Tanner is being bullied. Tanner is being bullied, and it is breaking our hearts, and we don’t know what to do.
All bullying is horrible, of course. I’m resisting the temptation to insist that the bullying of Tanner, who is disabled and terminally ill, is horrible by a whole different order of magnitude than ‘ordinary’ bullying, but the fact of the matter is that to the bullied child, and those who love that child, there is no such thing as ‘ordinary’ bullying. All experiences of being bullied are uniquely, exquisitely horrible.
So it is that our experience of Tanner being bullied, and certainly Tanner’s experience of being bullied, feels uniquely awful and terrible and painful. That he already faces so much disadvantage, that his life is already painful and difficult, that his life will be short makes it all feel like something of a curse. This is how I feel. This is how my sister feels. This is, of course, how Tanner feels, although it must be said that I lack the words to understand or explain how Tanner feels, because I cannot for one instant imagine how Tanner feels, beyond a vague understanding that it involves an order of torment that I have never and likely will never experience.
There’s nothing like being away from home and getting a text from your spouse that says call me as soon as you can.
It’s about Emilia, he says when I call.
What about Emilia? I don’t know what the right words are to express, here, how shrill my voice was. ‘Shrill’ works decently well, I suppose. My voice was shrill.
She came home from school with a note. It said that she hit Madeleine, and that L and C were involved, and…
At which point I tuned out, a little, because I needed to take a moment to exhale. Everything’s okay, nothing happened to her, everything’s okay, she just hit another child. And then I had to take another moment, because wait, what? My child hit another child.
Last week, Emilia went to school in a Snow White costume. She wore it with striped leggings and her hot pink skate shoes, the ones with the sparkly laces, and also a baseball cap. “I’m not really a princess, Mommy,” she informed me, “I’m just pretending to be one, because I like this dress.” Which summarizes her approach to fashion more or less perfectly: the determining factor, for Emilia, in selecting any article of clothing – shirt, pants, shoes, underpants – is simply “I just like it.” How things fit, whether or not they match, whether or not they are in season: these considerations are irrelevant. All that matters, to Emilia, is whether or not each individual item of clothing appeals to Emilia’s unique and ever-changing tastes, and whether the resulting outfit reflects to her, as she puts it, her “own self.”
This is Emilia, then, as her “own self” (Sporty Pretend Princess Edition):