Remember back in the day when a kid would tease you because you wore coke bottle glasses, or had a funny last name or wore tattered, worn, hopelessly outdated, thrift store clothing, or you were buying milk and bread using Food Stamps…or perhaps you were fat, or skinny, or very short, or very tall…or perhaps there really wasn’t anything WRONG with you, you were just singled out by some kid…by a bully.
Maybe you decide to tell someone, your parents or your teacher and, well, nothing comes of it. “Buck up!”, they tell you. I mean, after all, bullying is a rite of passage, a part of growing up…even if it doesn’t feel right. So you try. You try to be brave. You try to be strong. Sometimes you try to fight back. You cry. You cry a lot because you are certain that you are indeed that worthless. Why else would it not stop? Why else would no one else seem to notice or care? Somehow you weather through and make it to the other side. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Except, sometimes it does…kill some. But as for you, you make it through. It does get better…maybe the next year…or when you change schools…or years later.
Like so many others, I was a victim of bullying. I joke years later about the giant target that I was what with the coke bottle glasses, the funny last name, the clothing, the Food Stamps, the drunk dad, the crazy mom. Still I hated it. I hated all of it. I was one of the lucky ones. I made it through to the other side. My tormenters were but a few people who quickly became bored and found other victims. Years later, I come to understand just how sad their lives were and with that came forgiveness. After all they were just kids too. Kids living in similar situations (or worse), kids with fears and self-doubts tearing others down to build themselves up. It wasn’t right then just as it isn’t right now. Still they were just kids then. Something about all of us growing up and seeing where they are and where I am today seems to level the playing field…at least for me it has.
But recently, having lunch with my favorite ten year old son, I was faced again with a bully…Daniel’s bully. Daniel has been telling me of struggles with a couple kids at school. Kids, he tells me, who don’t like his glasses, or who think he is too small, or think his voice is funny. He tells me he just walks away from them because he doesn’t want to hang out with them. They don’t have kind hearts, he tells me. He adds that he, on the other hand, has a kind heart.
He does have a kind heart.
My first instinct and reaction is to hunt the little bastards down.
Yeah, that wouldn’t be right.
So we talk. We talk a lot about how to deal with the playground punks. Actually Daniel has a pretty good handle on it…for now. I make sure he knows that. I also resolve to maintain an open dialogue with him, support him, encourage him and to talk to his teachers.
After today, I am certain that there will be a conversation with his teachers. I picked up Daniel after a minimum day and since it is the beginning of Fall Break from school, we decided to celebrate with lunch at the new McDonalds. So did pretty much all of the west side of Manteca. Just as we begin to eat our lunch Daniel, I notice, seems to be agitated. I ask him what is wrong and with a little fear in his eyes and voice he tells me that “Brian” is here.
Yes, Brian is here with his mom.
Is Brian in your class?
Does Brian go to your school?
Is Brian mean to you?
I turn around to get a look at this “Brian”. A part of me wished I could steal his soul with my evil ginger powers but gingers don’t really steal souls. Instead I turn back to Daniel and tell him that Brian the Bully looks like just a punky kid who is probably afraid people are going to find out that he is just that. Daniel seems unconvinced. I knew kids like Brian when I was his age; they were the kids that bullied me, I confess to my son.
You were bullied?
Yes, I was.
The same reason why any kid is bullied. I was different than they were. They were weak or afraid and didn’t want anyone to know that or see it so they bullied me.
What were their names?
Well, there was D and K and M and C. They would call me names, laugh at me and get other people to laugh at me with them. One time K beat me up and broke my glasses.
Oh my god!
Yeah. I tried to fight back that time and well, I got beat up. K got into a lot of trouble for that because her daddy was best friends with my step-dad.
Did she leave you alone after that?
No, not really. She was mad at me for getting into trouble. But like you, I learned to walk away and ignore them…or at least make them think I was ignoring them. Soon enough it all stopped. I guess they became bored with me since I pretended not to care.
Yes. Yes it is hard. But I’m here for you. I understand.
He hugs me…oh how I love his hugs!
Strange as it might seem, my sharing with him tales of my own bullying experiences along with the truth that it did stop and it did get better seemed to be the encouragement that he needed at that moment.
But as far as this is concerned, this is hard. Still I can’t help but believe that Daniel has (so far) a good handle on it. The ultimate goal would be to stop the bullying without me going after the bully(s). Until then the short term goal is to make his teachers aware, support Daniel, encourage him and keep the lines of communication open with him. Good goals to have, I believe. At least they are better goals than telling a child who is obviously physically smaller (and perhaps weaker) to go and kick the bully’s ass.
Yeah, that happened to me.
I’m not sure that I have a point here as I write this. I guess, like Daniel, I just need to unload my frustrations a little before I dust myself off a little, stand tall and smile as I continue to support and encourage the one with the kind heart…the strong, kind heart.
Parent tips on helping your child deal with bullies at school