September 1, 2009

Not so

Well, I knew there would come a time when someone would be mean to Hannah. Everybody gets their feelings hurt on occasion. It's bound to happen.

Today was Hannah's day.

I don't have all the details, because Hannah couldn't or wouldn't explain very much about the situation.

We went to the gym this morning for the first time in many weeks (travel, guests, my back injury). There is a Kids Zone at the gym, and Hannah usually hangs out in the habitrail tunnel climbing thingy and stakes out an upper corner where she gets a good view of whatever DVD is playing. There are many activities for the kids, generally divided by age grouping, but she usually prefers to get in some free screen time in the big room. She stays in the kids' area while I do my cardio, then I usually have her join me for the weight machines. She likes to do the stationary bike (very slowly).

Today there were many many kids--it's only one week away from public school starting and I think the parents are starting to get antsy and want to get some space! The bigger kids were in the kids' gym playing games, but Hannah chose to stay in the main play room with the younger kids.

When I went back to get Hannah, I couldn't see her in the crowd, nor up in her regular crow's nest perch. The workers called out for her, and found her in the depths of the tunnel labyrinth. I could tell that she had not had much fun.

When we went into the locker room, I asked her what was wrong. Her glasses were filmy with dried tears.

She said, "They called me an Alien. They said I was an Alien. I'm NOT an Alien." Then she cried.
I tried to find out if the kids were playing outer space or something, but apparently not.

From what I can piece together, there were a couple of boys, probably around 6 or 7 years old, who decided to harrass her. They repeatedly called her an Alien. Of course, the first thing I thought was that it was their way of describing how she is different. But I don't know that. It could be that they were playing Buzz Lightyear. She said, "No, they weren't playing. They were being bad."

I guess it's time to start working on come-backs so she has a script to use in cases like these. We usually do role playing--lately we've been working on getting her to recognize when someone is playfully teasing, and what an appropriate response should be. We'll have to broaden that to include ignoring people who are rude and mean.

We left the locker room, and went out to the pool. It's been chilly the past few days, so I let Hannah take a dip at the gym instead of freezing at the neighborhood pool. (I am so dang nice like that.)

Right after she got in the pool, a girl about her age swam up and wanted to play with her. They played together happily for nearly an hour! It was just the remedy we both needed. It also didn't hurt that I witnessed Hannah win an informal swimming race, fair and square.

Tonight we talked about what to say and do when someone is bothersome. We'll keep working on it. Hopefully the next time she feels marginalized she'll have a way to stand up for herself a little more. I considered telling her that she could respond by saying that she was a legal US citizen, but what are the chances that someone else will call her an Alien???


mauimom said...

I love your sense of humor!

Tina said...

I'm so sorry to hear that Hannah had to go through this, children can be cruel sometimes, whether intentional or not. I know its something that can happen to any child and I fear the day when it happens to either on my kids but especially Saira, as it would probably be harder for her to understand such a situtation, I am just dreading the thought of anyone being mean and cruel to Saira, but unfortunately I know that I can't prevend and protect her from all situations, and that day will come. What you are doing is great, in that you have prepared Hannah in how to deal with different situations I will definately try and do the same when the time comes, although I can't even think of how to prepare a child for such eventualities.
Hope Hannah is doing o.k. again and the horrible incident is just a distant memory now.

Anonymous said...

Beth, I am so impressed with your clarity and logic. I'm also impressed with the idea of role playing to help Hannah learn self-coping skills in a situation like that.

It's funny how some things get even out -- like Hannah's new swimming partner. What a great way to end the gym visit!

Charissa said...

Some kids were harrassing my kindergartner for a month on the school bus before I ever knew anything about it about his warts! It was really really hurtful to him but for some reason he couldn't tell me about it. :( I'm glad Hannah can talk to you about these things. One tip I read recently about bullying is this: If you get upset, they win. Maybe that is something she can keep in mind if there is a next time. :( I'm sorry Hannah. You are a beautiful girl.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for Hannah. It is never fun to have that happen. I like the role playing idea. Sawyer had that happen (he was four) and some bully started trying to 'scare' him. Funny thing, he just ignored the guy and was playing. The guy kept getting more bold until he was ready to push Sawyer down the slide. My daughter (also 4) stood between the guy and Sawyer. The guy was a good 25 pounds bigger than she. He backed off. Meanwhile, bully's mom just stood around like nothing was going on. I was ready to clobber someone. My husband pulled me away before I did.


Brandie said...

What a tough situation for her. My 10 yo has a hard time distinguishing when someone is just being curious or playful and when they are truly being malicious. She is very sensitive and we've had to work with her on reading people. I think she gets it from me.

Beverly said...

Wow, just stinks how people can be so mean. Sorry Hannah had to go through this. Loved your come back at the end of the post!

Julia said...

We did a lot of role playing with Stephen last year before he started kindergarten. He's short, so I'd call out, "Hey, shrimp!" It took a while for him to learn to respond, "Heya, lobster!" Boy was that time well spent! Wish I'd done it with my over-sensitive girl.

We have a good book called Stick and Stones that goes through various anti-bullying techniques to teach kids. One of our favorites is "you might be right". No matter what someone calls you, you reply, "Yep, you might be right!" I've seen this in action, and it makes the name calling game boring pretty fast.

FWIW (and hugs to Hannah and you!)
Anyway, sorry for Hannah.

Sheena said...

Kids ARE mean man...

I was once called an alien too for having red hair!!!

I said, "Shhh... don't tell anyone!"


Natalie said...

UGH! I know kids are mean, but UGH! It makes me so sad. And you are a much better grown up than me. I would have gone back in there like a nut and probably said something nasty to the offenders. But then again, I'm a jackass. I'm glad to know you're not one, too!

Monica said...

Very sorry this happened to Hannah!! But I love how then she had such a great time in the pool with such a kind girl!!

I'm still chuckling over Legal US citizen!! I so know what I'm gonna say if anyone calls me an alien :)

datri said...

I hate having to deal with situations like this (hasn't happened with my younger daughter with DS, but happens often with my 8 year old with autism). Role playing is a great idea. We also use social stories.