I’m going to watch the documentary ‘Bully’ at some point over the weekend and after viewing the trailer it sparked so many emotions. We can all think back to junior high and high school and remember someone who was less than decent and at times downright cruel. Right? Or was I one of those rejects that got teased more than others? I was nothing but kneecaps and elbows, big feet, buck teeth and with no boobs to compensate. I was a sight that gave sore eyes. 😉 But it still didn’t give anyone the right to call me “bones”; thanks Pete for that creative name. “Skeletor”, “Stick-figure”, “Gumby” and my all time (least) favorite “Olive Oyl”. If I was wearing shorts, walking to the teacher’s desk was my living nightmare with my heckler whispering his hurtful names to me as I passed him. It made me so upset one day that I teared up and ran out of the room to ball my eyes out in the bathroom. That was 8th grade.
There wasn’t a day that went by where someone wouldn’t comment on my chicken legs; and I’m not kidding it went as follows, “Oh my gosh Serena, look at how skinny your legs are!! Eew!” “You need to eat a cheeseburger and gain some weight. You’re TOO skinny!” Way to boost my ever deflating self-esteem you guys!
What I always dreamed of saying back to them was, “Screw off you fatty magoo!” or “Your one to talk, pizza face!” Can you believe the reason why I couldn’t say those things was because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings? What the heck kind of a raw deal was that? You say something mean to me, I should feel 100% ok to say something cruel right back, don’t ya think? Well, not the case. Even moving out of state (unrelated to this) didn’t save me from the ridicule and so I went through my Sophomore and Junior year of high school very rarely wearing anything but pants or long skirts because I was so embarrassed of my sticks that carried me through the hallways wondering if there was anyone staring at them disgusted. I know, my self-esteem was pretty pathetic.
On to another city my Senior year (fun times!) I finally said, “Who cares?!” So I wore shorts and skirts and felt a little bit better about myself because I did start to fill in around the joints and bones making me feel less awkward. Yes, this was all at 17; total late bloomer! Not to say the comments stopped completely, but I got a bit better at recognizing the source. It was usually a jerk who was rude to just about everyone and didn’t have a lot of friends. Same thing back in 8th grade, I just didn’t know any better.
Now, as Tom and I are raising our kids it’s a whole other ballgame. Not only do we have to worry about our kids being bullied (yes, it happens this young), but we have to make sure they never become the bullies. I am always questioning my daughter about this little boy in her class who is a tad awkward and will probably be the target for cruelty in the next couple of years. “Does he have friends?” “If he’s alone on the playground, you should ask him to play with you!” Fat chance, mom, is probably what she is saying on the inside; I mean, what the heck do I expect from my 6 year old daughter? To start a movement at school making fellow 6 year olds find a loner and befriend them? Don’t worry, I just offer the idea to her, I don’t really expect it to happen. I just want to plant the seed so maybe one day she might act on it.
For a book exchange at school I thought it was a book donation and sent Carissa with a bunch of old Dora ‘Learn to Read’ books. When I got word it was a classroom exchange I laughed and asked her if anyone wanted her books. She said yes and it was the boy aforementioned. She said she, along with two others, were asking him if he still liked Dora. She said no one was being mean, but were just asking him. I immediately said, “Hold up. Why else would he have chosen the Dora books if he didn’t like them? Do you think he might have felt you guys were making fun of him?” “No mom, he said his mom still makes him watch her show.” “Probably not the case, Carissa. I don’t think he would have chosen those books with several to choose from if he didn’t really want them. And you know what, he probably went home and was not as excited to read them as he would have been had you kids not said anything.” She agreed and all was well, but I made sure she REALLY understood that if some of the kids in class were poking fun at the books she chose, it probably wouldn’t make her feel very good. Great. My job was done making my kid feel bad while once again keeping someone else’s feelings in tact. lol Not really, but now maybe she’ll think twice when something like that arises again. What makes me feel better is knowing that she’ll never be the bully. I’m sure parents of bullies would have either 1. Never asked. 2. Laughed alongside their child teaching them that it’s okay to make someone feel bad for no reason.
However, I do struggle with the fine line between initiating cruelty and defending oneself. Such as when the kids were calling me names, why did I care so much about their feelings; they sure as heck didn’t care about mine? I should have been able to say a thing or two to make them know they were no prize either, but instead I cried. Why did I always freaking cry, dangit?!? And so I continue to make my kids understand the idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes all while I’m still learning to not raise ultra-sensitive kids who crumble at every negative comment made to them, like myself at that age. It sure isn’t easy trying to raise kids with solid character AND a backbone these days.
Just call me Olive Oyl…everybody else does