Bullied and Beat it!
You read my posts, you follow my blog. People ask me to appear on TV, write in their magazines, interview me. I think I am a successful blogger. I am proud of myself for my hard work and I am happy with what I do and where I am in my life. How about this little known fact to people who didn’t grow up with me? I was seriously bullied in high school. Terribly – like after-school-special-feature-worth. And, I guarantee that if we were online and with cell phones like kids are now, I would have been far worse off.
I was a responsible teen. I made mistakes, I wasn’t perfect. I fell into some times when I was influenced by other kids to tease or bully someone else. It can happen so easily but my parents set me straight and I learned the impact of how deeply we can affect one another with what we think is a joke. Then, it happened to me. Bad.
I was the scapegoat who took all of the blame for a popular football player being suspended from the team for drinking at homecoming. The story goes that many people informed school staff that this young man broke school rules and somehow, an eruption of hate spewed upon me, just me. Yes, when asked, I told a staff member what I saw and they assured me that they were just learning the facts and wouldn’t go by my comment alone.
It became a beast. One that had to be fed. Everyone HAD to gang up on me or just be quiet. It became entertainment for some kids that had nothing to do with it! Kids didn’t care even when told to leave me alone – the bully train was off and running. Most kids just disassociated from me in terms of friendship. I can’t blame them; what they were seeing being done to me, they wanted to avoid completely. But, a few people did remain my friends and I was lucky to have them. Over time, some people took the risk and became my friends again.
I held my own. My parents cheered me on to keep my head high, it would fade. It didn’t fade until I graduated, left the town and never went back. During school hours, I put my head in the books but at home I cried. I begged my mom to send me to a private school. I remember going to the Principal with her to discuss how to help me. The bullying just kept coming.
What did the kids do? Evil words, messages left for me. Waiting for me outside of the locker room after practice to let me know just what they thought of me. Sending notes to me when I injured my knee telling me they were so happy I was hurt. Damaging the home that my parents took care of for our family, putting rocks through the windshield of my car. The police were at my house dealing with this, not their house. There was more, it all blurs together now. I was really afraid for high school graduation. I had to walk across in front of my class and yes, someone came through for me and snickered when I walked by. Who? I don’t know. What did they say? I don’t know. My mom, school board member, was at the end of that stage to give me my honors diploma and a big hug and that’s all that mattered. That day took an interesting turn when while mingling in the crowd after the ceremony, a parent of a classmate quietly apologized to me. “I’m sorry, sorry for everything.” Me too.
I cannot imagine what would have happened if I was in high school now and going through this all. Texting, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. The bullying I went through would have elevated to such torture. Do all kids have the supportive parents and siblings that I do? NO! Are all parents aware of what their kids are going through like mine were? NO! I was able to take that bullying and channel it because of their support. I became a very successful geek engrossed in Calculus, AP classes and extra-curricular activities. I crushed high school and landed myself far away in a top-notch university. There, I met new people, forged life-long friendships and found the love of my life. I beat the bullying game. It was over, I thought.
Fast forward. It’s gone, correct? I am an adult. We are all reasonable people who have learned from life lessons, right? I wish. Now, I see a new form of bullying. Moms bullying other moms. Yes, it happens. The choice moms make to be competitive rather than supportive, it astounds me. There is nothing gained from competing with another mom or trying to prove that you are a better mom. It’s modeling for our children that one person is better than another because of things that don’t need to be compared- we all know these debates. Kids pick up on these things. How about this: I am a mom, you are a mom. Do you love your children? Do you want what’s best for them? OK, go, do your thing. NO.JUDGEMENT. Competition is not all bad but how about competing with yourself. Tomorrow, be a better you than who you are today. And, help others do the same.
The other day, I was picking up some cheap party supplies at the Dollar Tree. In the next aisle over, I hear a Grandmother scolding her two young grandchildren. I saw them earlier, I guess they were about 8 and 10. These boys would not listen to a thing she asked them to do. Hey, mine (who are ~4 and 5) are only good for about 75% of what I say, so I am not claiming this is wildly unusual. Anyway, what happened next was the part that floored me. The Grandmother starts really getting after these boys. She’s calling them names: bratty kids, little rich boys, good for nothing etc. LOUDLY. Then, the boys have it out back at her. LOUDLY. It was a nasty exchange between a near 80 year old woman and these two boys. I was frozen. It was a mess. Kids grow up to be adults. I will speak to my children with that in mind.
We need to treat people well. Treat people with dignity, respect and help one another. Does the world have to be all peaches and cream where we all sing kumbaya in unison at 2pm daily? I don’t think so. I think a child can have a disagreement with another child and be taught to work through it without lashing out and damaging their sensitive little selves. I think parents can speak productively to one another to support their parenting decisions and offer alternatives intended to help, not judge. I think we can be role models for our children about how to properly treat people to lift them up in what they choose for their lives rather than bring them down.
October 10th is Unity Day as declared by Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center (the founders of National Bullying Awareness Month). We don’t have to be the same, we don’t all have to agree on everything but we can unite around the idea that we all want what is best for our children!
I have a soapbox, it’s called a blog. So, I thought I would stand on it for a bit and share my thoughts on this serious topic. Is it time for kumbaya yet? Thanks. Back to bringing you some family fun in 3….2…..