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In The Netherlands, it’s time to say goodbye to school for the Summer! Summer holiday is coming up. I look back on a year with mixed emotions.

The Dutch version of this blog is available at the website of De Goede Huisvader.

I saw the transformation of a girl, who previously was in kindergarten and was now in the first class of the primary school. She will be off to second class after the Summer holiday.

I also saw a boy of nine-years-old, who made big steps forward. It was a big contrast. On one side the creativity of the Waldorf school of my daughter, on the other side the special needs school of my son.

“Can’t I try it just for one day?”

I will never forget this remark made by my son. It still echoes inside my brain. He made this remark after another day of bullying at his school. This remark could also be made on that day when many of the school children in the Dutch city of Leiden gathered to celebrate the birthday of the king with games. Not every school, I know. His teachers decided that his school wouldn’t participate, because the children wouldn’t be able to handle this. It’s just the same as something like roller skating.

At the school of my daughter, it’s allowed to roller skate in the schoolyard. At the school, my son attends it’s not. This would cause a disturbance. Funny, because soccer is allowed in the schoolyard.

It’s a contrast and a conflict. Just one of the many we had to deal with this past year. At the Waldorf school, there are a lot of festivities. At the school of my son, there aren’t. Well, this has to do with the foundation of the school, I know. Still, it’s both a contrast and a conflict.

“Can’t I try it just for one day?” was something my son said when we drove home. After another day that he was bullied. He is being bullied because he is smaller than other children, has different interesses and has a “stupid” sister. Well, that last part is something his bullies decided to use. They know this will hurt him. It is the same as telling his mother is fat. Yes, I know, my wife hasn’t the posture of a fashion doll. My wife knows this too. Still, it doesn’t give them the right to call her that. No one ever is allowed to do that. Especially not these bullies. They know that he is hurt because of these words they use.

I was called a liar. Not to my face, they told my son. They told him I was a liar because I told his teacher that his face was black and blue after he got beaten up by four classmates. Four “heroes.” Four heroes who are older than he is. Heroes are used sarcastically. The same heroes I spoke to with a firm voice when they were bragging about how they beat him. Yes, this isn’t politically correct. It may not even be very pedagogically. But what is politically correct or very pedagogically in situations such as these? When your son is molested by four classmates? Is attacking parents via social media the right thing?

No, I didn’t attack anyone on social media. We were attached through as parents. We were accused of the bad upbringing of our son. Not directly by the parents of the boy whose glasses were thrown in the water (by my son). No, it was acquaintances of those parents.

In an attempt to defend himself from yet another bully, my son chose to do something that isn’t the right thing to do. When he was chased by a classmate with a branch – he wanted to give him a beating with this branch -, his defence mechanism told him to go for the glasses of this boy. In a reflex, he threw them into the water. Immediately regretting what he did, he jumped into the water. It was winter, the water was about three to five degrees. That’s what my son does. To help others, even when they bully him. It shows what a great heart he has. But for others, not directly related to all of this and got the news from someone else this meant that we as parents failed. Openly accusing us of being bad parents. No, I will resist the temptation to reveal the names of those who did this. I am better than that.

I am not a perfect parent. I am also a parent who says I am not a perfect parent. Nuance. What it comes down to: I know I am not the best parent there is. I am also not the worst parent there is. This goes the same for my wife. We do what we can, we believe in certain values and try to raise our children accordingly. There is always an option to seek out something better when it comes to the upbringing of our children. If you just settle for what it’s like now, there isn’t going to be changed. If there isn’t any change, you might become that parent who thinks their children never do anything wrong. My children have their flaws. They aren’t perfect. They are what they are. When it comes to my son, I know what mighty steps he has taken over the past school year. Dealing with these bullies at school, having to deal with an education system for special needs children that are mostly focusing on children with autism (my son has PTSS and performance anxiety, that is something completely different).

Amid all of this, he managed to close one part of his therapy. His therapist is moving to the UK over the Summer. It was a good moment to end the therapy sessions. He went from weekly to bi-weekly sessions in the past few months. He was doing better, he was getting better. No, he isn’t ready to go back to the Waldorf school. He will start a new therapy after the Summer. Then, one day he will be able to leave all of this behind him and really move on. He wants to go back to his old school, very much. Unfortunately, we have to tell him that it’s no option now.

About that day at his old school. You might ask the question why not. The school he misses so much. Why not send him back? Remember, I said I wasn’t the perfect parent. That’s why I can also state my son isn’t perfect. He still needs to take some steps. What is admirable: he managed to focus on the steps he took and it’s a great motivation for him to move on.

What about those bullies. I forgot the numerous times my wife and I talked to school. Finally, it was enough. That was after the beating by four of his classmates. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend this meeting with the school director. My wife went. Why I wasn’t there is something I will explain in a blog that is published at a later time. The ultimatum was quite simple: this bullying had to stop. If not, we would take the necessary steps to make it stop. I will leave out what these steps exactly are. We know them, that’s enough.

One thing my son really misses: the creativity that is lacking at the school he now attends. Things his sister does and he can’t. That’s why I worked together with him as it comes to photography. It’s Summer vacation and I am planning some things in the field of photography. My profession, but most of all still a hobby. I turned this hobby into my profession and I’ll show him what great things he is able to accomplish. This may seem like something “small”, but it isn’t. At least he thinks it’s great and that’s what counts!

How about my daughter? Nowadays she talks to her brother and tries to inspire him with her kind words. She tells him never to stop believing in what he can do. She is convinced these bullies are stupid and they should just stop. Words as these are moving. Unfortunately, things don’t stay like this all the time. Take for instance driving in the car and two children – brother and sister – who are fighting each other in the backseat. That’s something that’s promising for the upcoming vacation!

These two children have earned this vacation. In just one week it’s time to visit the campsite. I’ll expect that this will lead to one or more blogs…

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