Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Adoption”

We Have Learned Nothing Since The Story Of Ryan Halligan

Every year, the school district that my children attend, invite a gentleman to give an assembly to the many schools and parents on the awareness and dangers of bullying.

John Halligan and his wife’s worst nightmares were realized when their son chose to end his life at the age of 13, in 2003, after relentless bullying, both on line, and in person.

As a child, I myself was bullied relentlessly, daily during my elementary and junior high school days.  To this day, over forty years later, I still have no idea why.  I know I was short.  Shy.  Introverted.  But I was an easy target because I was also known to not defend myself in a fight.  I had been taught to turn the other cheek and walk away.  My reward for taking the high road was usually a hit in the back of the head.  I believe the only thing in my favor, was that the internet did not exist back in the 1970’s.  Having no adults to support me, or defend me, had the internet been available, I probably would have found others in my similar situation, and they… may have had a solution for me.

In my adult life, I was involved as a youth leader with high school and middle school aged kids.  Dealing with bullying, accidental deaths, and of course suicide was not an uncommon situation.  Someone in my group would always know someone who was battling a difficult situation.  It is a shame, since the day I started college, and wrote my first piece on teenage suicide in America, things have not gotten better in over 30 years, which I definitely attribute to the internet and social media.

I got to meet Mr. Halligan several years ago, when I was campaigning for school board of my children’s school district.  One of my campaign issues was safe schools, definitely an anti-bullying platform.  Ironically, the current school board was often used as an example of bullying for tactics used during meetings.  At the same time, I volunteered as a parent rep for a pilot program, called Olweus which was a multi-level bully prevention program.  This program would consist of several layers from staff to parents, and several steps to handle bullying as close to when it starts as possible, even prevention.

For the year that it started, there was a lot of excitement for the Olweus anti-bullying program.  But there was also a lot of work, expenses, and cynicism.  Teachers already had a lot on their plates between lessons and testing as well as other support they provided for their students.  In order for the program to be successful, that meant that all the elements of the program needed to be kept up to date, and that would cost money.  And the cynics would play their part, the only purpose of the anti-bullying program was for the district to look like it was trying to do something.    Now, the program is gone in less than four years.

My daughters have another five years of school left.  And I am sure bullying will not go away on its own, just as I sure that school districts will continue to turn the other cheek, protect the rights of the bully over the rights of the victim.  Yes, both are entitled to a safe and free education, but that does not give the right to ignore the horrendous and terrifying bullying that millions of children must put up with.

Even when a parent tries to do something on their own to prove bullying is occurring, such as Sarah Sims of Norfolk, VA, who actually placed a recording device in her elementary school-aged daughter’s backpack, to capture proof of the bullying.  Unfortunately, the device was not able to do so, which it most certainly would have, because it was confiscated by the school.  And not only was it taken away, but then the mother was charged by police with a felony, (punishable up to 5 years in prison) for intercepting wire, electronic or oral communications, along with… get this… contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  THE MOTHER WAS TRYING TO PROTECT HER DAUGHTER!!!!  The charges have since been dropped.  But this is a glaring example of how school districts lack any balls to protect the victims of bullying over concerns of lawsuits by parents of the perpetrators.  School districts do not want proof of bullying, so that they can claim it is not an issue in their school.  Two other students over the last few weeks ended up with similar and tragic conclusions.*

Bullies of 13 year-old Rosalie Avila of California evidently feel that it was not enough to drive the child to suicide, but continue to harass the family of Rosalie with such an ugly post, “‘Hey mom. Next time don’t tuck me in this,’  (a bed). ‘Tuck me in THIS,’ (a grave).  Her diary pointed to endless ridicule about her appearance.  As of this posting, Rosalie remains on life support.  The bullies… remain in school.*

Ashawnty Davis was a 10 year-old 5th grader in an elementary school in Colorado.  She hung herself.  She chose to confront her bully, which resulted in a fight, which was videoed, then shared on social media.  Of course the school district made sure they were in the clear, stating that the fight did not occur during school hours.  Great, glad to know that you (the school district) did all you could to prevent this tragedy from happening.*

Bullying has gone on from decades.  Through my entire elementary and junior high school education, I was bullied.  To this day, I still do not know why.  As a candidate for school board, one of my top priorities was to take bullying in school head on.  And the attitudes of school districts continue, both bully and victim have a right to education.

How many more children will die because no one wants to take responsibility for their roles, schools and parents?  And if bullying is going to be treated as a right to the perpetrator, then what can be done for the rights of the victim?

Here is what you can do in the mean time.  If your child is bullied, report it to the police.  It is then dealt with as a civil matter, not a school matter.  And then, the bully, and their parents, will still have their rights to education, but will also be held accountable for taking away the rights of another student just trying to learn.

*these paragraphs were documented from the web site “The Raw Story”, though they were also available on numerous other web sites as well.


Parenting Made Too Easy

I have always thought of myself as the stricter parent.  As many parents may have stated themselves, “I have plenty of time to be your friend, right now, I have to teach you life, responsibility, decisions and consequences, etc.  I have not been robotic about it, and my daughters over their lifetimes have experienced way more fun times and memories than when they have seen me strict.

But there are times, when, even unintentional, my “strictness” would appear without even an effort on my part.  Years ago, I believe my oldest daughter was around 3 years of age.  I had seen her sitting on the lower steps of our stairwell inside the house.  When I asked her why she was sitting there, silently, hands folded and bored, she responded, “I’m in timeout.”

Had I had a liquid in my mouth, it would have come spewing out at that moment.  Though I asked her why she was in timeout, I cannot recall what her reason was, because it was when I asked how long her mother had put her in timeout, she responded, “I put myself in timeout.”

I want to state, I am not a big believer in timeouts, and even less on spankings and such.  But clearly, the few times that timeouts had been implemented, had made an impact.  And then I told her to take herself out of timeout, that only parents get to put their children in timeout.  And I gave her a hug for being just so cute.

Over the years, I took a lot of great care and attention, to make sure that my daughters knew actions, consequences, and impact as they grew older.  Lessons in life for the most part, have turned to their education.  After all, if you are reading this, chances are you were impacted not by what you learned, but how.  On average, grades for my daughters are generally good.  I know they are good students.  They are not perfect, and when they come home with a grade, lower than they are accustomed to, they know what will follow.

“Did you not understand what you were being asked?”

“Did you try your best?”

“Did you study enough?”  And so on.

Usually, these are short conversations.  And has occasionally happened, some of the lower grades ended up being dealt with through the teachers due to ambiguity.  And then there is this conversation with my teenager:

“I don’t think I did not do well on my science test.”

“How come?”

“I didn’t study enough.”  Now, I want to clarify this.  She did study, just what she thought would be on the test, not the entire chapter.  The entire chapter ended up being on the test.  “I know differently now, I need to study harder, and everything.”

My daughters keep doing it to me.  They make the mistake, and recognize and correct it on their own.  I could not be any more proud of them.

We Must Fight Against Racism And Bigotry

A fried of mine posted something on her Facebook wall this morning, which struck a personal tone with me.  I asked her if she would mind if I shared her words on my blog.  As you read through her thoughts today, you will understand why this is so important.

I am keeping my friend anonymous, though I will tell you, she is a very strong person, inside and out.  She has no problem speaking her mind.  She is a fellow Hodgkin’s survivor like me, so I will tell you, she knows how to fight.  She is also Chinese, a mother, and a wife.  She is also a citizen of the United States.

“The first time I was called a Chink.

I didn’t even know I was called that until couple of years later – after I had learned enough English to really comprehend what had transpired.

It happened when I was 12.5 years old. I had just immigrated to the US weeks earlier with my parents and brother. I didn’t know a lick of English, not even the letters of the alphabet. One day during recess, a white girl in my 6th grade class gave me a folded written note and snickered while putting it in my hand. A white boy nearby gave her a puzzled and then disgusted look; I guess he knew what she is and what she was capable of doing. I vividly remember both of their facial expressions from that day.

Naively, I took the folded up paper and kept it, thinking it was a gesture of friendliness. I wanted to keep it and read it when I have learned some English.

Months and years went by before I came upon the box of folded up notes from various classmates. I grew sad when reading that white girl’s note, the sadness turned into a mix of sadness, confusion, and anger.

She had the guts to sign her name on the note, to make sure I knew it was from her. We were now in middle school, and she was now BFF with someone who I considered a very good friend. I told this other white friend about the note, but she brushed it aside and said something to the effect of “she was young and probably didn’t mean to say that, and probably didn’t mean anything by it.”

Whether Sarah McF. meant it or not, she did write the note and called me that racial epithet, and I hold her responsible.”

My heart broke for my friend.  I thought back to my childhood, and how, even though I am Caucasian, I also happen to have “almond eyes” which is a common trait among the Asian population.  All through elementary school, I had been called “chink” because of my Chinese appearance.  And I knew the kids were being malicious about it.

But as a parent, when I made the decision to adopt, and chose China, there were preparations and education to be completed to help adjust to life as a bi-racial family.  For the most part, given the school district I lived in, which happened to be so diverse, I thought the issue of race would only come up as an adult for her, in regard to dating, if at all.

Instead, one afternoon, my daughter, age 10 at the time, exited the bus and told me that the bus driver wanted to talk to me.  He told me that my daughter had given a boy a bloody nose.  The driver also acknowledged that everything had been resolved.  Though I had several concerns.

I had been campaigning for school board, and one of my platforms was dealing with bullying.  Though my wife (at the time) objected, I insisted that steps had to be followed through with the school, and if necessary, discipline to be administered, for what had happened.  Yes, I was selling out my daughter.  But I was not about to be a hypocrite and definitely not a “not my kid” parent.  What she did was wrong.  That is, until I heard from her, why it happened.

Both of my daughters are of Chinese ethnicity, and they are proud of their heritage.  And on that particular day, a mean-spirited boy, decided to make a negative comment about China to my daughter, and she let him have it with a closed straight fist to the nose.

As a former victim of bullying in school myself, I have always told my daughters that I will always stand behind them if they defend themselves, no matter how.  They are forbidden from striking the first blow or insult.  But they may respond however they see fit and I will stand by them.

We are in 2017, not the 1950’s.  And having been born in the 1960’s, I have no problem saying that anyone from my generation, if they use bigoted language or participate in any form of racial acts of hatred, it is because they have been taught.  Perhaps my parents’ generation may have been exposed enough to the racial hatred to have accepted that way of life, but no one, no one from my generation should be accepting of that behavior.

Yet, here we are, in 2017, and racism and bigotry is still going strong.  And while the current government administration is not helping, and quite possible enabling the increase of racial tensions, the fact is, racism and bigotry has been around for decades no matter who has been in government.  But definitely what does not help, is enacting laws that are based solely on ethnicity, especially as one being pursued that is part of a ban of a certain culture, but written in such a way that it affects “naturalized” citizens – in other words, children born elsewhere, but citizens of the United States, like my daughters.  A law such as was attempted to be enacted recently, definitely would have had a negative impact on bringing our country together, and in fact, making our citizens of various cultures, at an increased risk of harassment, discrimination, and bigotry.

Comedian Dennis Leary quipped, ““Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.”

I was hoping for better as we continued into the 21st century, instead we are going backward.  We are going backward because many believe that they now have a legitimacy having been given a voice.  We are going backward because so many still do not take a stand against racism.  We are going backward because this behavior is being accepted.

The fact is, whether it happened to people back then, or happens to them now, these verbal and physical wounds last forever.  They have a permanent impact on people.  We, the United States, are better than that.

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