By Debby Shulman
Sometimes those conversations I have in my head seem so real. I become this intensely wicked, quick-thinking, authentically brazen BADASS and I love myself because of it. There are times when I get so wrapped up in the showdown, I think I say things aloud. More than once my daughter has said, “Huh?” at something I should have been thinking but blurted out, forgetting the filter I am supposed to use. When I am in the car, I can have full-blown arguments with nobody but myself about the injustices my children, my husband, and my sister have suffered at the hands of some moron. What I come with in the privacy of my Jeep exceeds ANYTHING I have ever been witty enough to say right at the exact moment. And isn’t that the shame of it? We never say exactly what we want in stressful situations; it is truly one of life’s biggest injustices. We marinate and stew, filled with wishes of saying something clever, something mean, and something to shut that person up.
The worst offenders of my ‘silent suffering’ are the bullies. I chew them up, I spit them out, and they are worse for it.
Show me a bitchy queen with her coven of straight-haired, robotic wannabes and in my mind, I have reduced her to kashi. Give me a teenage boy with too much attitude, undeserved swag and a Donald Trump ego? I have punched his ugly lights out with my left hook (I don’t know what a left hook is, actually, but I like the way it sounds.)
I hate bullies, I hate the mean kids and we ALL have experienced that feeling of wanting to give it back to the kid that gave it to ours.
My kids handled their bullying with some degree of confidence. Not much – some. Yes, we had to get involved about 16 years ago with my eldest, but since then I have caved to the pleading of my kids to NOT get involved. And while there have been a couple of instances in the last few months where I have wanted to silently follow my 5’1” daughter around at school and whisper things like, “When you see his ugly face, stare at him so hard he pees a little.” Or, “tell that %$#@ bitch to leave you the &^%$ alone!!”
I have stood strong against the urge to do battle in the student activities hallway. Besides which, my daughter would NEVER talk to me again. So, I’m left with the silent suffering we all deal with when we suspect our kids are getting teased.
And this was all fine, until it happened to my sister. I feel in control when it’s my own offspring but if I think someone is tinkering with my sister or her kids, it’s full metal jacket. That protective force field of sibling support rises up from the depths of my 18-year-old self and I arguably rage into action.
Nobody puts baby in the corner.
So when I got the call that my nephew was being teased at a bar-mitzvah service, I lost it. After all, it takes SO MUCH GUTS TO TEASE THE KID WITH ASPERGER’S — right?
That bully is the guy I do NOT want on my team, that’s the kid who will never know what it’s like to get picked last for gym, and that’s the little bugger who I would like to reduce to sniveling snotty tears and send to his room for a couple of weeks. BAM.
What is it about the nice kids that attract so much negative attention? Seriously… explain this phenomenon to me. The sweet, nice kid, who doesn’t bother anyone, who is sitting quietly next to his best friends, is the one who gets bullied?
The patient kid who would never tease anyone else is the victim? But that’s life in the disgusting cesspool of junior high.
So when my nephew called my sister to tell her to come and get him, I got the phone call that asked the ugly questions, through Mommy tears, why kids are so mean and why it makes other children feel so good to be so cruel. And doesn’t that seem to be the question of the decade? My nephew went to that bar-mitzvah to help his friend celebrate; he didn’t go to be bullied and humiliated. He thought he was going to play the “hugging game”, eat mediocre food, and maybe mosh pit a little.
I have no answer for her.
The current debate runs the gamut of calling the parents and letting them know what happened, ignoring the behavior and hoping your child is never the victim again, or letting the school help out. My sister decided to contact the school, unaware that a good friend of my nephew had already filled out a “Bully Report” at school. By anonymously filling out a form, any child can report nasty behavior (whether it happens in or outside of school) perpetuated by another student. So, the Vice Principal called in the repugnant little beasts and received confession. Parents called, situation over … ahhh, not quite. Right Moms and Dads? Don’t you love when you are so emotionally wound up about an abusive experience your child has had and within minutes, your kid is fine and you are left sweltering, cussing and screaming into your pillow? My sister is still is recovery; adolescent detox for sure.
The best question my sister and other parents who have written me horror stories of bullying raise is this: What is the difference between teasing and bullying? How do we reconcile which is what and when the school needs to get involved? Why do some schools rally for the victim and others turn their heads in obvious and intentional ignorance to pleas from parents to do something? How do we make this right?
I have no answer for you.
Having those sickening experiences happen to your child can more than destroy their self-esteem and confidence, no matter the age. Yet, why are we so hesitant to call out loathsome behavior and make the parents aware? My kids would tie me up like Gulliver in my sleep … they have begged and pleaded to let it go; they can’t endure the added pain and drama of the Mean Queen announcing that Mommy called and got involved. Ugh. I am left having imaginary brawls with that revolting boy that tweeted something insidiously untrue about my daughter.
The only one who hears me is ME.
When are we going to do something as a society to make it better? Why should my sister be nervous that there will be a next time?
I would love to have the answers to both.
Bullies continue to tease because THEY CAN. It is so under the radar and manipulative. I’ve heard of teenage girls group texting a victim repeatedly over and over again, sending pictures of the parties they are at without her, with disgusting remarks about her being the unwanted loser.
WE GIVE THOSE KIDS THE POWER AND WE MUST TEACH OUR CHILDREN TO EMPOWER ONE ANOTHER. That’s one answer. But, I don’t know how to change a culture that is so engulfed in social media, popularity and the wicked high that some feel when tossing someone overboard.
So, I am left with having those unsatisfying conversations in my head with no solution to the bigger problem. What I would like to believe, is that the earlier we make this a discussion at home, a curricular component in all schools, and institute a ‘no tolerance’ policy statewide, nothing is going to get resolved.
This column is a Call-To-Action – I see it as a dare I would like to take on myself. Call the shots, show your children you are there to help them, and you are NOT afraid of dealing with the social corruption that bullying breeds. Encourage them to always support one another, never leaving your wingman to suffer the brutality on their own. Starting a movement is never easy.
Who is with me?
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: I am SO IN … xoxo Debby Shulman is a college essay consultant and academic tutor with a private practice in Northbrook, Illinois. She also professionally collaborates with Amy Simon College Consulting in Bannockburn, Illinois. Debby also blogs about Motherhood/Teen issues for Your Teen magazine (www.yourteenmag.com). Check out her valuable advice.