Everyone is passionate about something. For me it is children. I want to help them, nurture them, teach them, protect them and help them to realize that they are an asset to this world. I want them to know that they matter. Not only that, I want them to discover that what they give back to the world matters.
I just finished watching the documentary “Bully.” It left me in tears. It broke my heart that there are so many children out there hurting other kids for no reason other than that they are different than the bullies. Because they don't fit into their mold and simply because they feel that they can and seem to think they have the right to hurt others.
What also shocked me was that this went on right in front of adults who did nothing about it. Bus rides are notorious for this type of horrendous behavior. I saw kids stabbing a boy with pencils, struggling with him and slamming his head into a bus seat. These kids were not only hurting this boy physically, but with words. They continuously told him he was a “pussy” or “faggot.” They told him they were going to bring in a knife and stab him, simply because he said, “You're my buddy, aren't you?” And you know what the bus driver did? Nothing. Looked in her mirror, saw what was going on and kept driving. Not even a “Stop that!”
When the parents went to administrators, they were shrugged off. The offending kids were told to stop doing that. The parents explained that children should be safe when they go to school. Their son no longer felt safe. He was becoming even more disconnected and numb. That boy was just one of the kids the show followed. There were others who had just as much trouble. And others who had taken the only option they believed they had - suicide.
I felt compelled, once again, to talk to my own children about bullying. Unfortunately, bullying has become an issue that we have to discuss with our children, just as we talk with them about strangers and puberty. We discussed what bullying is. We talked about their options for handling a situation, and who they could talk to.
We also talked about being kind. I suggested that when they see a new kid in school they should welcome them, say hello, ask them to play or sit with them at lunch. I asked them to think of their friends and how much they love spending time with them. Then I told them to imagine if they did not have one friend, not one. No one to talk with during school. No one to play with at recess. No one to invite to a birthday party or play with after school. To them this was unfathomable, as it is for most of us.
I explained that there are people who do not have a single friend. They have no one to talk to. My daughter, Reese, said, “Momma, that is awful. I would not like that at all.” We all agreed that every person was different. People like different things, look different, believe different things, and different is ok. My final words were that every person in this world deserves to love and be loved. We don't have to agree with everything someone does, but we need to practice kindness, love, and understanding.
My own son, Jake, had dealt with a kid that he saw as somewhat of a bully. The ironic thing was that they called each other a friend. This kid was bigger than Jake and for some reason felt compelled to say things just to get under his skin. He was doing it to his other friends as well. This “bully,” who I will call Jon, never laid hands on Jake, it was all done with words. We had over the years discussed how Jake could handle the situation. We talked about telling Jon that he didn't like what he was saying and to use a firm voice when he told him to stop. We talked about simply not playing with him. Jake did these things and Jon would stop for a while and then start up again. We had also told him that if the bullying ever escalated, he had our permission to protect himself. Not throw the first punch, but if it came to blows, do what he could to protect himself.
Then one day I was driving Jake to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and he said, “Mom, I have to tell you something. I put Jon in a head lock today.” In my head I was thinking, “Way to go buddy, you finally stuck up for yourself.” Out loud I asked what happened. Jake explained that for years he had listened to Dad and me. He used his words, he told him firmly to stop. He had avoided him at times, but today he just couldn't take it any more. Jon was saying the same things he had been for the past three years. So, at recess, Jake put the much bigger Jon in a head lock and told him to stop bullying him. And it worked. He stopped.
I said to him that I was glad that he protected himself. We also talked about the situation and what had been said. I explained that if he were to get in trouble, I needed his side of the story. I reminded him that just as his dad and I would have his back, Jon's parents would have his too. We needed to know the details in case it came to anything. It didn't. It was just a playground tussle that ended in less bullying and a more confident Jake. The next day Jake told me that he and Jon actually talked it out, shook hands, and agreed to be friends. I told Jake that I was very proud of him and how he handled the entire situation. That he handled it with a lot of maturity.
We were lucky. Our story was really minor compared to the ones we hear about across the country. Kids are ruthless. The victims can't get away from it. They are pummeled with hate at school. They are hated and stalked via social media and on the internet. They are inundated with hate and abuse all day long.
And it isn't just our kids. You can turn on the news, scroll through social media sites, peruse the internet, and flip the pages of magazines and find hate. Bullying doesn't just happen with our children, it continues into adulthood. Someone can't believe that someone else would dress or look “that” way. Someone disapproves of someone’s behavior, or snipes at someone for loving someone they “shouldn't.”
It is everywhere and I am tired of it. I no longer watch the news. I can go on the internet and find the news I need to know. I don’t need to be bombarded over and over with pictures and words that express someone’s hate. I am not naive about what goes on, but I have made a choice to do my best to fill my spirit with good. We all have enough crap that goes on in our lives, why do I need to constantly bombard my mind with more? I don't.
And I believe we all need to get over ourselves. We are all different in ways large and small. From the second we are conceived we have different DNA, we have different experiences that shape our lives. Your way may not be my way. My religion may not be yours and guess what? Your way or my way is not “the truth,” it is simply our individual truth. Just like what I am writing about today, all these thoughts, ideas, and opinions are my own, shaped by my genetics and by my life experiences – by my nature and my nurture. I would love it if others agree with me, but I don’t expect it. But, I ask us all to consider where we too have been bullies. Maybe we could consider letting go of the hate, judgment, resentment, and anger that we all deal with daily and replacing it with love, joy, kindness, and understanding. For I believe that we should live in a world where people are looking to lift someone up, rather than tear them down.