The Trio of Trouble
Sadly, an Apraxia Adventure doesn't only consist of endless hours or speech therapy and mispronouncing words, it has its bullies. I'd be a liar if I claimed that the bullying wasn't awful. If I pinpointed my worst, defeating Apraxia moments-it's definitely the bullies.
Desperate for social interaction, I would accept any sort of treatment not knowing that I deserved to associate myself with those who cared about me. If only I knew this at seven, right? One day, when these boys decided to speak to me, I was actually naive enough to assume these kids wanted to be my friends.
Sitting at the jungle-gym on the bottom rung, I waited for an available, nearby swing.
As I was waiting, the Trio of Trouble quit playing their basketball game nearby and approached me. There was a tall, skinny boy, a medium, thick-boned boy, and the shortest, athletic-built boy with freckles all over.
Approaching me in a pack, they began conversing:
The shortest boy, the leader of the pack, asked me, "Hey, what's up?"
I hesitantly replied, "Nothing, just waiting for the swings."
I couldn't believe they were talking to me! They never spoken to me before and they were popular too. Maybe they'll be nice...
The tall skinny one, retorted, "Aw, she's waiting 'fah' the swings."
The group laughed.
Remember, I did not hear my speech mispronunciations and I completely misunderstood this joke.
Well at least they were talking to me, right?
Somehow this conversation progressed to the boys asking me to say certain words, the medium sized boy would say, "Hey, can she say 'rabbit?'"
I distinctly remember him talking about me in the 3rd person in front of my face.
The short leader would ask me, "Yeah, say 'Rabbit."
I'd say it.
In the moment, I did not realize this was bullying. Embarrassment, irritation, and annoyance overwhelmed me. The concept of 'bullying' never crossed my mind, nor did I know the term. In my eyes, these boys were just annoying, cootie-contaminated boys. But, at least they were talking to me.
These conversations continued for days, perhaps even weeks. They would randomly approach me and ask me to say certain words and annoy me. I eventually caught on and thought of different strategies to avoid it.
They'd ask me to say a certain word and I'd usually respond in various ways: I'd ask them "Why? You talk just fine," I'd bite my tongue and ignore them, or (my favorite) I'd say a synonym for their desired word that did not consist of an R. For example, if they asked me to say, "car," then I'd say "vehicle."
Sometimes, even on the swing, they'd yell at me from down below and ask for me to say "Rose," "Rabbit," and any R-word in existence. Discovering my last name has an R in it, they began remarking and laughing, "You can't even say your last name correctly!"
I should have told a teacher or even my parents for that matter, but as a kid there's nothing worse than being a snitch or a tattle-tale. I'd rather be bullied than snitch. Perhaps that's my stubbornness though.
The trio laughed and I was furious. I did not know what 'retard' meant, but I knew it wasn't nice. I knew that I could climb that jungle-gym and I knew that if I did, they'd leave me alone. I had never climbed it before, but why couldn't I?
I retorted, "Hey! I can climb that!"
I stopped swinging and walked over to the enormous, metal jungle-gym. I stared upwards and it was gigantic. I stepped inside the dome so I'd have a straight vertical ladder to climb. The boys were saying comments, I'm not sure what exactly. My pure anxiety to prove them wrong consumed me as my heart was beating rapidly, all outside talk was completely mute.
Arm, Leg, Arm, Leg.
My breathing was heavy as I climbed higher. I made it to the top and I was on top of the world. I had never climbed to the tippity-top. But I did it, I finally did something all the other kids did!
I turned around to tell these boys, "Look! I did-"
They were gone.
They ran towards the basketball courts and my accomplishment went unrecognized. I also realized, I had no idea how to climb back down.
I panicked and my hands were sweating, then my feet slipped off the rungs. I lost my grip and I fell. I had my right arm extended outwards to try to grab something on the way down, but no luck. My arm, close to my elbow, banged every single rung until I hit the bottom in the sand.
The planet was spinning, my body in shock. The trio of boys who challenged me to climb this concoction weren't there. None of the other students who saw me fall even helped me up.
A teacher eventually helped me up after I screamed loudly in pain. I remember walking back with her with everything being so fuzzy and I couldn't feel my arm.
It was clear I broke it; if you lift your arm up and the forearm is dangling the opposite way with a bone sticking out it's rather obvious. I later went to the emergency room with my Dad and the break was awful. If they couldn't set it into place, then they'd do surgery. Thankfully with three men holding me down, plenty of morphine, and my father beside me; they popped the sucker back in and no surgery was needed.
I now know this incident traumatized my parents, especially since my mother was out of town, but as a kid this broken arm was beyond exciting. I choose a hot pink cast that I wore for several weeks and I even missed school the next day!
I returned to school the following Monday and was excused from my PE classes, from playing on the playground, and everyone asked to sign my cast. For once, I felt popular! People noticed my cast and I, not my funny voice.
As far as the Trio of Trouble, they also signed my pink cast. As an adult, I probably would not have let them sign my cast, but I suppose that's the beauty of being a child. We are naive and forgive easily. Surprisingly, the Trio never made fun of me for falling and breaking my arm, they just left me alone from there on out.
Do not misinterpret this, I still did not like this Trio. But, it was easier to tolerate them just as long as they never spoke to me. When I saw them around, I would still be anxious and nervous, afraid that they'd say or do something to me. Luckily, they never bullied me again.
Despite the dismal memories though, I still see this bullying experience as a useful one in my Apraxia Adventures. Call me the hopeless optimist, but this Trio taught me valuable lessons at such a young age.
My first real conflict resolution where I did not snitch and tell my parents. Granted with a broken arm, I resolved my problem nonetheless. I climbed to the top of that jungle-gym and I claimed my well-deserved respect.
Without the Trio of Trouble, I wouldn't have felt that sense of accomplishment of being challenged, accepting that challenge, and conquering the challenge. Sure it was just a jungle-gym, but these bullies challenged me to climb to the top, something I never would have done on my own accord. If I had told my parents and the teachers prior, I'm sure the bullying would have subsided. But I wouldn't have felt so proud for climbing that jungle-gym nor would I have been popular with my hot pink cast.
There are moments of course where parents should intervene in bullying and in their kid's social lives, but I also believe that kids want to feel self-sufficient too, build that confidence that they can resolve a problem without their parents' help. At least, that's what the Trio of Trouble gave me. The confidence that I can resolve my own conflicts if absolutely necessary. I'd even break my arm if I had to. Later down the road though, I will eventually learn that bullying can cross a line in which you must have a parent intervene. But at least for my seven-year-old Apraxia-self, it felt nice for a change to not rely on someone else.
Apraxia or not, it's always important to learn how to be your own advocate. At least this Trio of Trouble taught me that in a very unconventional way.