There’s been a lot in the news lately about bullying. There have been several teens who have literally been bullied to death. This has got to stop. It is a serious serious problem. No one should ever be made to feel by anyone else that the only way out for them is to take their own life.
Bullying probably dates back to when humans were first on the earth. It hasn’t seemed to have evolved at all. It’s like the roach. Just hangs around and picks its next target for survival. It’s not just humans who bully each other. Animals do it too so I can’t say it’s human nature. I guess it goes back to survival of the fittest and the bullies see themselves as the fittest? Whatever the reason for it, it needs to stop.
I can’t ever say I’ve been the victim of true and classic bullying. Sure I was teased and there were times I was shunned but intense bullying that drives people to end their lives? No, thankfully I haven’t been victim to that. One of my daughters was bullied by a girl in her high school. She (my daughter) had attended another school for a year and when she came back to her school another girl told her that she didn’t know why she bothered to come back. That everyone hated her and wished she’d just kill herself. Thank God my child was strong enough to withstand that bullying. She took it all in stride and recognized the girl was insecure herself. I’m not saying it didn’t bother her because it did. I’m not saying that there weren’t tears shed, because there were. Both from my daughter and myself. It hurt me to think someone else disliked my child enough to say something so horrible to her.
I wanted to go to the principal but my daughter insisted I stay out of it. I wanted to say something to the other girl but my daughter insisted she could handle it on her own. I wanted to go to the girl’s parents but my daughter insisted it wasn’t necessary because it would only cause more trouble for her and as much as she disliked this girl she didn’t want to make things worse for her either. We could all take a lesson from that I think.
If it had been persistent or had it gotten worse I probably would have defied my daughter’s wishes and gone to the principal. This same girl made up lies, rumors about my daughter and tried to get her in trouble with her coaches and my daughter pretty much let it roll off her back. She vented to me but kept silent to authorities at school and eventually I think some people saw this girl for what she was. I admit that I still harbor resentment towards that girl because she made my daughter’s life miserable for quite a while. In fact, when hubby and I were out at a restaurant recently I thought I saw her serving another table and I was tempted to say something to her then. Thankfully it turned out it wasn’t her. I’m glad because even over two years later, I still am angry at this girl. I really need to learn a lesson from my daughter who has moved on and put it behind her. But you know us moms, you don’t mess with our babies!
When I was in middle school, I met my best friend because she was the victim of bullies. “Mean Girls” if you will. I didn’t even really know Sam at the moment other than to know who she was in the fact that she was “the new girl” in town. Our hometown was very small so you noticed when there was someone new in town, especially if they were your age! Her family had moved in over the summer. It was the first week of school and I had seen these two girls call her names and knock her books out of her hands and do just about everything short of actually putting their hands on her to intimidate her. That was these girls modus operandi. They would intimidate anyone they felt like and since she was “fresh meat” she was ripe for the picking. I mostly sat back and watched because I didn’t want to be a blip on their radar. I didn’t want to give them a reason to turn their attention towards me because I was afraid of them too.
There was only one high school and one middle school in the whole county and they were a few towns over from ours. We all rode the same school bus and it was an hour bus trip home since it was a few towns over. About halfway home we had to change busses since one bus went to the high school and one to the middle school. One bus picked up all the high school and middle school and elementary kids from our side of town and the other bus picked them up from the other side. Another bus picked up all the kids from that little neighboring town. They met at the town about midway and all the high schoolers got on one bus and all the middle schoolers got on the other one and all the elementary ones got on the third. In the evenings the process was reversed. Myself and one of the means girls remained on our bus. Sam and the other mean girl transferred to another bus.
One afternoon towards the end of that first week of school we were all standing around in the school cafeteria waiting for the bus. I see Sam standing by herself and then the two mean girls walked up and stood on either side of her. One stood in front of her and the other stood behind her. The one in front started yelling at her. Right up in her face. Sam wouldn’t make eye contact. She kept her arms crossed around her books (no backpacks back then) and looked at her feet. The one in front of her pushed her backwards into the girl behind her who was standing purposely close enough for her to be shoved into her so that she had a good excuse to shove her back. I don’t know
what came over me because these girls scared the crap out of me but I suddenly just had enough. I guess I could see that it could have easily been me. I walked over and stood between the girl in front of her and Sam and just calmly said “That’s enough. Just leave her alone. She’s done nothing to you and if you really want to beat her up, you’re gonna have to come through me first.” Inside everything had turned to jello. I thinking I was shaking so hard that I’m sure it was visible to anyone looking on. Maybe she thought I was shaking out of anger and was ready to take her down? I was shaking out of fear that she was gonna kill me! But, I was determined that even if she beat the crap out of me, I couldn’t let them beat up this poor girl who had done absolutely nothing to them other than exist. Surprisingly they backed off. And after that I had an instant best friend. We remained best friends through the rest of middle school and all through high school. Because I took the initiative to stand up for her. But I’m not saying I’m an angel. I’m far from it. This was one time I was brave enough to stand up for someone and you can too.
I can’t tell you the times I was a champion without admitting to the times when I wasn’t. Many, many, years later, when my oldest was a freshman in high school, she was on the cheerleading squad. There was one girl on her squad that the rest of us mothers weren’t particularly fond of. She was always late for practice, missing school, breaking rules, coming in and telling all the other girls on the squad about her sexual exploitations. Yes, in the 9th grade! We were appalled. First off that they would even allow THAT girl to be on the squad with OUR girls (yes, I guess you could say we were snooty with no right to be). Secondly, that they would allow her to remain on the squad when she so flagrantly broke the rules and was such a bad example (in our eyes) of what a cheerleader should be. Weren’t they supposed to be role models? Weren’t they supposed to be someone you wanted the younger girls to emulate? Who would want their child to emulate her? And we (the other moms) had no qualms about voicing our displeasure of having this girl on the squad with our little angels (yeah, you can laugh at that – we only saw what we wanted to see). We never considered the fact that we never saw her mother. Like I said, we only saw what we wanted to see.
One crisp fall evening we were at an away game and myself and a couple of other moms were in the stands watching the game and I’m sure ragging on this harlot (in our eyes) that they had allowed to sully our children’s minds. How dare they allow her to associate with our kids? How dare they allow her to stand on the sidelines with our girls and represent our school? I think this was probably only the 2nd game of the year. We are sitting there and this man comes over to us and says (very gently but sternly) “Excuse me ladies, but I’d appreciate it if you would not talk about any of our athletes like that?” EXCUSE ME?? What business is it of YOURS who or what we talk about… this IS a private conversation! That was what I wanted to say… I think one of us said something like “Who are YOU, her father?” And he said “No, I’m one of their principals and I take exception to anyone denigrating any of my students, especially when they don’t know what they are talking about.” I think I said something like “Well, maybe you don’t know the whole story. Did you realize this girl comes in to practice late all the time and talks to our girls about all her sexual escapades? IN DETAIL? And we’re supposed to just sit back and let that happen?” And he calmly replied “Ma’am, I’m very aware of what goes on in my school and at practices but maybe you should be aware of all the circumstances before you form an opinion about any student. I’m not at liberty to discuss with you any child that is not yours but I’m just saying that you should take into consideration everything before you share your opinions.” And then he calmly walked back to his seat. WOW… I guess he told us!
We were all very upset. I was angry, first that he had stuck his nose in where we felt it didn’t belong and then that he had called me (us) out in public for expressing our deserved opinion. And that’s the operative word . . . opinion. What is that saying? Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. Yep, we all had our opinions and he was right. I was embarrassed. We had formed those opinions without first taking into consideration all the facts. And we .were. wrong. Yes, I admit it. I had hastily formed an opinion of this girl without knowing anything about her. I didn’t know that she had a horrible home life. I didn’t know that she had no father figure in her life. I didn’t know that she had a mom who had drug and alcohol problems. I didn’t know that this girl was practically raising herself. I, was, for all intents and purposes, being a bully. And I was ashamed of myself. It took me a while to get it, because I was angry for being caught being a bully. I was angry because he was right. I came to have a LOT of respect for that man. He was a great principal because he cared about the KIDS. He wasn’t necessarily a popular principal because a lot of things he did, parents and school board members didn’t agree with, but, NO ONE could ever say he didn’t care about the kids. He listened to them and he put their welfare first. Even if it meant pissing off his superiors.
It turns out that in the case of that cheerleader, that she was their “project” for that year I guess. It seems that every year they (the principal and head cheerleading coach) would pick a girl that they felt needed guidance and direction and put her on the squad so that they could help her. She probably didn’t even realize she was a “project”. They would take a girl that they felt might otherwise slip through the cracks and tried to help her turn her life around. I feel so much admiration for them for that. I’m not saying I was “cured” of my letting my opinions get in my way. I’m sure I still do that from time to time, but, he did teach me to try to find out the facts before I run my mouth. I don’t always succeed. I’m still a work in progress but I try not to be a bully anymore.
I feel so badly for people who are bullied and for those who feel they can’t escape and have no recourse. My heart goes out to the victims and the families. This is something we need to work on as a society to put a stop to. We don’t need to have anyone else feeling like Tyler Clementi, or Phoebe Prince or Seth Walsh or Asher Brown.
We don’t need anyone else feeling that their only recourse or means of escape is to end their life. We need people to realize it’s not cool to be a bully. We also need to realize that those bullies? Well, they were probably bullied themselves. They are hurting too or they wouldn’t be lashing out to hurt others. You know that saying? The molested become molesters. Not always, but, I’m sure most people who are molesters were once molested themselves. The bullies were once bullied themselves. We need to stop that vicious cycle. We need to realize that the bullies need love too. Lashing out at them doesn’t solve anything. Yes, they need to be punished, but, they also need to be loved.
I urge you to read Dan Pearce’s post on his blog Single Dad, Laughing about bullying and his subsequent post about what to do about bullies. His insight is amazing and touches my heart. Let’s all band together and put a stop to this vicious cycle that permeates our whole society. Kids learn by example so let’s be a good example to our kids. This short commercial reminded me of this very situation.