Friday, February 25, 2011

Not for children

I love listening to This American Life, and while on a plane heading home from Florida yesterday, I plugged in and started listening to a recent episode. The theme was people who delay doing things, which sounded innocuous enough, although there was an odd warning before the first piece. Don't play this in front of your children. Okay, I wasn't playing it in front of children. And then the piece started.

It was about a reporter who decided to kill the man that, as a teenager, had raped him at age 7. Not fondled him, not touched him inappropriately: raped him. Then threatened him, and he never told anyone. Until now. You can read the piece in full here, if you'd like. Or maybe you'd rather not.

The piece was fascinating and horrifying. And somehow familiar. Oh, yeah. Scott Brown.

Last week, our illustrious senator started promoting his new book by appearing on TV shows. Turns out that he was molested by a camp counselor when he was 10. He never told anyone about this, until now. Didn't even tell his wife. Didn't even tell his mother.

And then, in today's paper, a vivid article about a physician at Boston Children's Hospital who apparently molested young boys for years under the guise of providing medical care to them. He was about to be charged. He killed himself.

In the This American Life story, the mother reads an old childhood diary and finds out about the rape years later. She actually calls and confronts the family of the rapist. I guess this was the part of the story that spoke to me: what would I do if I found out that this happened to my child? And how do I make sure this never happens to my child?

But the other mothers -- Scott Brown's, the mothers of the boys molested by the physician -- never had a chance to do anything. The boys didn't tell them what had happened. They were too ashamed, too confused. They didn't have the words. They didn't feel that they had any power.

As frustrating as I find my son some days, I am glad that he has a strong sense of self, and is able to express when someone does something to him that seems unfair or unjust. I hope that if something terrible like this happens to him, that he will come to me and let me help him. But really, I hope something like this never happens.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The trouble with school

J isn't in love with school these days. I think he enjoys parts of it, but overall, school --and homework -- just gets in the way of his free time. I don't think this feeling is atypical of 11-year-old boys. But it's becoming somewhat of an issue.

Last week, I received two emails on the same day (one from each of his two main teachers) about things that he wasn't doing. He didn't finish an assignment. He didn't do an assignment. He did poorly on a test. He isn't trying. He isn't showing effort. And so on.

So A and I talked with him very seriously about it. We took away video games during the week, to reduce distractions. We told him to make sure to write down all his assignments, not just some of them. And we are checking more to make sure he does what he needs to do.

But in addition to the things that he is and isn't doing, I think the teachers are pretty cranky, as well. I know that some of the 5th graders are very silly, and I'm sure it's hard to teach when kids are laughing and joking all the time. Apparently yesterday J and a friend were sent out of class for laughing. They met with an administrator, who not only chastised them for their behavior, but also chastised J for not being as good a student as his friend. It took J a while to tell me this story, but he finally did, and he cried. "My grades should just be between me, my teacher, and my parents! He shouldn't have told my friend." He was right.

We dealt with it, and the administrator has apologized, but I'm still left feeling...sad. I want J to feel empowered in school. I want him to feel good about school. He actually is a smart kid, very insightful, intelligent. His writing skills are excellent. His math skills are better than mine. His Hebrew is much better than mine was at his age. But his teachers are focusing on his deficits more than on his strengths, and it's wearing him down. It's wearing me down, too.