I Was Lucky

I couldn’t find the shirt I wanted to wear this morning. I know I washed it. I know I folded it. I have no idea what kind of journey it is on post laundry basket, but it is not where it should be. As a result, I’m wearing a whole other shirt today. It’s a complete coincidence that, on a day we’re supposed to be wearing purple to support that bullying is bad, I’m wearing a lavender shirt. Sorry, folks. While I don’t support bullying in any way shape or form, I didn’t get the memo about wearing purple, and I was completely prepared to wear a black-and-white striped shirt today.

Today I’ve read a few blog entries online from people who were bullied as kids, including one from Wil Wheaton, which implore parents to teach their kids to respect others, rather than make excuses for them. These blogs made me think about my own childhood and I realize that, as weird and different and not being especially pretty as I was, I was never bullied. This is not a complaint.

Being weird and different and not especially pretty didn’t exactly make my childhood super happy fun times all the time, but no one ever laid a hand on me over it. Oh, other kids said things, mean and hurtful things, that are the root of any self-esteem issues I still have today, but no one continually taunted me, or went out of their way to find me and be mean to me. I thought about that as well. I’m well into middle age, but things people did say to me as a child have stuck with me a very. Long. Time.

All too often there are stories in the news about some kid committing suicide, or going postal, after being verbally or physically abused by classmates, and how social media makes that bullying easier. As much as the comments I got as a kid truly got to me, I can’t imagine being a kid now with Facebook, and text messages allowing 24/7 mean kid access, as well as the added courage of not being face-to-face with the person being taunted. I can see how a barrage of horrible comments can make a kid feel less than. Less than what, you ask? Fill in the blank with “good,” “attractive,” “wanted,” “smart,” “human.” Eventually, something is going to give, and the results can be tragic.

My reasoning for this post isn’t to share my own tragic story, because my story isn’t tragic. It’s to show that, if the negativity I received as a kid affects me as an adult today, imagine how full-on bullying affects a kid through adulthood. I would love this post to call attention to a few things we can do to make this better.

  • We’re the adults. If a kid comes to you about bullying, assume it’s bad. Kids don’t talk about being bullied until it gets bad, so do something about it. There should be no excuses.
  • If another parent or teacher comes to you about your kid bullying another, do something about it. No kid is the complete angel his or her parents think they are. Talk to your kid. If your kid professes innocence, fine. But let them know your eyes and ears are open, and there will be consequences if you learn differently. If you learn differently, follow through on the consequences part.
  • Yes, kids will be kids. But ya know what? How about parents be parents, and teach their kids the concept of boundaries and respect. We were all little shits as kids. Each of us was mean to another child at least once, but I would guess that most of us never tormented or beat another child just for the hell of it. Parents need to provide consequences if their kids exceed those boundaries or disrespect another kid. Hint: As soon as your child beats the crap out of another kid, and it wasn’t self defense, it’s time. Another hint: If your kid is going out of his or her way to verbally threat or torment — in person or online — another kid, it’s time.

The bottom line is that we can wear pretty colors all we want, but until we do more about this than make a conscious wardrobe choice, the bullying will grow.

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