviously don’t care about your kids at all!”

At that moment, I was able to say my first logical sentence of that awful “conversation” (As if somehow I had to justify myself to this lunatic!):  “What are you talking about? [Okay, that was not the good part.] My life revolves around my kids!”

“Your life,” he sneered triumphantly, “revolves around finding more boyfriends!”

I walked away, dazed and silent, hand in hand with my baby girl.

Lovely, lovely eidetic memory: every foul sentence Parent B had spewed was seared in my mind for all eternity.

My baby girl hugged me, hard, when we got in the car and said, “I am sorry that bad man was yelling at you, Mama,” and I – usually totally against making our children take care of us – drank in that hug and those words like the nectar and comfort they were. I had just been literally attacked in the parking lot of my son’s darling, cozy elementary school, a place that had felt as safe and sacred to me as a place could feel.

Later, I took further comfort in knowing that I have spent every possible bit of energy since G’s birth trying to do right by my children. I took comfort in knowing that autism is a neurological situation, not a psychological one “caused” by “refrigerator mothers” or some other nonsense.

I took comfort in my KNOWLEDGE that there is NOTHING “WRONG” with my son! I can’t say it didn’t hurt – hugely – to know that “everyone” “knew” there was “something wrong with” him. I didn’t give a rip whether people thought I’d neglected to do something about “it,” but such gross misperceptions of a wonderful, kind, loving boy broke my heart. And as much as I knew Parent B was exaggerating, I, sadly, never felt at ease in that town again.

I took comfort in my peaceful and (mostly) happy and healthy family (remember: peaceful, healthy and [mostly] happy, not perfect!)

Both fathers in the children’s lives -- my ex-husband and my now-husband, the gentle and even-tempered Pardner -- wanted me to press charges. (And you know when my ex is mad at someone on my behalf it musta been bad.)

But I didn’t want to “cause” more problems…

After a few days of processing, after I finally stopped shaking, I was able to have some thoughts: OH! So that’s what this is about? Let me get this straight: the reason G has autism is I am someone who, after I got divorced, dated someone and, upon occasion, wore a sundress?

Or: if only I had “done something” about G, Parent B’s daughter would not have found it necessary to bully him?

Or: is it that the reason she bullied my son was because *I* deserved it? And I know why, right?

Also: I guess G was not “credible” because there was “something wrong with” him???

By the same token, I suppose my word, too was worthless! Everybody knows lying goes hand in hand with being a liberated female, not to mention a gay divorcée. You see, there’d apparently been some conjecture around town – spurred by a neighbor/”friend” -- that different cars had been seen at my house on different nights…Guess what, gossips, my future husband had several old cars when we were first dating. Oh, and I have friends.

***NB! I reserve the right to date whomever I please! As many at a time as I so choose! Additionally, unlike the aforementioned gossips and believers thereof, I reserve the right to reserve judgment about people to what I’ve directly experienced and know to be true.***

Call me literal.

Oh yes, I was shaken. It was a wretched experience. Even now, I find myself shaking FOUR YEARS LATER as I think about these events.

In time, I came to realize that Parent B had an extra-large helping of what some of my friends and I refer to as “iss-yews.” He’d essentially been taking out his own insecurities and anger (said “iss-yews”) on an easy and vulnerable target: a single woman with a non-typical child.

Nice going, Sport.

The take-away: I now bear in mind lessons learned around:

      >> They exist. Be careful. Handle with administrative support where possible.

      >> Exists, persists. Ditto.

Hidden, but entrenched – and strong! And ugly -- blech! – misogynyy:
      >> Ditto.

      >> Inevitable. Live your life as fabulously and honorably as you can!!!!

Ways to approach adult bullies (or NOT):     
      >> Don’t. See above.

Teaching children boundaries and values (and what not to teach them!!!) -- and
Teachable moments in general:
      >> Can be hard, but are sometimes necessary -- or unavoidable.

The sometimes misguided ferocity people feel around “protecting” their children (yoohoo, catering to lies does not serve/protect our children!):
      >> Can result in the perpetuation of a vicious cycle of emotional or even physical violence.

How people can conflate their own iss-yews with their kids’ iss-yews, in molto toxic ways:
      >> Strange but true. (This relates to the synergy I experience first hand from learning about the spectrum vis-à-vis my son and then myself, in what is a substantially more healthy dynamic!)

How some people will dismiss and/or attack you for being “different” (autistic, single, whatever…it’s all about context and narrow-mindedness!)…

      >> …And how some people will NOT!

…and so on.

It seems like – I think? Probably? - for neurotypical people, the majority of these things can be obvious: people gossip, people act like jerks. G and I do plenty of things that tick people off, but they are 99.9% unintentional. We have to remind ourselves of the possibility of these unfamiliar and intentionally hurtful possibilities in order to be able to handle them atall. For what it’s worth, both G and I have been bullied less as we have integrated the above and gained some social skills over the years.

He heads to Middle School next year so I won’t get too cocky or prescient here.

As for Parent B, I know we are supposed to forgive people. Maybe I will get there one day. For now, though, I still want to kick his as$. And, seriously? With a little advance notice/processing time I could.

Anyhoo, if at all possible, if you ever find yourself in a situation where your child is teasing or bullying another child, be more like Parent A…PLEASE?

Full Spectrum Mama


  1. I was speaking with my wife this morning about a myth that I have quoted as fact many times, "Anything that does not kill me makes me stronger." I believe Nietzsche first made it to encourage himself and know that I and others have been weakened by things such as bullying father. Another myth was one that my mother taught, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt." They do hurt, but again we need the encouragement of knowing the bullying of our children or ourselves is not the last word. "And still we rise," but only with determination and the knowledge that our rising is a gift to the world and the conquest of bullies.

    1. Profound myths to live by, dear Unknown. Thank you. "And still we rise" -- with the immeasurably important support of others such as yourself who say "no" to bullying and its precursors. We dare to hope for a better world, where all children are safe, and all people are equal.

    2. As always, your strength, courage to write about it, and thoughtfulness amaze me, as does G's perseverance.

    3. Wonderfulest Meeting Friend,
      It's you and others like you who give us the strength...that and the fact that 99.9% of readers are anonymous ;)
      Much love,

  2. I was speaking with my wife this morning about a myth that I have quoted as fact many times, "Anything that does not kill me makes me stronger." I believe Nietzsche first made it to encourage himself and know that I and others have been weakened by things such as bullying father. Another myth was one that my mother taught, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt." They do hurt, but again we need the encouragement of knowing the bullying of our children or ourselves is not the last word. "And still we rise," but only with determination and the knowledge that our rising is a gift to the world and the conquest of bullies.

  3. OMG, I'm so sorry that happened to you, and that your kids witnessed it! How horrible!
    I think there were several really good things in this story. One, that your son knew to put a word to what was happening (bullying) and felt comfortable telling you about it. Two, that when you saw how upset your son was about it, you were comfortable and brave enough to talk to the other parents about what happened. Three, that ONE of the girls doing the bullying got the chance to learn an important lesson, with the help of her mother, who stepped up and acted as a great example to her.
    The most horrible things, other than the fact that G was bullied in the first place, was that you were verbally assaulted in front of your kids; and that there is this other little girl out there, who, instead of learning an important lesson, learned the opposite... that bullying is OK. After all, her dad is a bully too, right?

    1. Dearest Angel The Alien,
      As always, your wisdom and non-glossing-over-the-awfulness positivity is compassionate and uplifting. AND A LIST of three things, too!!!!!! Very flappy over here.
      ONE caveat - I don't think I would be "comfortable and brave enough" to talk to a parent that way again. And I am not sure the alternative - using administrative means - always works either. We ALL need to teach those around us, through our words and actions, that we are all equal and worthy of respect; clearly, that is not happening either. I do feel sad about the lesson that little girl learned!
      Thank you, dear Angel, for being the opposite of a bully.
      Shall we make up a word?


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