I was watching a news program on MSNBC this evening about bullying, and this is something that I worry about with regard to my daughter. The kids on the program were all teens, and a group of six girls physically beat up another girl. She ended up with a concussion and damage to one of her eyes, as well as numerous bruises, scratches, and scrapes. The six teens and two other bystanders were all arrested. The parents then got involved and many of the parents of the charged teens say it was blown out of proportion. Isn't that always the way it is? None of us want to think that our children could commit such atrocious acts. I would be heartbroken if my daughter was involved in something like that, whether as a victim or as an attacker.
I watched my daughter, Melody, get bullied several years ago by one of the neighbor kids who wanted to be in the middle of everything that was going on with the girls in the neighborhood. This girl loved to come between the other girls and cause disagreements. Melody came home crying several times as a result of the mean-spiritedness of this girl. It was usually something minor, but little girls being little girls, they just couldn't get along. After talking to a few of the parents of the girls, we all concluded that this one girl was the cause of the disruptions, and, interestingly, the family, who was renting their home, moved out within a year of moving in. The other girls all got along wonderfully after she moved away.
Melody is very tall for her age. In fact, she may be the tallest at her school. She's only 10, but she got the tall genes on my side of the family. I can relate. I was one of the tallest at my schools while growing up, and that sometimes resulted in other kids wanting to pick on me. For whatever reason, kids, particularly boys, like to test the tall kid. I guess it must be a way of earning respect to pick on the tall kid. Whatever it is, I got picked on just for being tall. My brother was picked on in much the same way. He sprouted later than me (I was fully grown to 6'2" by the time I entered high school). He reached his full height after high school (he's now 6'6"!). But he grew a lot during high school, and other kids picked on him, as well. The difference was in how he and I reacted to it. I didn't fight back. I took it, and went on my way. I hated violence. My brother, on the other hand, always fought back. He was always getting into fights. It was unfortunate, but that's the way it was.
When I was in third grade, my sister, Angie, and I were riding our bikes out on the sidewalk in front of our house. We rode down to the corner, about three houses down from ours, and back. We were always within view of our house. We had a nice neighborhood. All of the kids knew each other. We all went to the same school. It was fairly close knit, even for a neighborhood with several hundred homes. So we were riding our bikes and we reached the corner and were about to turn around and ride back up to our house. Before we could go anywhere, a group of kids we didn't recognize ran up to us. They were mostly older than us. The oldest was a tall girl who looked like she might be in high school. She was carrying a baby, a boy who looked to be about 2 years old. There were three other boys, as well, and they ranged in age from older than me to younger than my sister (who was in 1st grade). The tall girl grabbed the handlebars on my bike and straddled the front wheel, keeping me from going anywhere. Two of the boys grabbed Angie to keep her from going anywhere. The remaining boy stood behind me to keep me from backing up. They asked where we were going. I started to say we were going home, but the tall girl told me to shut up. She then told the baby to grab my hair, and he did, yanking on it. Angie began to struggle against the two boys holding her in place, but they held her bike still. They continued to verbally harass us, all the while the baby continued to yank on my hair. Angie finally pushed her bike away and ran up the sidewalk. I yelled to her to get Dad. The tall girl then punched me hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me, and they all ran down the street. I was doubled over in pain and crying. Angie had gotten Dad and had told him what happened. When he saw me crying and in pain, he threw us into the car, and took off down the street after the "gang". We caught up to them about two blocks away, and my father confronted them. They were scared, and when asked, they said they didn't live in our neighborhood. My dad told them that if he ever saw them around again, he was calling the police. We never saw them again.
The incident scared me and scarred me. The kids that had confronted us were Black. I didn't have very many Black friends, and the incident caused me to have a lot of trust issues. I had never been beaten up like that before. I was scared. I didn't venture far from home for a long time. However, I also had an even greater respect for my father. I never doubted that my father would be there when I needed him, but this incident made him into my hero. He helped me and confronted the kids who attacked us. This was a big deal in my little 9 year old brain. I never forgot the incident, even though the severity of it lessened over time.
Bullying is a real problem. It's scary to see what kids have to deal with. Many of them are picked on just for being a little bit different, and the violence associated with bullying is worse than ever. I've seen my daughter get picked on and her reaction to it. I hope it isn't something she'll have to deal with, but I also hope I can always be there for her when she needs me. I've educated her on bullying behavior and quiz her on it often. I hope that's all I will have to do.
Have a great week, everyone!