Bullying

What is it about the blank page that inspires such fear? How will I fill it? What will this story be about? Will it be any good? Truth be told, I have no idea what I want to write about. I’m promised myself that I would make a greater effort to write every day so I just open a word document and ramble. Not a very promising beginning is it?!

I do have something that’s been weighing on my mind. This current epidemic of bullying that is plaguing our young people. I don’t have children so I don’t see it first-hand. I do, however, hear about it and it worries me. Have children always been this cruel? I don’t think they have. I remember being teased as a teenager. I guess you could call it bullying. While it bothered me, the person who did it was not a part of my social circle and therefore not really a concern. I saw her briefly on the bus. She couldn’t hurt me. The most she could do was make a few cutting remarks. To be honest, I could out-snark her easily. I don’t remember it hurting my feelings overly much. I started driving halfway through the year and stopped riding the bus, not because of her but because, well, I could drive. I knew girls who had a hard time all the way through school. I remember friends of mine encouraging me to make fun of a girl in junior high school. I did once or twice but I could always hear my mom’s voice saying “how would you feel if Jesus suddenly were standing beside you?” She was a Sunday school teacher and that was one of her favorite ways to instill guilt. I was sure Jesus would be very sad about me making fun of this girl. By the same token, I was also sure that Jesus didn’t mind if I hit my brother or called him names. Jesus is cool like that! I told my friends I wasn’t going to make fun of Sarah. My friends decided I wasn’t much fun to hang out with after that. Oh well, I had other friends who were considerably better behaved. Sarah became a good friend. She had a wicked sense of humor and the most amazing artistic ability.

Back to the present day, teens now use social media to bully. How do they get social media? Seems like they should have to be a certain age before they can sign up for an account. I guess not. A coworker told me about an eleven year old girl who killed herself (with a gun) because she was being bullied. I don’t know the whole story. I wondered if her parents had known she was being tormented. Surely if they had, they could have intervened. But what do you say to a child who can’t get away from bullying because it invades her email and texts and Facebook page? If her parents were at all like me, they may not have understood how pervasive and cruel bullying can be. I also wonder if there’s anything you can do to prepare your child? My folks allowed me and my brother to slam each other at will. Mike was six years older so he would have had an advantage. I was quick, though, and maybe a bit smarter than him. Mom and Dad seemed to enjoy it when their little girl could put her big brother in his place with a well-spoken quip. That was probably wrong of them but as it taught me how to think on my feet and not let the odd verbal barb hurt my feelings; I can’t fault them too much. So is that the way to arm your child, teach them to hurl insults and ignore taunts? As I said, I don’t have kids but if I did, I’d want them to be kind, not mean. It took me until my thirties to realize that some of the things I said to people were hurtful. Maybe the reason I wasn’t bullied was because I was the bully? God, I hope not. I was a sarcastic little bitch at times but I don’t think I ever said anything to anyone that would make her want to kill herself.

Maybe the answer is to teach kids to be kind but also teach them to defend themselves, verbally and physically. It wasn’t long ago when child snatching wasn’t a part of our world. After all, when my brother and I were kids, we walked to school. It was about two miles away and we cut through neighborhoods to get there. That was before the Lyon’s sisters went missing in 1975. Wheaton Plaza, the mall the girls had been at that day, was close to where I grew up. After that, I was told to park my 12 year old self at the bus stop with the other kids and not to walk anywhere. It was a terrifying time for our parents but we kids quickly adapted to a life that no longer allowed free ranging through our suburban neighborhood. We learned to run away from strange cars and strange people. I’ve heard friends with children say that they routinely teach their children about strangers, improper touching, drugs, and peer pressure. So now it’s time to add bullying to the list. By prepping our kids, we can give them tools to use with bullies. Physical tools like martial arts and mental tools like de-escalation and negotiation techniques. I do think it’s time that parents take back some of the responsibility for curriculum from the schools. I also think it’s time that authorities be encouraged to confront the parents of bullies. Some sort of trauma causes this behavior. By shining a light on the home life of bullies we could be saving children other than our own.

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