I was just about to send this picture with the following caption to my autism mama friends on Monday night:
“Behind that wall of parents is a sea of 250 boys…and the Roc. We are at basketball opening night, something we skipped last year because 250 boys…But he’s over there sitting with a kid from his class! HUGE!”
I was about to hit send when GC walked up and said, “A group of kids is teasing the Roc. He’s still sitting with T, but the kids behind him keep pushing him and touching him on the back. The Roc is jerking away and getting mad and they are laughing at him.”
A fire lit in my stomach and I clenched my fists. “What did you do?”
“Nothing, I let it play out, I was going to step in but then T turned around more than once and I could read his lips, he was saying “stop it” to them.
As I slipped my phone into my pocket the boys were splitting up by grade and I heard the head coach instruct the 2nd graders to another part of the gym. I started walking in that direction.
“Where are you going?” GC asked me. “Don’t confront the kids!”
“I won’t. I have to see the Roc. I just need to be able to see him,” I told him. Truth is, I wanted to see if I recognized any of the kids around the Roc, and I wanted to see if the little shits were going to keep teasing him.
I had just been at the top of the roller coaster. I was flying and so happy for the Roc. He had been paralyzed when we entered the gym. I had to remove his coat and sweatshirt for him, help him into his shoes, and steer him through the crowd. He stood with his arms wrapped around himself and could barely look up when T, a kid from his class, said hello to him. After a lot of prodding and a few waves from T, he had gone to sit with him and we watched, hoping he would be able to stay with T when they joined the other grades in the center of the gym. He was doing it. He was working hard to regulate, to manage his anxiety and sensory issues. He wanted to be there and he was. It was huge for him.
And then the teasing started.
My stomach burned as I searched the big group of 2nd graders for my Roc.
“Do you see him?” GC asked me. He had followed me across the gym, probably wondering if I was going to make a scene.
“Right there, he’s next to shoot, and T is right behind him.”
I watched as the Roc shot the ball, a clean swoop through the hoop. He turned and moved toward the back of the line, which was not so much a line as a big jumble of kids. I watched as T shot and then immediately found the Roc, showed him where to go, and then got in line behind him. In doing so, no one could touch the Roc’s back. I wondered if he was consciously protecting the Roc. It seemed that he was.
“Do you see what’s happening?” I asked GC.
“I do. That is some kid out there…Kim, there are always going to be assholes. There are always going to be kids who tease and who bully. Unfortunately, they usually have asshole parents. But there are good people out there, thoughtful people, and they are raising good kids. For a kid that young to say something, to stand up for the Roc, it shows his character. Focus on that kid.”
The kids shot a few more baskets and then they lined up to get their free bag tag and Gatorade. I stayed back and gathered our things while GC went over to the Roc who was waiting in line with T. I watched as he high five’d the Roc and said a few words to T. The Roc was grinning and doing a happy hop as they walked over to me.
“I did it! I made it through the whole thing! I’m so proud of myself!” he crowed.
I leaned down, “You did do it, and we are so very proud of you!”
He did it. He had a little help from T and that made all the difference. He did it.
I went to bed that night wrestling with my emotions. It angered me to my core that the Roc was teased with all those parents standing by. I wondered about those boy’s parents. Were they sitting on the sidelines staring into their phones? Did any of them see what happened? If they did, why didn’t they intervene? It took so much for the Roc to be there! He was working so hard! What a difference it would make to him if more children were like T. Why aren’t there more children like T?
T. What a kid! I shifted my focus to T. I couldn’t do anything about the kids who picked on the Roc. But I could do something about T.
In the morning I sent an email to the Roc’s teachers. I wanted them to know what happened. That the Roc was bullied at a function outside of school and that a peer from his class had stood up for him. I asked if she would please reinforce T for standing up for the Roc. As soon as school was over she wrote back:
Thanks for sharing Kim. How wonderful to know your son has such a good friend in T. T is a remarkable boy – great family, dad volunteers in our class Tuesday mornings but Roc doesn’t see him as he is in Mrs. Ms room at that time. I think it would be quite impacting on my students for T to share what he observed (poking/pushing) and what it felt like to stand up to “bullies” and defend Roc. Also, may I communicate your thoughtful email to T’s parents? I know they would be appreciative and proud of their son’s actions.
Huge hooray for Roc in attending last night’s event. What a crowd! I was running on the track above and was just amazed at the large number of adults and kids below! It was busy, busy! Good for Roc to try these new experiences J
Thanks again for taking the time to tell us about T’s great character- I’ll let T know his actions were noticed and appreciated by you.
Her response was more than I had hoped for.
There may always be kids who pick on the Roc. Hopefully, there will always be kids who will stand up for him too.