A few months ago, I sent an emergency message out to my friends in Yilan about finding a therapist for my daughter. She had been bullied for almost a year by a girl in her class. No teacher or parent was doing anything, so the only thing we could do was minimize the damage, help Z process. I could tell one day of the gravity of the distress of her being, after a talk we had. She confirmed my intuitions and answered me with this subterranean, inarticulate guttural, cry, that she was starting to slip into a dark place. A mom can read the different cries of her child, this soul language, and know the intensity of her despair.
Honestly, I should have got my Z in therapy earlier to process her grief over the death of my niece, her closest cousin that happened over CNY. (She has reoccurring nightmares of her cousin's murder.) I had put it off, but not anymore.
|My daughter in our neighbor's tea terrace|
This isn't the first time my kid has been targeted. Mean girls seem to enjoy targeting my Z (kindergarten and grade 3). Its been a lesson in resilience for both of us, mostly her. In a homogenous society that does little to educate its populace on inclusionism or face its own racism, its no surprise, she's an easy target. Also, teachers bullying students is perfectly acceptable, so of course some kids have no problem following suit. The only way anything changes around here is someone gets caught on tape and its aired on the local TV "news".
About a year ago, I actually invited myself for tea over the bully's mom's house in an attempt to nonchalantly drop the message of her daughter's change in behavior (they were friends before.) Unlike her classmates, my kid comes home and tells me every detail of her day, the good and bad. This mom had no idea how many times her daughter had burst into tears that week- I knew more about it than she did. Her mom was kind, well mannered, and promised to talk to her daughter. Well, there was ultimately no change in her kid's behavior.
Then about a month or two ago this girl "accidentally" hit my daughter and for me that was the last straw. Tiger mom claws coming out. I feel like my kid and I had been overwhelmingly patient and long-suffering. I messaged her mom and teacher that enough is enough, this girl's verbal abuse has escalated to physical because there is absolutely zero consequences for her behavior. The mom wasn't soft spoken and nice anymore. In fact, she must have been gossiping with the teacher because she asked me,"why had Z gone to so many schools before?"- implying Z is the problem- as if my change in jobs or moving to Yilan were any of her business.
This bully already has a reputation among the classmates of being "nuts" and emotionally unstable, so my daughter isn't the only one (though she is the main target), yet I am the only parent to put my foot down. Whatever, I am THAT mom, no use being someone else.
I demanded a meeting. Everyone, including myself, was calm-but I was frank (her mom wasn't there). I have over a year, tried the Taiwanese way of dropping hints, waiting for adults to do something, indirectly communicating. I had to reassure her teacher that I didn't dislike her (she took everything personally), I liked how she let the kids work things out, but in this case, she actually has to tell this girl to stop- a long time ago. I suggested to the group this disturbed girl needed to see a professional. It's no exaggeration, a recent study showed that 30% of Taiwanese students have some kind of mental disorder that requires professional intervention. They chuckled.
One positive manifestation of this bitter experience is my kid just puts her nose to the grind in terms of academics and is 2nd in her class, the only girl in the top 3. Her Chinese is better than her classmates. After my meeting, their teacher finally told the girl she had to be civil with my kid and the girl actually improved (if only she could have done this a year ago.). The girl had a few setbacks as to be expected, and their teacher took time to talk to her alone after each episode- so progress. Who knows what's [not] going on at home?
A not so positive manifestation is my kid in trying to defend her person-hood, existence in that space, she has begun to "roast", insult her bully or anyone who gangs up on her (as they do because its all herd mentality and Z will call them, "Sheep."). I told her teachers and principals at the meeting (before they brought it up) I knew about it, because she tells me what she says. I reassured them that I am not supporting Z's retorts and insults, but I did say it was a survival mechanism. I tell Z the old, "Two wrongs don't make a right" (以牙還牙是不可取的) spiel my folks told me (she doesn't buy it). Its hard enough for me or any adult, let alone a kid, to navigate that fine line of protecting your boundaries and not become a jerk like a bully. I really think a good old fashioned school yard fist fight would resolve the pecking order and said as much in the meeting. Let's tell the mom, make a date and time, serve coffee, bring some lawn chairs and get it over with so we could move on. Ok that's a personal fantasy, but what I do encourage my kid on a practical level is to instead of roasting her enemy be overly kind, use her fantastic humor. She says she doesn't want to waste her jokes on "them" but really I believe she can use her talent by making a room laugh and take her power back in a positive way. I will forever encourage her wit over insulting others, even if they started it.
This week, my kid and I are feeling some small vindication. The girl bully in Z's class finally got caught on tape a few days ago- undeniable, irrefutable evidence that we are not exaggerating and this is no "accident". Her mom was quite ugly to me when I told her last time (the 2nd time) that her kid hit mine (as well of the daily microaggressions of verbal abuse that Z endured for over a year). I made it clear to her principals and teacher should this happen again, Z has the right to defend herself without fear of penalty. I just want to make sure with her mom the point again because this disturbed girl needs a serious ass kicking. Kudos to my kid for having self-control and patience. I am seriously thinking of sending the psychologist bill to her mom. Also, kudos to myself because I have been extremely patient with this mom and culture of denial and kudos to her teacher for taking the time to check out the security camera tape, she didn't have to.
Z's therapist is quite the blessing. My coworker's wife homeschools and this therapist is in her homeschooling group, so she not wanting her kids in the Taiwanese school system is a positive indication to me. Her training, style is EMDR, which is excellent for children suffering PTSD and the loss of a loved one. Also since we can't meet during normal working hours M-F because Z's at school and I'm working, she meets Z on Sunday morning. It ain't cheap, but Z is over the moon so I am too.
I had a couple of Facebook friends send me this and everything he said about power and being resilient and not showing the bully you are upset is everything my kid has done. But her bully did not stop, this guy is wrong if he thinks it will stop all bullies. Z won't show her bully she's hurt, she comes home and tells me and cries with me. In my opinion the only thing to stop Z's bully is either her parents investing in counseling or an old school ass kicking at recess.
Some of my friends suggested other therapists in the Yilan area:
- Near YiLan university is a quite famous, male counselor 王意中
- Lynn is an American married to a Taiwanese TCM Dr. She does sand art therapy.
- Wenhsiung is Taiwanese married to a German, she lived in Germany a long time and speaks excellent English. She helped my friend's son.