*Some strong language is used today. I have some very powerful feelings regarding today’s subject.
I remember my first attack by a bully. I was nine years old and in the fourth grade. This boy from another class decided it would be funny to trip the new girl. I was wearing a dress to school that day, and he tripped me on the way to lunch while we were walking along the sidewalk. I went home with scraped knees. I had only been at the school for a few weeks. For the next year, this kid terrorized me every chance he got. I was tripped, pushed, accidentally jostled, had my hair pulled, and had my lunch box stolen on occasion. I would go home every few weeks with bloody knees or hands or elbows. Why didn’t I go to the teachers or my parents? I did. One teacher told me that’s just how boys are when they like you. Another teacher told me to shove him back. My parents? Riiiiiight. I grew up listening to stories my stepdad would tell about the fights he used to get into. He laughed about them and about the pranks he would pull on guys smaller than him. My stepdad had been a bully. And my mom? I love my mom. But my mom was an abused child who grew into an emotionally abused woman. She didn’t know how to handle a bully until my baby sister began being bullied. Me? I learned to hide my injuries and deal with it the only way I knew how. I took it and tried to ignore it.
When I went into the fifth grade, the abusive bully was in the same class with me. I was terrified. I’d be stuck in a class with him for hours every day, five days a week. At least in fourth grade I had been able to stay away from him until the classes had to join for physical education/music class or lunch or assemblies. But a funny thing happened. A new boy joined the school, and there was this VERY tall girl who was another well-known bully who ended up in the class, too. Both became my friends. The physical bullying stopped though I was still called names, but I would rather have had that than the physical abuse. And life moved forward.
Then came a day when I was in high school and I realized I was still being bullied. In my own home. One of my sisters had listened to my stepdad’s stories and thought they were cool, and she began trying his tactics on me. But by then I was big enough and smart enough to know how to handle her. I never laid a finger on her and she eventually stopped trying to hurt me although she liked to threaten me. Unfortunately she went after our baby sister, who had no qualms whatsoever about fighting back. Then came this one day when I was around sixteen. My parents weren’t at home and all of us had just gotten home from school. I had asked my mom that morning if I could have a certain item for a snack when I got home and she had said yes. So, I went to get the snack after school and my sister decided I wasn’t supposed to have it because she didn’t hear mom give her permission. There was an argument and when my sister didn’t get her way she kicked me in the groin with her steel toed boots. Guys, girls may not experience the exact same pain you do but that area is still extremely sensitive and awfully painful if injured. I dropped to the floor gasping for breath. My sister was literally screaming at me and to this day I’m still not sure why she didn’t hit me while I was down. Know what I did once I was able to breath? I got up gingerly and went back to preparing the snack. And that’s when my sister REALLY lost it. Since I wasn’t retaliating she decided to go after our baby sister (who was around 11 at the time) who had just walked into the house from outside to see what was going on. I honestly cannot remember what happened exactly. All I know is I saw my sister put her hands around our baby sister’s neck and begin squeezing, and all I saw after that was red. Literally. A red film covered my vision and I don’t know what happened after that until it cleared. And when it did I found myself sitting on top of my sister banging her head into the floor while my baby sister coughed and held her neck. I got up off my sister and she ran out the door and refused to come back in until one of our parents came home. My baby sister had bruises on her neck for days. I told my stepdad what had happened when he got home thinking he’d do something but he laughed instead. My sister was scared of me from that day on. She never laid another hand on me, and if she physically hurt my baby sister she did it when I wasn’t around or near. And I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned that hurting someone has very lasting emotional effects and I didn’t like it. Hurting my sister, even to save my other one, gave me no pride or pleasure. The fact that I beat my sister up is not something I like to talk about. Even though she was bigger than me by a lot at the time. It is shameful to me and I’m glad I never had to do it again. And I’d like to say my sister learned her lesson but she didn’t. When we were in high school together I’d hear how she threatened some girl to a fight or was “talking smack” about someone and was going to get beat up. At first, I stood up for her. She was my sister after all, and I’d talk the people out of their actions. Eventually I learned she had to deal with it herself. I wouldn’t always be there to prevent something bad from happening. And one day it did. She still didn’t learn.
We all know the spiel that a bully is doing what he/she does out of fear and that they are the true cowards. That may be true but anyone who’s been abused by someone (whether physical or emotional) knows it’s complete and utter bullshit. There are people out there who are just mean and are going to continue being mean no matter what. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, someone is going to take offense that you were born and are breathing the same air that they are. I have four sons and so far the three older ones have been bullied. I knew my eldest was going to be tall and sturdy as he got older. But he was average for a long time. One day when he was in first grade this one kid decided to pick on him. Big Son came home and we talked about it. We knew the kid who was bullying him. He was from Poland and couldn’t speak English very well and he was a big, stocky kid who was just a scared, lonely little boy who was being laughed at and mocked because he didn’t speak well. We talked about bullying then and Big Son was told that maybe he should try befriending this boy. Be the anti-bully. Stand up for those smaller than you if someone is picking on them. You don’t have to fight them, but if you have to you should never throw the first punch. Go get a teacher or some adult you trust, or failing that, stand with the kid being bullied and don’t leave him alone. Big Son was told that he’d have total support if he protected others. He’d be backed 100%. In the end, the little boy and him became friends and stayed friends until Big Son moved in with his dad a couple of years ago. The kid’s parents were grateful because they had seen the path he was on but couldn’t stop it though they tried. They truly believe my son made the difference. But that was only the first time Big Son was bullied. The second time it got to the point where he had to be shown how to throw a punch, and he was put into tai kwon do to learn self-defence. Thankfully, it never got far enough Big Son had to use his new skills.
Second Son was also bullied. Second Son was told in second grade by another second grade student that said student was going to bring a knife and stab him and kick him and kill him. At the time I would meet Second Son at the school and we’d walk home. So as soon as he saw me he told me what happened. I went to the teacher who told me “they’re just kids.” Excuse me??? No. Hell no. So I went to the principal who said she’d talk to the kid. She may have. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that this kid continued to bully my child and all the staff at the school would say is that if they don’t see it or hear it, they can’t do anything about it. It’s one child’s word against the other. So, I took matters into my own hands. This kid had to walk home one day and it just so happened that he didn’t live far from us. We started walking and once we got past the school I turned around and waited for the kid to catch up with us. Then, in my most polite but firm tone, I told him that I wasn’t happy about how he was treating my son and that if he did it anymore I was going to go to his parents and talk to them and I would tell them about the knife comment because that is a threat. Was I a bully to this child, being an adult? Possibly. But what else can you do when no other adult will do anything about it? I wasn’t mean, just matter-of-fact. The bullying stopped. At least until both kids got into junior high, then they both became targets. Second Son is short and thin. When he was in seventh grade I was witness to a group of kids, one boy in particular, bullying my son. I was ten minutes late in picking Second Son up due to a meeting, and when I arrived at the school I saw a group of about six kids picking on my son. One boy was pushing him and pushing hard. I pulled up and saw one hard push and my son stumbled. He kept trying to walk away but the kid got in his face and began yelling at him. I stopped the car with a screech of the tires and the boy looked and saw me getting out of the car. He ran. The other kids all split up (not a single one tried to stop the kid from hurting my son and they were all laughing). There were girls in the group. I walked quickly and stopped the girls and got the boy’s name from them. Then I took my son and we went immediately to the principal. Who did actually take me seriously although she was trying to get out of it by saying it wasn’t on school grounds when it happened so her hands were tied. But, as it turns out, all of the kids had been on the street and that was considered school property. She did talk to the kid and for the next week he was an ass to my son. So, we had to go back to the principal and the school counselor, and the kid was talked to again and flat out admitted that he was bullying my son because he didn’t like the way he looked. The kid was sent to an off-campus program for a few months. When he came back he actually sought out my son and apologized to him. He never bothered Second Son again. Then we moved and Second Son began attending a different junior high school and the principal there has a very strict no bullying policy. If even the smallest thing is done, the perpetrators are given detention, then suspension, then time in the program then expulsion. Bullying is NOT tolerated. And I have asked my son if he’s had any issues or knows of any. He says no that he’s so much happier in that school and kids who he knows would have been bullied at the other one aren’t bothered here. And I’m glad.
Even Zombie Hunter/Third Son has been bullied by a kid in a grade above him. It was put to a complete stop and we never had to go beyond talking to the teachers about it. And I’m sure Tornado will have to deal with it too. Bullying sucks pure and simple. As a parent you hope your child never has to go through it but they do. I took action for my kids when they couldn’t get help from the people who should have helped them. But guess what? I AM the one who should help them. It’s not just about talking to your kids about bullying. It’s not teaching them to fight so they can protect themselves although, I think it doesn’t hurt to know how to defend yourself should you need to. It’s about teaching them to stand up for themselves and for others and teaching them courage in the face of fear. It’s showing them that you aren’t going to allow them to be bullied by adults who should help them too. I wish my parents would have stood up for me when I needed them to. I’m glad I stood up for my kids when they REALLY needed me to. I hope they learn that bullying is NOT to be accepted and tolerated. That bullying is NOT just kids being kids. It starts by changing the way we think and act. How many times have you said something mean about someone you didn’t know because they cut you off while you were driving? Road rage is an act of bullying, did you know that? What about the snickering you did with a friend about the clothes someone is wearing in public, or the pictures you respond to on Facebook? You know, the ones about the people who frequent Wal-mart? That is a form of bullying. And guess what? Our kids hear and see and copy.
We must change our actions and our thoughts. We must stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, and not leave them alone with a bully. We must become an Anti-Bully.
Check out this site, Stop Bullying, and learn how you can help.