So I hesitated writing this post because I don’t really have anything helpful to say on the topic of bullying.
But then I remembered this entire blog is devoted to unhelpfulness, so I figured “what the hell” and I’m writing it.
I have no particular insight into what makes a kid mean, no meaningful perspective on what it is that makes one kid a rampant teaser and another kid the victim of it.
And I don’t know what I’ve done to make my kids more the “victims” than the perpetrators. Perhaps I’ve done nothing. Perhaps they are the perpetrators and I just don’t know it.
Although to be honest I doubt the latter, mostly because they tend to come home telling me about how they have been made fun of, and how they don’t understand it, or they tell me about how mean some kids are to other kids, and how it’s sad. And they are visibly disturbed.
But I guess it’s critical for me to say that my kids aren’t angels. They aren’t perfect. They aren’t kind and patient and understanding all the time. I’ve read blogs by women who think their kids shit rainbows.
I am not that woman.
But I am pretty confident in asserting that my kids are not mean. I watch them with their friends. I have never had a complaint from any friend, teacher or acquaintance telling me my kid was involved in teasing or bullying, but I have seen both of them in tears, more than once, on account of other kids making fun of them in a repeated, disturbing way.
With Ava, the teasing has become sexual in nature and I’ve had to raise some serious hell in her school.
And when these moments occur (you can read about the saddest one HERE), when I’m watching the pain in my kids’ eyes, doing my best to trudge through it with them, comfort and hold them, I wonder, really truly wonder, what it is exactly that makes some kids bullies and some kids not.
Are they born that way? I doubt it.
Is it their parents? Are they neglectful? Are these kids vying for power and attention at school because they have none at home? I don’t know.
Are they abused? Does meanness run in their families? Are they teased by their parents? Are they criticized and harassed? Maybe.
Is it television? I don’t really see how that would work, but whatever, most bad shit can be blamed on television so I thought I’d throw that one in.
Or are they simply not taught right from wrong and respect for others? This one seems the most plausible to me. Maybe they aren’t “born bad” and they don’t have excessively horrid parents, but maybe those parents have not given their children a moral compass, a sense of “okay” and “not okay in any circumstance.” And so, they think something is funny and they just roll with it. And maybe they start and the other kids laugh and it’s exhilarating and fun and empowering, and nobody’s ever explained that that particular laugh is at the expense of another. Another’s heart. Another’s well-being. Another’s feeling of acceptance. Another’s RIGHT TO JUST BE.
And when I think about it, there is one thing my husband and I absolutely do not tolerate under any circumstances, and that’s the act of bullying in our home. My kids are not allowed to use their size or their power to dominate a sibling or anybody else. When I see it I make them set it right immediately, no matter where we are, and we talk about why it was wrong. Even grabbing a toy out of Georgia’s hand is unacceptable.
We don’t call names.
We don’t make sweeping insults that slash another’s character.
And we recognize when we have hurt each other. We watch them cry. We feel what we have done and we FUCKING APOLOGIZE.
In these routines I’m trying to teach my kids some morality. Some sense of “it ain’t right to make somebody cry because I feel like it or it’s fun or I want something.”
I am responsible for my words. And the consequences of my words.
And my actions. And the consequences of my actions.
And it isn’t right to GAIN ANYTHING by hurting somebody else, by violating their rights, by making them feel small and powerless and alone.
Or, maybe they’re just born that way.
I don’t know. I guess I just want my kids to obey what is probably the only solid, universal advice in the history of the world:
“Don’t be a dick.”
And if you can, maybe support each other occasionally, even people you don’t know, like you would your little sister just learning to walk, as you plod along this rugged path we all walk, stumbling, falling, grabbing for the hand of somebody who might actually give a shit.