In May, my step-son Quinn went on a three-day school sponsored field trip to a nature preserve in northern Minnesota. It was all the the 5th grade in his school, roughly, a hell of a lot of 11-year-olds along with the three 5th grade teachers and a handful parental chaperons. These adults, along with the staff of this nature preserve was "going to be plenty" of adults for adequate supervision for all these kids. Well, surprise, surprise, it wasn't. They regulated about 5 or 6 kids of the same gender to a room that contained bunk beds. I wrongly assumed there would be an adult with all the kids in the room. I did a similar trip when I was in sixth grade and us girls were forced to bunk with our teacher who snored so frickin' loud it shook the whole cabin. Quinn's cabin contained 6 boys and no adult. The closest adult was in the other cabin room "just across the hall" I was told by the principal.
Long story short, three of the six boys in the cabin decided it would be super funny and awesome to repeatedly pants one of their cabin-mates. And not only pants this poor kids, but then tell all the girls on the trip that they did pantsing and aren't they super funny and awesome?! Quinn was not the pantsee, nor did he participate in the pantsing. He, unfortunately, was a by-standard, since this was all taking place out of sight of any adult. The final pantsing incident got a bit rough, the kid being pantsed tried to get up, fell, hit his head on the hard floor as the boys continued to pull his pants and underwear down. After they accomplished this, the boys doing the pantsing left the room in hysterics. Quinn, another boy, and the kid who was pantsed and now injured, where left in the room. Quinn and the other boy tried to calm the pantsed kid down, tell him it's no big deal, they did their best to diffuse the situation. Well, this poor kid was so embarrassed after having this happen to him more than once of this trip, he made a rash decision to wrap the cord of the blinds in the cabin room around his neck. Quinn and the other boy quickly gathered other STUDENTS into the room, to stop him from going any further. No adults found out about ANY of this until the day the kids came home and one of the teachers finally asked the kid who was injured, "How did you get that welt on your forehead?" Good job, everyone.
The pantsed kid finally told an adult what happened and who did it. Those three little punks were suspended (for two days...) and Quinn and the other boy left in the cabin where called to the principal's office, praised for "making good choices" and not participating in the pantsing but then got a 45 minute lecture on the importance of telling an adult when things like this is going on, "If Quinn or the other student would have said something we could have stopped this before the student went too far and tried to hurt himself." That's all fine and good, and when the principal called me and told me about the conversation her and Quinn had I got a little...cranky. Quinn has been my step-son for the last 5 years, he lives with me and my husband, I know he is a smart, sensitive, empathetic kid, so I got a little annoyed when she tried to shift blame onto Quinn and the other by-standard, so I asked her, "Why wasn't there a chaperon in the room with the kids?" She steadily explained to me how the male, 5th grade teacher was JUST across the hall. Well, busllshit, lady. Not good enough. I wasn't about to pick a fight with an elementary school principal about how her staff dropped the ball....
I reiterated to Quinn that I was proud he knew better than to, ya know, assault someone, and that the "see something, say something" mantra is something to be followed, but he didn't do anything wrong, and now it's important for him to be a good friend to the kid who was pantsed, because Quinn told me he is a bit of a target for these stupid bully kids. Quinn has been an excellent friend to this kid, all year, especially at the remainder of the school year, and now this summer. Quinn and him have started a paranormal investigation group! Kids of the Paranormal!
(Thanks for sticking with me, I was getting there!)
Quinn and his friend's group, while I think it is adorable and I am encouraging it, makes me laugh. Smart kids are the best kind of kids. Quinn has seen me doing work with Anoka Paranormal Investigations, watches Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters with us (but has to sleep in his sister's room after a particularly scary episodes...) and was convinced his school was haunted. The interest is there, man! And so is the willingness to work. I even drove him and Marissa another member of Kids of the Paranormal (his other friend couldn't go, "Dude, I gotta go to Como Zoo with my family today...") to the Historical Society so they could research the pantsed kid's house (I shouldn't refer to him at the "pantsed kid" but I would rather not use his real name...) which is going to be there first official investigation, since they all think it is very, very haunted. Oooo....turns out, where this kid lives, used to be a nursing home! Those K.O.P kids might be on to something! After we discovered this, Quinn and Marissa were forced to watch me dork out over various Anoka History related things, "Look, you guys! This is what your school used to look like! Look at Main Street in 1890!" They were polite enough to be like, "....neato...." We left there and I took them to a certified haunted location in Anoka, Colonial Hall, which is a house from the early 1900's that is now an antique shop. While Quinn and Marissa swore up and down that they saw appiritions, mists, obrs...felt cold spots, felt sick to their stomachs, couldn't breath, claimed "Zak should come here!" and took pictures of just about EVERYTHING, I got to look at antiques! That was fun!
Here is some of their "evidence":
Quinn "couldn't breath!" in this room. I think the wood paneling was killing him. Yikes.
I then kicked them outside so I could take a picture of the two of them...they're just so cute.
Oh, and Quinn wants me to make sure to mention the third member of the Kids of the Paranormal is not pictured. Not pictured, Pantsed Kid.
I told Quinn if he was serious about learning about this type of stuff he needed to get reading. So I gave him a stack to get started with:
I'm sure that Witchcraft book will come in handy at some point, right?
Hey man, this is the best kind of activity a tween can get involved in, I think. These kids start middle school next year, and if I can help steer them in any kid of not-doing-drugs-or-having-sex direction as best I can, I'm gonna do it.
Do I worry that this type of hobby or interest will make the kids even more targets for bullies (or even religious zealots...) or label them as weirdos? Yes and no. Kids (an some adults) don't like things they don't understand, so I can see certain classmates being a bit, prickish, for lack of a better word, about having interest in this sort of thing, but then No, because if I can teach my children anything in this world, it's to teach them not to care what other people think about them. And I plan on dragging Quinn to the YMCA with me all summer long so he'll be able to hold his own, physically, if need be...
God, you couldn't pay me enough to go through middle school again.