When my son was in 5th grade, he went through a rough patch socially. We had moved to a new house – which meant a new school for him, and there was one
douche-bag boy in particular who made his daily life difficult.
In an effort to try to deal with what my son was feeling, I created a little picture book with weird little drawings of a funky little creature named Shecky the Meckyl — who just so happened to be getting teased by some other “Meckyls.”
My son let me read it to him.
When I finished, I asked him what he thought about my book. He exhaled with the kind of exhaustion that seemed too dramatic for a 5th grader.
“I get it, Mom. I’m Shecky. And some day some people will appreciate me for who I am. I just have to wait it out.”
In hindsight, my son’s annoyed tone wasn’t inappropriate. I was trying to simplify a complex problem. I was telling him “Be Yourself!” when he knew all too well the person that he was — his core self — was being rejected daily. He felt attacked, defenseless, and friendless.
Over the weekend, we found the old manuscript in a bin.
He didn’t remember it, so we read it again.
I thought I would share it. It may not have worked in the moment, but it reminds me that the woes of youth are, in his case, quickly forgotten. And perhaps my little story might offer something else to someone who is going through a rough patch.
• • •
Shecky the Meckyl & His Technicolor Groove
Shecky the Meckyl had a technicolor groove
He’d leave colors in his wake whenever he’d move.
Sweet Shecky had colors where shadows should be
He made rainbows on sidewalks for Meckyls to see.
Shecky loved colors, as most people do,
But Meckyls turned up their noses and said, “PICKLE-POO!”
Which was not a nice thing for a Meckyl to say.
It made Shecky sad, and his colors turned gray.
Said one nasty Meckyl on one nasty day:
“We don’t like your colors; we don’t like your hues
We step in your shades, and get stains on our shoes!”
“You are too bright!” said this nasty fellow,
“Your pink is too pink, your yellow, too yellow!”
“Why don’t you keep all those shades deep inside?
Lock them up tight,”
And so . . . Shecky tried . . .
He held in the purple
He held in the green
He held in the fuschia
But once in a while some blue would appear
And the Meckyls would laugh as they though he was queer.
Shecky was puzzled as Meckyls could be
He missed the bright hues which had filled him with glee.
Shecky sat himself down on a cold piece of birch.
And his smile flew away alone in that prickle-perch.
He was sitting deserted on his bum in the street
When who do you think Shecky happened to meet . . .
But his friend Schmeckyl Meckyl who was out for a walk
And when he saw Shecky he stopped for a talk.
“Where are your colors, Shecky? Where did they go?
Can’t they come back, Shecky? Please make it so!”
Shecky answered sadly, a tear in his eye,
“Other Meckyls don’t like them, so why even try?”
“Don’t let those Jabber-Flabbers rain on your parade.
I like you, Shecky and all the colors you’ve made.”
“Please make a rainbow, you know what to do.
Those Meckyls are just cranky. Don’t let them change you!”
So Shecky straightened the glockins which grew from his bum,
He squeezed and he pushed and hoped they would come.
And it started to happen, as things frequently do,
Shecky smiled a smile, and his colors shone through!
With colors flip-flapping, once more Shecky was high,
Ready for anything under the sky.
Some Meckyls still look at Shecky with shlock in their eye,
But now Shecky is thankful he is a colorful guy.
My son doesn’t like to discuss 5th grade, and he rolls his eyes at me when I mention it. Meanwhile, I remain on amber alert.
Just because he is able to “straighten his glockins” and refuses to allow the “Mean Meckyls” of the world to be his undoing, I’m not so sure the same can be said of his mother.
What would you do if you found out your kid was a “Mean Meckyl”? When do you let kids fight their own battles? And when, if ever, do you move to intervene? And would you ever have your child call to apologize to another?
Oh my goodness. I would so read that to my little guy.
If I found out my kid was being the mean one I would definitely have a serious chat and get him to apologize. I once told a bully in the Kindergarten class I was teaching that she wasn’t going to have any friends when she grew up.
She cried. And then hugged me. Mean kids need to be told about their meanness. 🙂
[On the intervening note, I don’t yet know which mom I am going to be…I have a feeling I’ll have a hard time standing on the side if my kid is being picked on…]
Amber: You taught that little kindergartner a profound lesson. I think many teachers are oblivious to some of the cruelty that their students inflict on others. And much of it occurs when there is little supervision, during recess of lunch.
One of the hardest things about being a mother has been putting my child out there — this person who is my heart walking outside my body — and hoping that people adore him as much as I do. It doesn’t always go that way. And THAT is hard enough. But having him come home having bit hit or kicked… I have definitely intervened upon occasion.
I remember a day when my five-year-old son was invited for the first time to a classmate’s house. I was invited also, so most of the time the boys played while the moms chatted. The house, for me, was surprisingly super-organized and spotless, considering the mom had a Kindergartener, a three-year-old, and an infant. She had baked muffins and brewed coffee; she had plates and silverware laid out just so. So nice! I marvel! I privately feel like a stay-at-home mom failure!
Then, I see perfect mom’s boy haul out and punch my sweet boy in the head with a closed fist. Sweet boy comes to me crying, but I think he’s more surprised than hurt. I look over his head at my hostess, who leans towards me and whispers, “We’d rather have him (her son) be strong like that than have someone take advantage of him on the playground, right?” I felt like saying, “Sure! Let’s have him punch my kid again!”
That. Is. Awful. And it’s precisely the thing I’m talking about! Lots of people are PROUD when their kids are downright asshats. What’s wrong with people? (Or is it us?)
I still say that in the civilized world we have to agree that we are not going to hit each other. Or kick each other. We don’t have to always like each other BUT we have to be respectful of each other. I seriously don’t think people are teaching that anymore. Or they say it, but their actions undermine their words. And we all know that kids pick up on that stuff.
I only made one phone call when my daughter was in the 6th grade and it blew up on me, so I stayed out of all of their battles. I was just there to listen when they got home. However, these kids never laid a hand on my children. I encouraged them to laugh at themselves and not engage with bullies. They were lucky to make some great friends and survived all of it.
I love your book! The rainbow coming out of his butt is hilarious! I would think that would be a great one to get out there Renee!
Susie: What if kids HAD laid hands on your daughter? How far would you have let things go? Because that’s what I was dealing with. And it was awful.
Thanks for liking my self-help book. I thought he’d like the butt-rainbow, but it made him mad — at the time. Now he thinks it’s funny. You should see the illustrations. I couldn’t get the scanner to work. #Duh!
The most interesting thing to me (besides your great, great poem – it should be a book, Renee!) is that you were honest enough to admit the possibility that it might be your kid (or my kid) who IS the bully. I don’t think most people ever want to think that can happen.
We had a few little incidents in grade school, but not so many as to make life hell, as some children experience it. You do want to fight your kids’ battles, but you can’t and shouldn’t unless things are really bad, dangerous or other adults are involved.
I had to get involved because it was dangerous. The jerk who was bugging my kid kicked him so hard the nurse called me at work and told me to get to school ASAP. She thought he might have internal injuries. THAT was the first I learned of my son’s daily treatment in school, which had been well-documented by the school… however, they had never contacted me! (To be fair, they never contacted the parents of the bully either. You can imagine how surprised they were to learn that their sweet little darling was a “problem.”)
Because the bullying had been going on for so long and no one had done anything, my son became a bit of a target for a while. It was heart-breaking. Now he doesn’t like to talk about it much, and I’m just so grateful for the fabulous friends he has.
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Great work mama! I love the poem and I really admire how you handled this situation. As far as making my children apologize: damn straight. We’ve already helped my youngest son write apology notes or issue oral apologies to classmates (without being there to hold his hand) when he has misbehaved or mistreated other children. He is only 5, so these have not been serious situations. Still, it is necessary to teach the children how to apologize and take responsibility for their actions.
Sometimes I feel like it is my fault that my son is soft. I mean, I made him apologize to others. I made him behave. I didn’t let him hit. I taught hm to say please and thank you. I made him write thank you notes.
I seriously don’t feel like everyone does this. I feel like a lot of parents are so self-absorbed (or busy with other children) that they just kind of let things slide.
Is it possible to make someone too responsible? I occasionally wish my dude were a little more reckless. But he’s not hardwired that way.
Kudos to you for teaching your youngest to take responsibility for his actions. Just make sure that he isn’t the only one having to apologize. Sometimes it’s a two way street, you know?
My son is on the autism spectrum and early on in school he would scratch or pinch other kids when they were bothering him because he couldn’t use his words. Well, one day this boy in our neighborhood and he had an altercation and I had him apologize to the boy at the bus stop. After we got home, I thought to myself that the other mother did not do the same. So, I called and talked to her about it and she assured me that she would have her son apologize the next morning. Well, the next morning came and she informed me that she was not going to have her son apologize because he was just defending himself and that if my son can’t control himself then he doesn’t belong on the bus. I told her, “Well, my son has autism what’s your son’s excuse?” From that day forward I didn’t talk to the bitch because she clearly thought that her son was superior to mine. Let her walk a mile in my shoes and find out what it’s like to have a special needs child and to have to stick up for that child because lots of other children are not taught empathy by their parents. Thankfully today my son does much better, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to deal with schmucks at school — even other kids who have a disability.
Heather, this is so difficult. I can’t even imagine it — honestly. But as I said above, it seems like people aren’t teaching mutual respect. It would have been so easy for that other parent to say to her child: “Listen, you don’t have to like that kid, but he has some special needs; you need to be a little understanding towards him. And you need to apologize for provoking him. Do you think you may have done some things to provoke him?”
How hard would that have been? Really?
And for her to suggest that your son shouldn’t ride the bus? Seriously? Let that mother drive her own kid to school if he can’t be nice.
My son was bullied. He is an Aspie (has Asperger’s syndrome) and was picked on for his oddidies throughout elementary school. If/when someone bullied him I would get all “mother bear” (I am good at that) and call the school about the incident. They would get to the bottom of it and talk to the boys involved. Because my son is very “touchy” (literally) one boy called him a “fag” … I, of course, called the school about it.. and agian they discussed it with all involved. I believe the child apologized to him at the time… but I never heard anything from his mother (she was our bus driver and not a very pleasant woman). Hm. Now he is in middle school and he says “MOM! When I am at school I try not act like I have Asperger’s!” … wow. and if I say, “Fix your hair, its sticking up, you don’t want any kids to make fun of you.” he states, “No one ever says anything to me!” So no one bullies him in middle school… yet does anyone even pay attention to him at all? Hm.
Kelly: This is so hard. We want to protect our children, but then we end up saying things that can inadvertently make them self-conscious. I make sure that my son doesn’t pull his pants up to his nipples like a 95-year old Jewish man because I don’t want him to get teased. So, like you, I’ll say: “Pull your pants down a bit! You look like you are channeling my Great Uncle Ben!” But then I’ll realize that in saying that I might be causing more harm by doing that. These days, I try to keep my Mama Bear in check. But she does rear her ugly paws once in a while.
Which is worse? Being picked on or ignored? Hmmm. Food for thought.
Oh, and I love your story poem. It is awesome… I would love to see it published… you need to get a very colorful/creative artist to draw the pictures!
Actually, I illustrated the book. If I could have figured out how to show some of the pictures, I would have. My scanner was down. I can’t imagine ever getting this published. I wrote it in 20 minutes. *said the girl who has been slaving away at her manuscript for 8 years* It would be the ultimate irony if this were published before my actual manuscript.
You should try and publish it–it is fantastic. I’d read it to my kids! My son is extremely sensitive, to the point where sometimes he can be an easier target. He does get made fun of sometimes, but I haven’t had to deal with anything like you’ve mentioned (yet).
Darla: May you never have to deal with this stuff. Tech Support has dealt with things pretty well over the last few year. Thankfully, there have been very few incidents and he is learning how to deal with things with greater confidence as he gets older.
Cool Post. I liked it!
Great story…very Suess-esque. I don’t have kids, so I don’t know what I would do if I found out my kids were bullies. I’d try to instill values in them that would prevent them from being that way, and I guess if I found out they were I would have to have a discussion about the causes behind why they were acting the way they were.
I’ve been on the receiving end of bullying myself, being a nerdy and bookish type. And I was bullied in the work place to some extent (but then I wasn’t the one most targeted…he was a bit intimidated by me, for whatever reason) It can linger with you, if you let it. I’ve heard of people who never really recover from it. Thinking it just depends on the person.
In the end, only so much can be done to curb bullying. We as a people must be mindful of the traits that bullys exhibit, both in school and in the work place, and have the courage to stand up to them when we are able to and it is appropriate to do so.
I know people who have been wrecked by bullying and I know quite a few others who have gone the other way. They have become super-achievers in their chosen fields. So now they get lots of praise for what they do, but all would say it impacted interpersonal relationships and created trust issues. I honestly don’t know how I gave birth to Ghandi. I was a fighter.
The other day I was turning the tv to a channel for my 6 yr old son and when i changed it to treehouse tv he said mom no everyone will think i am a baby… I asked him if he thought he was a baby and he said yes, i then said to him ok if your a baby i guess i better buy some bottles and diapers and a crib and oh we need to change your bum… He looked at me and said “mom i am not a baby like that” so i said to him well a baby can’t talk, can’t walk, or do anything for themselves so if your not a baby what are you?. He told me he was a big boy. I said to him then what does it matter what shows you like?. He said the other kids will think i am a baby!. I stated to him if you like the show and the channel does it matter what they think?. He sat for a while and finally stated to me that no it didn’t matter as long as he liked it. Then i looked at him and asked him do i look like a baby? He laughed and said no mommy your silly. I then said to him well i watch the shows on treehouse with you sometimes right?. He answered yes. So i said well i guess i am a baby and you have to change my bum because i like watching treehouse with you and he laughed. Told me i was silly and then i said now don’t those kids sound a little silly for judging what you watch. And he said Yes.
That’s a sweet story. I hope you always have easy chats with your guy. The conversations become more complicated when your child’s peers are actually physically harming your child.
I loved your story! I would buy the hardcover picture book for my daughters and wish that I had it when I was teaching 1st and 2nd grade 🙂
And good for those parents for taking responsibility and making efforts to try to repair – not at all easy to do but so very, very important for everyone involved.
Hilary! Thank you for your kind words. Maybe I should be more serious about trying to get my little story out there. Hmmm. I had hoped it might be a good teaching tool, but sometimes things that work in classrooms don’t work with our own kids.
I was so happy when those parents had their children accept responsibility. It meant the world. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
Are you sure your last name is isn’t Seuss? I got a bit teary-eyed reading your poem. I HATE the behavior of mean kids. Both of my daughters had experiences with being picked on when we moved. Luckily, because I taught in the school system where they attended, my speaking to the teacher and principal stopped the problem. If I found out that one of my daughters was being the meanie, I would definitely call them out on it and make them apologize to anyone that they had hurt. Luckily, both of my girls were the kind, quiet, well-behaved at school types. They grew up hearing my war stories about kids at school who misbehaved, so they knew better than to act like that!
Hi Sprinkles! How are you stranger? I hate mean kids. Katie Sluiter wrote an amazing post today about the new movie BULLY. If you don’t follow her, check out Sluiter Nation or just click on this link: http://borderlessnewsandviews.com/2012/04/bullying-not-just-a-lesson-for-kids/
What a great story! I worry that my daughter will either be bullied or become a bully. I’m not sure which worries me more. I truly hope that by teaching her to love herself and respect others, neither situation will affect her. I’m not sure that such “logic” makes sense. I did teach her to sing Melanie Doane’s “Goliath” when she needs to remind herself that she is strong.
Hi Patricia: Sounds like you have a young’un. I think that Katie Sluiter was onto something in her post a few days ago. (See above for the link.) She said many adults/parents are inadvertently aggressive and, as a result, they unintentionally teach their children to be bullies because of their actions speak louder than their words. So even if we say: “Be nice.” If we sit on our cars and scream expletives at other drivers, our kids pick up on that disconnect. Super interesting. And it means parents need to take responsibility for their children’s behavior to a certain extent. And this makes sense to me. The parents who came forward and apologized were modeling an amazing lesson for their children. The others? Who let things slide? I have to admit, I have less respect for those folks.
By the time my son gets to high school, I would not expect parents to intervene. Our kids have to figure things out by then. BUT if some parent KNEW his or her child was perpetrating viciousness, I’d always admire the parent who called the family of the victim and apologized. We might not be able to control our kids by then, but we can still express our own remorse.
You definitely have talent writing and expressing your feelings. I was quite moved. I hope and pray that all children who have been bullied has the strength and support of loved ones. It’s tough growing up! But in the end it makes your child stronger, more loving, and more understanding. I will be very interested to hear about him in 2o years and see what he accomplished. I bet it will be alot.
I have no doubt that Tech Support will turn out just fine. The middle years are taking more of a toll on his momma than they are on him! 😉
Move over Dr Seuss 😉 xxxr
When my beautiful daughter, adopted from Guatemala, was on the track team in middle school, the girls decided everyone needed nicknames. Hers was “Blacky” which she’d written on her notebooks, etc. When I questioned her, she said it didn’t bother her. I sneakily asked a friend on the team why this name (we live in a pretty white suburb) and she said, “because she has black hair”. Yeah, right. Here’s the best part: I called the coach, who turned out to be a lunkhead, and explained my concern. Daughter comes home next afternoon and says, “Mom! The coach said,’you have to stop calling Emily Blacky. HER MOTHER FINDS IT OFFENSIVE’ . Why did you do that, Mom??”
Not handled very well by idiot coach but she had a new nickname the next day.
Renee, you must publish this children’s book! I taught kindergarten and it is perfect for young children!! Good post–thanks.
Erm: Based on all the wonderful feedback here, I am actually considering self-publishing this. I am considering doing the artwork myself and offering it as a free download. Honestly, it would be fun to do, and if it could help people… well, honestly, what would be a better legacy? Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.
Just another thought: how about students creating the artwork?
It is definitely a thought, but since I do paint, I actually thought it would be really fun. Plus, I HAD originally illustrated it.
It could be really cool to get kids involved though. I have asked two cousins of mine to do drawings. We’ll see if they come through! It would be fun to make it a family affair. 😉
I love this. I think it is even sweeter that you wrote it for your son.
Thank you. I know that it is longer than 500 words, but it seemed fitting. And believe it or not that 5th grader will soon be in high school! Gah! time really flies when you are blogging!
This should be published! I’m going to read it to my son who is in fifth grade now and having a hard time. Thanks!
I’m sorry to hear that your son is having a rough time. I think 5th grade is really hard. If it helps, my dude is almost 14 now, and he has totally found his way. He has a great group of friends, and he is very proud of his academics. He will never be a “ball boy” but he has found his niche. He started fencing, and those kids and the coaches are truly wonderful. He is still the same person, but he is stronger. I hope you are okay. It is awful to sit back and release your most beloved person into the world and not have him be received with love.
This is just wonderful. I’d love to see it put together and illustrated! Becase seeing our kids’ colors is something we all want to be ok and accepted.
You know, a lot of people have told me to illustrate it. I don’t know. It seems like it would be too close to the Dr. Seuss stuff to really do it. But I do secretly love the idea. 🙂
This is very reminiscent of Seuss. What a great mom to write a story about the bullying. Katie atBankerchick Scratchings
What a sweet story! Hard for a kid to really appreciate that kind of thing sans eye roll at that age, but it’s great that you hung onto it; I bet he’ll like having it down the road.