Friday, February 11, 2011

Bullying through my eyes

Earlier this week I was privileged to participate on a Twitter chat (#ptchat) concerning bullying. The chat focused on girl bullies. Bullying is a topic extremely close to my heart. I was bullied as a child from fourth to twelfth grade. I will not tolerate bullying in my children or others. I think I'm going to make this an ongoing topic in my blog.
This post will touch upon my bullying experiences. I was a shy, introverted child. My father worked long hours and my mother was a housewife. I got along well with my peers as most kids do in the early years of school.
In fourth grade my school district took its third elementary school and divided the students between the two remaining schools. My tormentor came from this school. I was a tiny child, one of the smallest in that grade. Believe it or not, this girl was smaller than me. Looking back I believe she picked on me to raise herself up and put herself into a power position. Bullying can be about self esteem/self image.  She wasn't confident in herself because of her height and this was her compensation mechanism. Sad, but true I believe.
A lot of my memories are muddled with time and the need to forget the painful details. This girl was just mean. Plain and simple. I didn't provoke her. We had no shared history. Life was hard enough as it was because my family was struggling financially and my mom rarely left the house. I was not active in any activities because my dad was never home and my mom full of excuses.
One clear memory is of this girl approaching me in the bathroom during fourth grade. It was one of those times before/after lunch where the whole class lines up and walks together to go. She got in my face and threatened to beat me up. No provocation at all. I remember trembling and trying not to cry. I was terrified by this pint size bitch. No one stepped in on my behalf. I honestly don't recall how many girls witnessed this. It may have just been the two of us.  I've obviously blocked it. I wish I had the strength to stand up for myself or tell the teacher. My teacher wasn't really the approachable type, so the idea barely crossed my mind.
Over the years it progressed from there. It wasn't always that girl. It was other girls that got pleasure from taunting a shy child that was awkward in her own skin. The boys joined in too. I was called names, snickered at and made fun of in so many ways. Thank goodness I was never physically hurt. I was hurt mentally and emotionally which is just as bad. I'm glad details have faded because I learned to move past it. It didn't help that my mom was socially awkward.  I had no one to guide me into womanhood.  I learned on my own how to do my hair, make up and try to take care of my acne ridden face.  My parents didn't consider buying me any special skin products or take me to a dermatologist.  That opened me to more bullying and my self confidence was already low.  I started wearing glasses in fifth grade.  There was no such thing as thinner lens then.  Mine were extremely thick and I had the ugliest plastic frames.  My self image was zero.
I try to focus on the positive now that I'm older.  There was some good that came from this though it took years to develop.  I was struggling in school until half way through fifth grade. I started focusing on school work since I had to social life. My overall grades went up and I became a much better reader.
I had neighborhood kids that would play with me some days after school but would not hesitate to cut me down in school. It made then feel cool, I'm sure. We moved between sixth and seventh grade. I didn't change middle schools but I did move to a new neighborhood, a few houses from an acquaintance. We became good friends and I slowly allowed myself to open enough to become close friends with two other girls. These three girls gave me strength and confidence. I came out of my shell around them. I became a leader, even if it was only in our small group. Though I was still bullied daily these girls helped change my life. In essence, they saved me.
There were definitely moments where I hated my life. I would cry and rally to God asking him why me. I had dark, depressive days. I thought about ending it all some days because the mental, emotional pain was more than I thought I could bear. But, I found reasons to keep going. My tight knit group of friends gave me that. I was a different person in school than I was at home. They saved my life because I never went further than thinking of ending it. I never acted. I found positive things to focus on and get through those dreadfully bleak hours.
Parents, please keep an open dialogue with your children. They may not always want to talk but they will know you are there. Listen and try not to judge. Don't always offer advice. Sometimes that's not what they need. Be supportive. Look for changes in behavior, even if it's minor. Make your presence known in school. Be a positive influence. Teachers and other parents are more likely to approach you if you make yourself available. Be nice and supportive of their friends. They may come to you in confidence if they think something is wrong with your child. You set the tone. You're the adult. Be aware of those who negatively influence your child. Handle them accordingly without banning them from your child's life. If you do, you child will find ways to defy you. Sometimes it's about subtly. Be subtle and your child will eventually see that negative influence themselves.
Be there. Listen. Support. Help stop bullying.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.7


Heather H said...

Great post. I truly appreciate your honesty and genuine sharing.

Your advice to parents is wise. Create a climate of compassion, kindness and openess in the home.

As a mom/smom of 6 I have kids who have been bullied and a stepdaughter who bullied another. While it was hard to get that call from a mom telling me what my daughter had done, I knew it was harder for that mom making the call.

I know I'm not a bad mom because my child did something mean but I would be in irresponsible parent if I laughed it off, excused it away and ignored the deeper issue - my child is hurting and is acting out.

Thanks for the post. Having discussions like these are important for keeping bullying top of mind and something we can all work together to end.

And I think you are super great. I'm glad you found power in your friends. A good support group is so important. I'm blessed to have you in mine.

Mommy's Juggling Act said...

Thank you so much Heather! I really appreciate you comment. No one is perfect and I do believe all children "bully" at some point in their childhood. Many times it's a cry for attention or help and we just need to embrace it and find out how to help them.
I'm so glad to have you in my support group too.