Friday, October 5, 2012

A bumpy trip down memory lane...

Today I received an email that I never wanted to get from my daughter's third grade teacher.  With her sweet and caring nature I never expected she would be involved in something that would bring up some very bad memories for me.

1985:  Imagine you've spent most of the 12 years of your life on earth as the tallest and skinniest kid in the ENTIRE school.  Imagine you're a bit awkward, gangly, and completly devoid of any self-esteem.

You've been teased mercilessly for years about your height, you weight, your freckles, your lack of coordination (which incidentally is why running has always been my joy- it requires nothing more than me putting one foot in front of the other) and any other reason that you can think of because you're a little different.

Every day you go to school you hope, you pray, that today will be the day the kids will stop making fun of you.  And it never is.  So you develop a well-honed sense of humor that you use to deflect those comments and pretend that they don't hurt.  But they do.  Deeply.  And you never forget.

Imagine, then, that in the sixth grade the kids, led by the class bully (at the time we didn't think of her as the "bully" we simply did what she told us to do out of fear and called her "popular") told you that you were ugly.  So ugly that you look like a dog.  And then, if that wasn't enough, the kids join in and start to bark and you, and give you a nickname that they know will really make you feel horrible: Rover.

My nickname throughout much of sixth grade was that of a dog.  Believe me, I'm fully aware that these events are nearly 30 years old, and I don't think about them much anymore.  No, not really ever at all. 

As I've grown up I've come to realize that when we try to hurt others, when we're mean and unkind, we're merely attempting to cover up the fact that we're insecure and, in many cases, need to find a way to control the one situation that is controllable in life:  how other people feel about what we say and do.  Think about it.  It's so very true.

I've spent the better part of my grown up years attempting to stick up for others when I can.  Am I perfect?  No.  Did I sometimes fall victim to the other kids and find a kid to pick on myself?  You bet.  Maybe out of fear.  I don't know.  But probably insecurity was the main thing, and the fear that if I didn't go along, that I'd be the victim once again.

2012:  Imagine getting an email nearly 30 years later from your daughter's third grade teacher that she was involved in an "incident on the playground" where, and I am surprised the teacher didn't call this out, my daughter and a few other girls were involved in BULLYING another child.  Bullying.  Another.  Child.

I'm the Mom in the Neighborhood Who Called the Police last summer because there was a makeshift "fight club" in the park nearby and little kids were on the ground being kicked in the stomach by older boys. 

As a result, I spent a SIGNIFICANT amount of time teaching my kids after the incident (or so I thought) about standing up for others when they can't stand up for themselves, or when they do desperately need someone to be there for them.  My kids were there, they saw what happened, they were scared.  And yet.

Crazy me, I thought the message sunk in.  But, alas, it did not.  So here I am, trying to explain to my beautiful daughter how important it is to stand up for our friends, to stand up for others, because I think I would have felt better if once, just one time, someone in my class had stood up for me and told the other kids to stop.  But no one did.  And I'll never forget.

My heart is literally breaking, not for my daughter's lack of compassion in this situation.  I believe that she is good at heart and will do the right thing eventually.  No, indeed, my heart breaks for that sweet little girl that they bullied today.  As sure as I know my name, I know that child will never forget what happened today and she'll always remember my baby girl was a part of it.

Here I am.  30 years later.  And I'll never forget.  It's like I'm 12 all over again.

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