Monday, October 11, 2010

My Bully Story

After the last week w/everyone talking about bullying I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon. So yeah, the topic has totally jumped the shark. I would've written this when everyone else was, but I've been sick, so I've been sending out emails w/links to really good posts I've seen on the topic instead. The ultimate retweet. ;-) Tonight I'm lying in bed, but can't really sleep yet, so what the heck, it's on my mind.
My oldest daughter's school has a strict "no bullying" policy. They have parents sign up to oversee it, come into the classroom & read books, talk about it. I'm pretty sure the kids all sign "contracts" agreeing not to do it, blah, blah, blah... Let's face it, kids don't always know what bullying is, you know it, when it happening to you, but a lot of the time it's much more subtle then what used to go on when we were kids.
When I was in 7th or 8th grade I was bullied. It probably wasn't the first time. It was the only time that I was truly scared. The girl was in my grade & I have no idea why I was picked, but she suddenly hated my guts and was going to "kick my ass". This girl was at least twice my size. She was easily 5' 8" & looked more like a 25yo than a 13yo. I was about 5'5" and not sure I weighed 100lbs soaking wet. She picked on me for several days with it accumulating to her "calling me out". See we had a "no tolerance policy" for bullying in my middle school also. The kids got around it, but planning their fights for after school. I didn't feel I could back down to her. I don't recall that I particularly stood up to her either. I've never really been known for my shyness when it comes to my mouth & sarcasm, (I know, you're shocked). I'm sure I had some quick responses to help her come to her decision to "kick my ass". I didn't tell any adults. What the heck were they going to do? If I did, my mom would make her drive me to and from school and that would fuel the fire, and make me feel like the loser this girl was telling me I was. No, I stood my ground & told her I'd meet her after school to get my ass kicked as planned. I don't think that's exactly what I said, but that's sure how I felt. I remember it quite clearly, even now. I was lucky. I had a group of really good friends. They were quite concerned for my life. Most likely they were afraid I'd ask one of them to be my second, and my adversary's BFF was built like her, so I'm sure my friends were not looking forward to that. Someone told. Probably one of my friends. I got pulled out of 3rd period by the Vice Principal. (Yeah, I still remember what period of school it was, guess it all made an impression.) I was shocked to be honest. She told me what she knew, which was pretty much what was going on. I remember her asking me why I didn't tell. "How do you think that would've improved my situation?" It was middle school, the VP wasn't new, she knew exactly what I meant and she didn't have a different or better answer for me. In the end, parents were called in, then we (my bully and I) were called in, together. The VP "mediated" how we were to interact from here on out and as far as I know that's as far as it went. This girl was not new to getting in trouble, but that was pretty much the end of it. As an adult I suspect her mother had been told that her kid would be expelled if it continued, or something along those lines. I really don't know. I just know she more or less left me alone after that.
Do you know what I learned from that experience? Nothing.
No one came along and said here's a better way to deal with this. Adults understood why I felt I couldn't tell, but also couldn't give me a different or better way to deal with this situation. Back in the day, it wasn't considered inappropriate to tell your kid to stick up for themselves and/or teach them to fight. Now, it is. So the only real answer we have for our kids is for them to tell. In some ways I suppose that's good. No one expects you to fight back. At least, not the sane people; the adults.

My daughter told me of an incident that had her in tears recently. A boy had pushed and hit one of her friends in the back during recess. When she first told me, she was so upset, I thought it must have happened to her. When I did get the full story out of her, I learned it had happened several days before. I asked her how they responded, and they did tell an adult, but apparently it isn't the first or last time this kid has done this type of thing. The girls involved did not feel that this child was reprimanded over this incident. I was torn as to how much weight to give the subject. I basically told her she, and her friends need to stick up for each other and tell an adult. I also (failed miserably I'm afraid,) told her that boys will do stuff like that when they like you and to basically get used to it. (While that may be true, it was the part that made me not want to give it too much weight, and it's the part I failed at most.) I really didn't like the answer I gave her and the whole thing was stuck in my head for a while. Then I realized it was because what happened was a form of bullying. That's why she was so upset, and why my answer sucked so much. Since this time, this boy has been suspended once this year for hitting. I happen to know the kid, and he has bigger issues than being a potential bully. I also, don't think he realizes the intimidation his actions bring. I really don't, but like I said, this particular kid, much bigger issues. I did talk to Big about it some more after that. We talked about intimidation, and how that's how that boy made her and her friends feel when he did that. We talked about what that felt like, that "icky, ball in the pit of your stomach" feeling. Words like intimidation and bully, don't really have weight w/her yet. But when I asked her to describe the feeling, she knew it. She knows, no one should be allowed to make her feel that way. We talked about give people power and how not to do that. It's obviously a conversation we need to continue. She's seven, it's heavy. You know it, when you feel it, but it you haven't, sometimes it's too much to comprehend. I also told her I felt the yard duty and myself had not handled it as well as we could have and why. I told her in the future, I would be better prepared to help her if the adults who were there didn't deal with it the way it ought to be dealt with, like this time. If the school has a no tolerance policy, then something should have happened with the kid at that time. Other kids need to feel that their word means something or they'll continue to be silent.

I feel better about it now. This all happened before the rash of gay suicides. Now that it's a headline topic, it seemed appropriate to bring it up.

Reality is that there are NO good answers when it comes to bullying. But an open dialog, and explaining things in terms kids can understand are a good step in the right direction. Understanding that part of bullying is giving someone power to make you feel a certain way. A way that isn't good. That no one has the right to make you feel that way. THAT is what we need our kids to understand. THAT is what we want them to tell us. Silence is what those bullies are counting on.

FYI--My bully. She sent me a friend request on Facebook not all that long ago. Yeah, um, not. We might be past it, but that doesn't mean I want to hang out with you, even 30 years later.