So let me preface this blog by saying I despise bullying. I am one of the many who suffered immeasurably at the hands of bullies – one in particular, although I won’t mention names (Donna Richards) OOPS, did I say that with my outside voice? My life was completely miserable because of the relentless harassment from 8th grade all the way through high school. Would you believe that even graduation night, the person who made my life utter hell was seated DIRECTLY behind me? I thought my life sucked. I thought it would always suck. Thankfully, I was wrong. Not only does my life not suck, my life is glorious, and filled with so many wonderful people and things that I sometimes pinch myself just to make sure I’m not dreaming.
So imagine my level of fury when I talked to Bill on the phone yesterday only to find out my daughter came home crying a river of tears because someone was bullying her. She had just mentioned the day before that there was a kid named – we will call him “Nick” – that had been calling her truly awful names and cursing at her, even punched her once. I, of course, gave her the “if he even thinks about bothering you, you need to tell me immediately…not tomorrow, not next week, RIGHT FREAKING NOW. She said she would. Low and behold, the next day, voilá! The little prick was at it again. But wait, it gets better. When he became relentless in his verbal abusive, something in my sweet dear child snapped. Not like Ralphie in a Christmas Story snapped, but it was pretty cool! She grabbed him by the shirt and just stared him down for about a ten seconds, although I’m sure it seemed longer to her. Of course, then the delinquent pushed her and started to kick her, which was not the optimal outcome, but WOW, just WOW. She stood up to him. She didn’t back down or break down, at least not until she got home. Where did she get the guts, the moxie? I told her she was right to tell Bill and me what happened, but she should never have touched him, not that I actually agree with that, but the school has some bullshit “zero tolerance” policy, so for her “lay her hands on him” would cause my flute-playing, straight A, happy, compassionate, sweet child to be suspended along with the juvenile delinquent – not fair in my opinion. Bill called the school principal (who is a personal friend of Bill’s from childhood – bad news for ol’ Nick) and the principal said he would “handle it.” And today, magically, it was “handled.” Nick will no longer be bothering my daughter. In fact, he is not allowed to talk to her at all. Looking at her might not be a good idea either. Score one for Tricia.
The whole thing brought back so many memories, and it is amazing how seared those experiences are in my brain. People say kids “should suck it up” and learn how to deal with teasing and abuse. First of all, bullying was bad when I was a kid, when anyone is a kid. Imagine it now, in a world of social media, cell phones, and other avenues that didn't exist "back in the day." It is a whole different world out there. I do make Tricia handle some things on her own, and it has helped her develop amazing coping skills. But some situations really just require more attention, and definitely some action. No child should have to tolerate bullying. It is scary, and worse yet, it is humiliating. Humiliation does not build character. Humiliation tears out a child’s heart, and destroys their self-esteem. Don’t agree with me? That’s ok, you don’t have to agree with one word of this. But it will not be my child. I want her to grow up with a strong sense of who she is, and what she is capable of in her life. I certainly will not allow some snot-nosed brat to take that away from her.
I’ve said it to her a million times, “you won’t even remember these people when you get out of high school.” But you know what? She will. The thing I want her to remember is how she dealt with the situation, and more importantly, that she had the benefit of parents who love her that stood up for her, and protected her when the chips were down. I think of all the kids over the past few years who ended their lives because they felt it was their only escape. I never want that to be my child. I don’t want it to be anyone’s child really. No child should feel that alone.
In a way, I feel sorry for Nick. He must have one hell of a family life to think that hitting or kicking a girl is ok. I wonder how many times his father raised a hand to his mother, or a sibling, or to him. Bullies are usually crying out for someone, anyone to notice them. Negative attention is better than no attention at all. I’ll still have his ass arrested for assault if he lays a hand on my daughter again, but wouldn’t it be nice if every child could come from a home that sets a loving example for “how life is supposed to be”? I know not every bully comes from a broken home, just as not every kid from a broken home becomes a bully. Somewhere, somehow, the cycle needs to stop. If it takes a village, then so be it. Everyone should step up to the plate and protect those who cannot protect themselves.
I am very proud of my daughter. She has the intestinal fortitude to not take someone else’s crap, and even though maybe it was not the “best” way to handle it, she was able to walk away knowing she did not let him have the upper hand. She stood up for herself, and I have to believe she took something valuable away from that experience.
I hope she always remembers that lesson. Because as we all know, the bullies are there long after high school.
Hug your child tonight. Thanks.