Growing up I can remember a handful of kids that were picked on at school. I remember this one boy when I was in kindergarden that always had a trail of green snot running down his face, and was therefore called names having something to do with boogers (one of the funniest words ever when you were little). Then I remember in middle school a bunch of us moving another girl's desk that was next to mine across the room because we thought she was weird. And then in high school I can remember a boy that was obviously gay being called names by some of the jocks. Other than that, I don't have any recollection of any bullying going on in my childhood. I feel like in my little private school bubble that everyone was pretty much friends with everyone else - or at least they seemed to be on the outside.
That is not to say that it didn't go on of course, because as far as I am concerned it goes on in every school all the time. There is always that one kid that the others think is a little weird, or looks a little different, or is socially awkward that gets picked on. As a parent you pray that this is not your kid. You hope against hope that your kid is the kind kid, who likes everyone and is nice to all her classmates. You hope that if she sees an act of injustice she will do the right thing. You want her to be loved by everyone, and to love everyone the same. You think "there is no way someone won't like my kid! My kid is awesome!" A parent can dream...but kids can be cruel, really cruel.
Yesterday it was brought to my attention that a friend of mine's daughter is being bullied at school. It has been going on for the last year in the form of threatening text messages from another girl in her class. I was horrified to hear about some of the messages that were discovered. All I could do was hug my friend as she was telling me about how this was going on for so long, and how her daughter asks her, "why me mom?" I do not know her daughter very well, but from what I have seen she is an adorable, intelligent young woman with a bright future ahead of her. And I never would have thought of her as the target of any sort of bullying.
When she was telling me this story my first thought was what if this happened to M when she was older? What if some cruel child said these kind of things to my adorable daughter? What would I do? And my first gut instinct was to hurt someone physically. Of course I would never do that, but if someone is hurting my baby I want them to hurt right back. In these situations you of course cannot react like that, you have to gather up every ounce of self control you can and get to the bottom of this awful situation.
In this day and age, with Facebook and texting being used by kids of all ages, bullying is taken to a whole other level. I think about how things are with kids nowadays, and then I want to vomit thinking about how they will be for M in 8 years when she is 10 years old. Kids have cell phones and iPods at the age of 5, and are instantly connected to everyone they know. There is no filter in anyone's life anymore thanks to things like Facebook; nothing is private, everything is out there for anyone to see. Everyone knows what everyone is doing at every second of the day practically, and kids are right there texting and tweeting and posting on each other's walls about their lives, and in these cases about their feelings towards others. It is ridiculously easy to bully someone today for all to see and hear.
My heart breaks for this little girl, and her family. No one should be treated this way. No one should be afraid to get up in the morning and go to school. These are the types of things that you want to shield your kid from their entire lives. If I could I would put M in a bubble, and home school her, and go with her to college...no, of course I wouldn't do those things, but that is how I feel after hearing this horrible story.
You can't promise your kid that nothing bad will ever happen to them, because you can't be there to protect them, and stick up for them every day of their lives, but no kid should have to be subjected to bullying. Of course they are going to injure themselves, or fail a test, or not get into the college of their choice, but no one should be made to feel that they are unworthy, or insignificant, or feel like aren't good enough to be alive on this earth.
And what about the parents of the kids that bully? What is their influence in their kids lives? How can someone think that it is ok to threaten someone else? Whether it is kids or adults? Don't people have the common decency to know that you never ever do these kinds of things? Don't you teach your kids to never ever ever do or say these kinds of things to other kids? Where did these parents go wrong?
I guess all you can do is teach your children to be kind to everyone they encounter - other kids, adults, strangers, animals, etc. - and just hope that they turn out as one of the good ones.
Parents - tell your kids to be nice, please!