photo credit 2dayinanimation.com
A few weeks ago I posted about Spirit Day and how we need to stand as role models for our children to stomp out bullying. Just get the heck rid of it. Spirit Day is one day of the year when people across the nation can wear purple to show their support of youth and young adults who are tormented for who they are; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. Spirit Day also stands to stamp out bullying period, for whatever reason it is pressed upon a child. Last week marked Anti-Bullying Week, another attempt to bring bullying to the forefront of our news and leave it there. Were these two “occasions” successful? From where I sit I say no, sadly.
As a parent one of the more difficult things I have had to do is speak to my daughter’s school about a bully. At first it wasn’t so hard as it was, well, almost embarrassing. It’s not that I didn’t believe my daughter’s complaints, but she has a flair for the dramatic. So we had a visit, learned some information about the other child involved and put a plan into action. I checked in with my daughter often ( and the school ), we had long chats about feelings and reactions and we moved on. I assumed that our school was “on it” and took their word for it that this school year everything would be okay. I was wrong.
photo credit covenanthousebc.com
The year started off well and we were preoccupied with young William starting school and dealing with his Food Allergy issues. Things really seemed to be going well and then the dreaded “shuffle” of classes happened in late September. My Emily went from being housed with her grade to moving into a split class. Again. To my surprise the child from last year was in this class, despite the school’s assurances that they would take care of things. At Emily’s insistence we decided to let it ride for now, just see how things went. Never again.
Have you ever had an itch on the bottom of your foot when you have socks and shoes on? You know how it slowly starts to itch, annoy you a little and then eventually drive you mad until you rip your shoe and sock off in desperation to quell the itch? That is kind of how bullying works. The aggressor starts with subtle digs, maybe laughs them off, then comes back a little harder. This tormentor knows how to keep their words, their actions on the down low so that any authority figures around are not tipped off. This bully sometimes gets others to do their dirty work, even when the abettor is not entirely sure what they are participating in. Bullies are masters at making you undermine your own feelings, causing you to question if all the problems aren’t just really your fault. For example, what do you do when your child starts to question their appearance because someone suggested you are not pretty enough to be in the class picture? What if your child has the gumption to dress differently then the other kids, be an individual, be creative. How is she supposed to remain true to herself when she hears whispered insults from certain peers? How many times does a child need to hear “you’re too sensitive” before she stops showing concern for others? When do the eating disorders kick in: after the tenth or twentieth time another kid tells you “you eat too much”? How are you supposed to feel when your child gets singled out as the only girl to not be invited to a birthday party?
To the average person a bully seems to “look” the part. Maybe a little tough, rough around the edges and almost always a boy. Now I know that is just not the case. The first time I found out “our” bully was a girl I was shocked! A girl? You mean a peer who is struggling with the same coming of age stuff that my now ten year old is? How can that be right? The more I learned of this child the more insight I had into what she has had to deal with. We have taught our children to be empathetic to others and Emily displays this very well, but at what point do you say enough is enough? I know my patience is running very thin, so you can just imagine what Emily has to deal with. It breaks my heart.
I have been told that it is a life long learning lesson that we all have to deal with some form of bullying, whether you’re ten or forty, you can become someone’s victim. Yes, we all need to be tough and fight our own battles, but don’t we want our children to learn that fighting is not the answer? How can I look my child in the eye and tell her “you are on your own” with this little war? Don’t all soldiers have an army behind them? This experience is showing me just how strong my daughter is, even when it gets to be too much. I hope she knows she is not alone and that her parents are right there in the trenches with her.
So, a Spirit Day or an Anti-Bullying Week, both are fantastic, but they are seriously not enough. As I said to my daughter’s teacher, this can not just be a focus one week of the school year. It has to be every day. Children need to be reminded to respect one another and that they are never alone. Teens need to know that their feelings matter and they shouldn’t hide them away. We all need to support one another and set a good example to the next generation. Wish us luck….