“It won’t be one of mine”. That’s what one mother said about her child being bullied. That’s what we all say too, but even when we do everything right, what assurances do we have that the same thing won’t happen to our children? It’s a cruel world they are living in. The boundaries that hemmed us in when we were younger are now blurred and even more so when you throw in the anonymity afforded by technology. Some kids (and some adults too) are emboldened when they think they can hide behind aliases and anonymous personas on the internet or through texting.
Growing up and being a teen is hard enough without adding bullying into the mix. It seems that we hear more and more cases of young kids taking their own lives because of alleged bullying. Just today, I read about two cases. One is of a mom in Philadelphia who risks jail time to avoid subjecting her child to bullying. The other, more severe case is of a 12 year old Japanese girl who hanged herself because of bullying. After hearing of the later case, could you blame the Philadelphia mom?
It breaks my heart to hear of these cases. I feel bad for the young lives cut short. I feel bad for their parents left behind. But most of all I am terrified that it would happen to us. It’s easy to become complacent, to think that it would never happen to us. But as we all know, there are no guarantees in life, only hope. Hope that we have done enough to create a secure sense of self in our children, that we have done enough to make sure their exposure to the unpleasantness in life is at most minimal. We hope that we’ve loved them enough that they don’t need anyone elses. We hope that we’ve armed them enough to fight anything thrown at them. We hope that they are strong enough to withstand hopelessness. We hope…
But the most important thing that I hope we have imparted in our children is to not be afraid to be wrong and to not afraid to be loud. I know. Wrong and loud does not seem to be characteristics that we ought to be teaching our children. They seem more traits fit for the bullies we are fighting against. But I do believe that the people involved in just the two cases I mentioned above, the people who had knowledge of the bullying, were afraid to be wrong and were afraid to be loud and stand out. They didn’t want to be the first one to step out of line to say, ‘stop!’. They didn’t want to be labeled as loud for speaking out.
In the Japanese case, “After an initial denial, Niisato Higashi Elementary School admitted Monday she had been a frequent target of abuse by classmates.” They admitted after the fact and after a ‘survey’ has been conducted. If only just one teacher had ventured to be wrong and found a loud enough voice to say ‘Enough!’
In the Philadelphia case, there is still hope. The kids are still alive. There are still here so that administrators can still bicker whether enough documentation is available to warrant protecting these kids. If only one administrator in that school district would risk being wrong by going against protocol and instead listen to this individual case and be the one to be loud enough for them so they can attend a safer school.
When my daughters entered school, someone told us that we had better teach them to stand up for themselves. That we should teach them to take no crap. That we should teach them to hit back. It sounded right. We wouldn’t want our daughters to be anyone’s victims.
Except that I wasn’t too comfortable with teaching them to fight. Instead, we taught them to avoid being in situations where they would have to hit someone back. We told them that crap is crap and they don’t have room within themselves for crap so leave others to theirs.
We taught them to stand up for someone else who is being taken advantage of. We told them to sit with the person sitting alone. We told them to be the first to help someone up when they have fallen. We told them to be the first to offer a kind word when someone is sad and be the first to say hi when someone is new to the school.
Are our girls perfect because of what we’ve tried to tell them and teach them? Of course not. I’m sure they have had their mean moments. I am sure that they have inadvertently laughed when someone stumbled. They have probably said some unkind words about someone else. They may have even hit back when someone shoved them. That’s alright. None of us are perfect.
My hope is that when it counts, I hope that they will have the courage to be wrong. To go against their friends to stand up for someone else who can’t do it for themselves. I hope they find their voice and use it as loud as they can to speak for someone else who can’t. I hope…