Monday, February 21, 2011

Heavy heart and much learning...

This past week has been HUGE for us as parents. It has been life changing for us in so many ways...and yet, SO draining physically, emotionally and spiritually! It started off HORRIBLE and now that it is all over and dealt with so much learning and growth has come from it all.

Last weekend (Saturday) Cole was asking us yet again if he could do online schooling. He has wanted to do this for a while now and we have said no over and over. We told him we don't agree with home school or online schooling for us as we think that it isn't good for them socially. That he needs to be with their peers. He was quiet and said,

"Really? Do I really need to be around porn all day and mocked and teased and put down? That is what I need to be around so I am not socially awkward?"

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Kent and I were stunned and said, 

"what are you talking about?" 

Cole went on to talk about how at school all these hand held devices (cell phones, ipods, DS Nintendo, PSP etc) that the kids have most the kids are accessing porn on them when at school. During lunch breaks and in between classes, that it is everywhere he looks. I felt sick to my stomach as I had NO idea that kids could access the internet on these things. He was telling us how it is all around him and now he can't get those images out of his head. 

Cole was so upset! We were SO upset as this is something we have worked SO hard at protecting our kids from, but yet here it is whether we like it or not. We were in shock with all he was telling us. Then he began to tell us how he is picked on at school, bullied, teased and mocked on a daily basis...and has never told us. I was in tears at this point! 

Here is our 13 year old boy being torn down on a daily basis physically, emotionally and spiritually and we had NO CLUE! We have talked to him about bullying and he has always said no that he is fine. When we first moved here there was a kid that picked on him at school and Kent taught him what to do to stand up for Cole did and Cole said that kid hadn't bugged him since...we are now finding out that that is not true! For the past 4 years he has dealt with this all by himself. 

We talked and talked about how proud of him we were for having the courage to finally tell us and that we love him and we are his biggest advocates. That him finally telling us means we can help him as he is not alone...he never has been! We were all crying. Cole went on to say that he needed to hear all this and that he loved us. 

We then came up with ways to help Cole to get those nasty images out of his head when they come into his mind. It is going to be A LOT of work, but ohhhhh sooooo necessary. We talked about some of his favorite primary songs and church hymns how he can sing them or hum them whenever those images come into his mind. How he can put on any good music or his John Bytheway CD's and listen to them. To get on his knees and pray! Come to Kent and I whenever he needs to no matter what time it is.

We asked Cole if he felt close or a connection to any of the kids at church. He said ya that he gets along with them all. See, there are no other members in our school for Cole to hang out with. And church wise he only sees those kids once on Sundays and then at mutual activities on Tuesdays. 

As Cole was talking I had this thought come to my head and I said, 

"Cole, tell me why Abinadi is your favorite prophet to read about in the scriptures?"  
He began to tell us it was because when everyone else was against Abinadi and all that he was trying to teach and what he believed in, he still stood tall and firm in his faith. No one believed what he was saying and he was persecuted for it. They tied him to a pole and killed him by burning him and even then he was still preaching to the people.

I was overcome with the spirit and I said, 

"Cole, all that you are going through right now, this, this is YOUR fire! You are trying to stand tall and not get beaten down with words and things your are seeing, just like Abinadi you are trying to fight for what is right. Abinadi was tied to a pole, you are not. What are you going to do to stop the fire that is all around you or step out of it?" 

I heard myself say all this to him and I have no idea where that all came from. Cole smiled at me and said, 

"Mom I have never thought of it all like that."  

I hadn't thought of it like this either, but was so thankful the spirit prompted me to say all this. I felt like we had a better understanding now and so did Cole. I felt like we were going to be able to fight all that was facing us head on and that it was all necessary, part of the plan. Scary, yes...but we will do what we need to do to conquer this.

My Mom said we should move into Airdrie to be closer to our ward and have Cole in a school where there are other members in his school. But who's to say that they will hang out with each other or be good influences on each other just cause they are members?  I was raised in Cardston surrounded with members in my school and I/we still made bad choices...we just did it together. Moving isn't an option right now and no matter where we went you can't tell me that this isn't a problem at EVERY school. I think that parents just aren't aware, let alone teachers. What are we going to do about it?

My first thought was, that that is it, we are going to pull him out of that school and he is going to do online schooling, that that will protect him from all of this crap going on in the world. We wanted to pray about it all and what we should do as this was HUGE for Cole and plus we have 2 more kids that we are trying to raise. We need to protect them for all of this how are we going to do are we supposed to protect them from all this?

Cole also talked about the church and how he is thankful to be a member of it. That at least he had that as a "safe place" where he didn't feel judged and felt accepted. We too were so happy to hear him say that. Cole went to bed and Kent and I just sat there starring at each other. I cried and Kent was quiet, deep in thought. We went to bed. I didn't sleep much as I couldn't stop thinking of all we had just learned and what we were going to do for our son.

Sunday, February 13th
It was nice to go to church and feel the spirit. The sacrament talks were so good, so inspired. Our 2nd counselors wife Sister Barfuss spoke about a decrepit old man with a big heart stuck in this body that was crooked and sick looking and how badly he was treated because of how he looked...instead of people seeing his heart and how good it was they were judging him on his appearance. He died and this lady wished that people could of seen past his appearance that was old and decrepit and seen how kind, gentle and good he was on the inside...the real him. The story went on to talk about a beautiful flower placed in an ugly flower pot that even though it was in this ugly pot that one day it would be out in the garden rid of this ugly pot and able to show its true beauty. All I could think of was Cole and all he was going through. He was sitting up by the Bishop (he was asked to be the Deacon to sit by them) and he was listening. I hoped he was hearing what she was saying. About not judging one another and it isn't what we look like that matters etc.

In YW we were told of a youth fireside we needed to go to at Brother Barfuss's (2nd counselor in the bishopric) house at 7 p.m. that evening. YW leaders were expected to be there as well. I was looking forward to going with Cole. Cole didn't want to go for some reason and I said too bad, that we were both going. So off we went into Airdrie that evening. There was about 15 kids in total (girls and boys). I was the ONLY YW leader that showed up (nice eh) and then there were 2 YM leaders that showed up. The fireside was on Missionary work. We watched a church DVD about youth and missionary work (it was awesome). You could feel the spirit it was great! Then Bro Barfuss talked to the youth about missionary work and how they can talk to their friends about it, how it is all our responsibility. It was a really great fireside....until, the Bishop stood up...let me explain...

It was the Bishop's turn to talk and he asked the youth what they thought the requirements were to be able to go on a mission. They all said a few things and then he started to tell them the "actual requirements" to be able to  serve a mission. He said that
"you need to be healthy, you can't be overweight. If you are overweight you won't be able to serve a mission."

I was HORRIFIED that the bishop was saying this. I could feel all eyes turn towards Cole. Sure enough when I looked around the room they were all glancing towards Cole, even the leaders as Cole is the only youth in the room that is overweight. It was awkward and uncomfortable and I was dying for Cole as I know he was feeling it all. 

He and I were sitting on a love seat couch together. He was kind of turned side ways with his back to me so he could face whoever was speaking to us. So I couldn't see his reaction...I could just feel it!

The Bishop went on and on telling a story about a boy in our stake that was overweight and wasn't able to serve a mission because of it. I was starring hard at the Bishop hoping he would feel me willing him to stop SHUTUP!!!  

Now, let me say this, our Bishop is a good man. I know what he was "trying"  to say and what he was meaning...but he needed to stop at "you need to be healthy"  and not single out anyone who is "overweight" especially when there is only 1 kid in the room that is overweight. It was NOT ok for the bishop to go on and on like this...he was being very insensitive. But he was not doing it on purpose AND he had no clue the ramifications of his words that were affecting a boy in the room so much.

My blood was boiling and my emotions were high. I wanted so badly to yell at the bishop and scream and cry, as my son had already been through so much lately that he didn't need to feel this from our bishop as well. Now not only was he getting judged at school he was getting it from the bishop. I was sick! As I remembered from the night before Cole saying, 

"at least at church I don't get judged and I feel like I have a safe place there." 

And now this "safe, non-judgmental place" has been diminished. I couldn't even look at the bishop anymore as I was so emotionally and spiritually distraught. I was SO worried that this was going to be "it", that this was going to change how Cole looked at the church and he would say screw it, I am not even going to try to go on a mission anymore. I had no idea how this was going to affect him.  

The thought kept ringing in my mind as I was sitting there, 

"he is just a man in a BIG calling. HE is NOT perfect, but the CHURCH is...KNOW THIS is true!"

Over and over I kept hearing this in my mind. The missionaries came and spoke for a while and then it was time for cupcakes and cookies. YA RIGHT!! Like Cole and I are going to go eat any of that after all that was said. And then I thought, well it is up to Cole. He said he wanted to go. So we left without saying bye to anyone...I don't think anyone even noticed we left. As soon as we got out the door all my emotions came pouring out of me and tears just began streaming down my face. I didn't want Cole to see me like this as I really didn't know how he was feeling, maybe he didn't take it all the way I took it or he didn't feel the way I felt and so I didn't want to put my feelings on him. So, I quickly wiped my tears and composed myself before we got into the van. On the way home I asked him how he liked the fireside and he said,

"it was good." 

I asked him what he thought about all that was discussed. He was looking out his window and said, 

"Mom, I felt like the Bishop was singling me out and talking only to me about my weight. I felt like there was a spotlight on just me when he was talking." 

I couldn't hold it all in anymore and tears poured down my face. Cole looked at me and he too was crying and I told him I loved him and I am SO sorry that the Bishop said that. He said,

"Mom the talks in church just today spoke about not judging one another on appearances and now the Bishop is telling me they do?"

My heart broke as he said this. I told him that people in the church are/can be judgemental, but the church isn't and NOT to mistaken that. He shook his head and said he gets it. I said, "do you?" And he said,

"I get it Mom, it just really sucks though."

This all opened us up to having such a good talk about SO many things on the way home. I told him I was upset with the Bishop for not thinking before he spoke and being insensitive. Cole told me he could feel that I was upset during the fireside. I smiled at him and said,

"Cole I love you and I want to just wrap my arms around you and protect you from all that is happening right now. The Mama Bear in me wants to hurt someone for hurting you." 

Cole thanked me and told me it means a lot to him to know I am protective of him and love him so much. We talked about how the Bishop is such a good man and he is just a man in a calling in a BIG calling and that he is not perfect, but the church is. That the Bishop is trying to do his best and sometimes he will say things that may offend people...and that is NOT his intention. I told Cole that I knew if the Bishop knew how this has affected him the Bishop would be sick about it and feel so bad! Cole agreed and said he had no idea that being overweight would affect him being able to go on a Mission. That is is just another thing that is going to motivate him even more to try and lose the weight. This was music to my ears as it meant what the Bishop had said hasn't changed him wanting to go on a mission it just made him MORE determined to make sure he can go on one. He is such a good boy and has such a good heart!

I need you ALL to know this about our Cole...yes, he is over weight, we know it and he knows it...he has to carry it and deal with it on a daily basis! He does not need anyone to tell him he is overweight and judge him for it. He is in kick boxing 3 times a week for an hour and the days he doesn't have kick boxing he is on our tread mill for 30-45 minutes working hard. He is trying SO hard to be healthy and get this weight off. He has been part of a study for 6 months for overweight kids and it was great, we learned much. WE are trying to help him and HE is doing all he can do as well. People need to back off and quite judging on what they think they know...cause you have NO idea!! It isn't from him being lazy as he is VERY active. Cole is such a good boy!

When we came home it was late and I hugged Cole and kissed him goodnight and told him how proud I was of him for rising above all that he is going through. When he went downstairs I went and got in the shower and cried and cried an cried.  My heart was SO heavy! I was angry at the Bishop for what he said and how his words affected my son. I was SO, SO angry at the world as it felt like we were being attacked by it...that my son was being attacked by it. Lot's of mixed feelings and emotions going on. When I got out of the shower I went into the computer room to think and cry some more.
There is a picture on the wall of Jesus Christ in our computer room and it says:

I thought of Jesus and knowing that he knows and understands the pain that Cole is feeling and that I am feeling as a parent. I can't even describe the heart ache I was feeling for my child. I thought of Heavenly Father and all that he must feel when we his children are going through all that we go through and the choices we make. How much sadness he must feel for us at times. But I knew that through him we would be able to get through all this no matter how painful it was right now. I will do all that I can to help raise this boy the way Heavenly Father needs us to raise him and wants us to raise him. He knows Cole and he loves him more than we do...strange to think that is possible, but we are told it is!

Kent came in and was shocked to see me so upset and asked what happened. When I filled him in on what happened he threw his head back and took a deep breath and shook his head. Kent and I agreed that we were going to have to talk to the Bishop and tell him about all of this.

Monday, February  14th
It was our 14th Anniversary and I didn't get much sleep yet again. My mind wouldn't shut off about all that was happening with Cole. I was EXHAUSTED to say the least! I talked to my parents about everything that had happened and they were just as upset as we were. I told my Mom that I didn't want to be a parent anymore that this was too much and I wanted to tag out. She laughed and told me,

"honey this is just the beginning." 

I know, that is what freaks me out the most. I had better go buy me some knee pads as I have a feeling I am going to be on my knees A LOT more over the next few years =). I am scared for my kids and all they have to face in this world. I would like to keep them home to protect them from everything. But at some point they have to learn how to deal with it all. Cause one day they will be out in the world on their own and they will need to know what to do with all that comes at them.

Tuesday, February 16th
Another sleepless night! My heart was getting heavy and I knew Satan was trying his hardest to put all these negative thoughts in my head. I knew that we needed to talk with the Bishop Tuesday night when we were already at the church for other meetings. I needed to get all this off my chest. My plan wasn't to go in there attacking the Bishop, but more informing him of everything. Like my Mom said,

"this is a good learning situation for you all and him as a Bishop." 

My sister and my Mom gave me lot's of good advice on what to do and think about. When I talked to my sister Emily it was Tuesday and she asked me if I had considered going in and talking with the Principal about what Cole had said. I hadn't too be honest! And as soon as she said that I knew I had to. Before I went there I went online trying to find something I could take with me like anti-porn posters they could put up in the school or flyers or SOMETHING to go with. I had NO idea if they even knew all this was happening in their school. So I was preparing myself for a fight as I didn't know what to expect. I found this website  and I was SO impressed with all the information, posters, coloring pages and flyers they had on there. It is for Elementary aged kids and Junior High and High School aged kids....AWESOME!!! Check it out as there is A LOT of info on there and so many tools that can be used.

These are some of the posters and info I took with me and showed the Principal. When our meeting was over he asked if he could keep them to show his staff. I of course let him keep them.

I was ready to go meet him and a fire was lit under me to go in there and MAKE this happen. My meeting with the Principal was at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Cole didn't know I was going there and I wasn't sure how he would feel about it. But I figured I will talk to him about it after I had more information. 

I first talked to him about Cole getting bullied. Mr. Roberts was stunned as he knows Cole and has taught him and said, "he is such a good boy, quiet and smart and thoughtful to those around him." He wants to put a stop to what is happening with Cole and now that he knows it is happening they can help.  He told me what they do in situations like this and I told him, 

"that as long as Cole's life gets better not worse that that is my goal and my intention with getting this all out in the open."

He agreed and we made a plan. He was to meet with Cole the following day and talk to him about everything. Cole met with the principal on Wednesday, February 17th for about 30 minutes. Cole said it went really well and he is comfortable with all that the Princiapl wants to do about the bullying situation. Cole was smiling and he was happy about it all...YEAH!!!

I then began to tell him about the pornography being looked at in his school....he was like a deer caught in head lights. He was STUNNED! I told him everything Cole said about when, how and where it is all getting looked at. He shook his head and told me he had no idea they could access the internet on those things. He figured since the schools computers were protected and blocked that the kids had no way of accessing that stuff in the school. 

I have to admit I was so happy and relieved to know that he didn't know this was going on. We talked for in length about it all for about 45 minutes. I told him how the kids looking at porn is teaching them disrespect for women, that is can ruin lives and families. That it can start out as a small thing and then lead to other bigger problems like addiction to porn, sex and mistreating women. He agreed and said, 

"they may be able to do this in their own homes, but this is my home (the school) and it WILL NOT happen here!"

I told him how pornography is like a dirty thing no one likes to talk about. So the more we talk about it with the kids the less appealing it will become. He agreed! 

When we had talked about everything I said, 

"Mr Roberts what are we going to do about this?" 

He looked at me stunned and smiled and said,

"Mrs. Stanford, in all the years that I have been a teacher NEVER has a parent said what are WE going to do about this. It is always what are YOU going to do about this." 

Since things like this happen in the schools parents look at it like it is the school's problem....WRONG! It is OUR problem as they are OUR kids. I told Mr Roberts, 

"now that I have come in here and brought this to your attention I am not going to just walk away and hope you do something about it and leave it here with you to deal with. I can be your best friend about this or your worst nightmare it is up to you." 

I smiled after I said that and he smiled back and thanked me for bringing all this to his attention. He said he wants me to stay on top of it all and keep pushing them and checking to make sure they are doing all that they can do to stop what is going on. I told him not to worry as I was going to stick to him like fly on tape and make sure this was all be addressed and some type of anti-porn campaign and assembly was being done. 

I told him I am ready for this fight! I got emotional and told him that did I want this all to be happening....absolutely NOT, but it was whether we liked it or not! I told him that it meant a lot to me that he was on board as we need him to be on the same page as us with this. He is helping us to raise our child, they all are and so we need to want the same things for them so we can protect them and raise them to be good, respectful human beings. And now that we know they have been exposed to such nasty stuff we have to teach them how to get it out of their minds and lives and what can happen if they continue doing what they are doing. He agreed and we both agreed to stay in contact and get on top of all this.

When the kids get back from their week off an email is supposed to go out to all the families about what I brought to his attention with the electronics and porn (no names will be mentioned). He said he wants parents to know it is there responsibility to be checking these devices when they are at home and making sure they can't access this kind of stuff. And at school they will be taken away until the end of the year if caught.  Posters are supposed to be going up in the school and a campaign started. So I will be making sure this is all happening =)

Electronics and Satan

Us as parents give our kids all these hand held devices so they are up to date with what is cool and neat to have. But we aren't taking into consideration that by us doing this it is like giving Satan a key into their lives and saying

"good luck, be a good person, respectful and responsible"  all the while Satan has all access to them.

Satan is loving technology. He has messed with the wrong Mom as I am NOT going to just look the other way and hope for the best. I will fight for my kids and their well being! I am relieved that it all went so well with the Principal and I know things will will take time, but changes are going to happen.

I think there are A LOT of parents like me out there that are clueless and don't realize what is going on. I am so thankful Cole felt comfortable enough to talk to us about it. Whether we like it or not pornography is everywhere and it needs to be talked about with our kids. They need to know what to do if they happen to see if and then what to do to be able to get those images out of their heads.

Tuesday evening meeting with the Bishop...
I was emotionally drained already from talking with the Principal, but knew us talking with the Bishop was just as important.When I told the Bishop about it all he felt awful, which I knew he would. He kept apologizing and shaking his head. I told him I wouldn't want his calling and that I needed him to know there are no hard feelings, just want more awareness to people's feelings and how what we say can affect and hurt people. That we just wanted him to know because we wanted his relationship with Cole to stay in a good place....he agreed! He thanked us for telling him and asked if he could talk to Cole. We said absolutely and he went and talked with Cole. So all is well there THANK GOODNESS!!

Let me tell you this past week has been life changing to say the least for all of us. Lot's of tears, praying for peace and understanding.

I learned I have A LOT more strength spiritually than I thought I did.

I learned that when it comes to my kids I can be and will be fierce and I will do what is necessary to protect them.

I learned that there is learning in ALL things and boy did we learn SO much this week. Looking back on it all now I can see how it all needed to happen so that all these other good positive things came from it...all the growth spiritually for us and for Cole.

I learned that as long as we are doing our best and we include Heavenly Father in on what we are doing and going through we can conquer ANYTHING!

Be aware parents, stay involved in all aspects of your kids lives. Most importantly keep the lines of communication open with your kids so they will know they can come to you about anything and want to. 
I am SO grateful for Cole! We are so lucky and so blessed to be his parents.
 Thank you to my Mom and Dad and my sister Emily for listening and caring and giving us such great advice. 

Love you guys! XO XO


Gayla Woolf Holt said...

I can hardly to see to write this as the tears are flooding my vision. YOU, daughter dear, are a talented writer at expressing your feelings and thoughts to bless the lives of others. THIS post has blessed MY life and I am grateful that Cole has you and Kent as his parents...with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the back bone of your lives. That dark sad few days has now turned into a glowing rainbow of learning and hope, not just for Cole but for other children at school. Ghost Busters move over, here come the Pornography Busters!! Full throttle the way I love you, proud of your get up and DO attitude. HUGS!

Claudia and Glenn Walker said...

Oh Barbara, you are an amazing Mom. Cole is really a brave young man. You guys are doing great as parents. I'm so glad he is so willing to talk to you and Kent. I'm glad you talk to the bishop and to the principal and that they both are now consious of everything. I really appreciate you posting yours and your son story. :)

Angela said...

Thankyou for sharing your experience. What a tough week for you and for your great son Cole. I am so proud of you for speaking to the principal and your bishop. As parents we need to be proactive and help to keep our kids safe and being treated kindly. This is a wake up call for me and I am sure any other parent of children. Thanks again.

Lynn said...

Like your mom I can hardly see to type this and my hands are shaking uncontrollably! I can't express it in enough words...... all the emotions I sincerely felt..... as I read this post.

Like you, I have had to be the advocate (and only advocate -- read-- parent) over and over again at my children's schools.....because as you stated we feel strongly about our children attending public schools for the social skills, as well as for the training ground to "be in this world......just not OF this world". Shockingly, many times...the staff were NOT aware of things going on.....but amazingly....all it took was just ONE visit from just ONE parent brave enough (okay....I shake in my boots's not easy standing up against an entire school) to get things changed. Sometimes it's exhausting...okay it exhausting every time.....and it makes me angry that if "I" don't do something about it....then nothing will. It's like so many other parents could care less.

I can't tell you how impressed I am at how you two as parents kept your cool and prayed about it before going and speaking to the Bishop as well as doing your homework first before making a presentation to the school Principal. Or how you have been able to show your son how much you LOVE him and are not only standing By with but WITH him as you guide him ever so gently through this FIRE of his. Cole certainly has now built an even stronger relationship with the two of you....knowing that his thoughts and emotions will ALWAYS be safe with you. That he can come to you both for ANYTHING.

I have goosebumps on my goosebumps.

I have felt so alone many days as a parent thinking I am the only one who feels this pain of parenthood....and now I have a witness....a clear one that I am NOT the only one who feels the same way about MANY things regarding our children. You and Kent are AWESOME parents and your children are SO extremely blessed to have parents who WORK together at this thing called parenting...and who care SO much about it that they have sleepless nights over it.

And sadly.....just like your mom said, "This is only the beginning". Trust me.....I know......there will be many more sleepless nights and sometimes it will be over worse heartaches. But I am confident that you already have the skills to get through it. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this post with us all!!

I am now more buoyed up to continue and to march on! lol

P.S. I completely understand your feelings a regarding your son's health issues. We too have three of our children who are considered overweight. It's such a heartache to have to witness their pain when it comes to others insensitivity. What a lesson to all about NOT judging. We have NO clue what it feels like to be in other's shoes.


Barb Stanford said...

Thanks everyone!

I wasn't sure whether or not to post about it all, but I felt it was VERY important to document what happened. This post was a long one that is for sure!

Barb Stanford said...


I read your blog- you have been through so much but you are so amazing and gifted with words- written and spoken. I am so proud of you and your love, intuition, courage, spirituality and determination... You handled everything with such wisdom and will be an influence for good in that school for sure. Cole is blessed to have you for a Mom and what a strong and sincere young man he is. So glad you are close. Keep up the communication and support- he needs you and is being blessed to handle all this as well as he is.

Love you all LOTS
Aunt Peggy

Laura G said...

You are amazing. Thank you for posting this even though I know it is so personal to you. I learn so much from you, you have no idea. I don't want Lydia to ever grow up. But I know that is not an option. What an amazing mother you are, taking action and being so close to the spirit,fierce and willing to take action to make a difference. Satan should definitely be afraid of you when you wake up each day! Thanks for your example!!!! Cole does sounds like an amazing young man for sure.

Barb Stanford said...

Thanks Laura! Your comment has given me even more strengthen as I like what you said..."satan should definitely be afraid of you when you wake up each day!" Thanks for all your kind words. Being a parent is tough, but so worth it.