No one likes a bully. But bullies have been around forever.
I can remember the bullies when I was a little girl. I am not even sure what happened to me would be deemed bullying or if it was just kids being kids and exhibiting Darwinesque traits of picking on the weaker, chubbier one.
“Fatty fatty two by four, can’t get through the kitchen door,” they would taunt as I walked down the hall.
Before you feel sorry for me about that, think of all the horrible things that can rhyme with “Sudie” – and my maiden name gave them even more fodder, lending itself to comparisons to products used to treat hemorrhoids.
But I survived. I learned that when these little monsters saw my pressure points and which buttons to push, they did. They fed off my tears, my embarrassment, my shame.
Once I developed the ability to laugh at myself and not let them know they were hurting me, the taunting and fat jokes subsided.
Well, that and I had about a decade long battle with eating disorders. Guess when you look like frighteningly skinny, people can’t make fun of you for being a fatty.
When I grew older, I thought maybe being bullied had me stronger in some way – had made me more compassionate to the differences among us, had taught me how to stand up for myself and other underdogs, how to deflect and more importantly how it felt to be mistreated.
Maybe it did make me stronger, but I never got that “thick skin” I have been told I need, and if anything, it makes me angry to see someone bullied.
But boy howdy, when it’s your own child, you really get upset –like unleash the locusts mad.
And that was the point I had reached.
There had been children that had picked on him, that had hurt his feelings, said things that made him upset. Typical mean kid things.
But then my child had mentioned things, little snippets, of how another child was acting. I listened and thought, incorrectly, that Cole was being his tenderhearted self.
See, unlike me, who got to the point my mouth outgrew me and usually came back with something that could silence a politician, my child does not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Even when they are destroying his.
He finally broke down and told me what was going on and I was in shock.
Not my child.
Some really bad words came out of my mouth. I don’t think they were all in English either. I am sure there was some languages I didn’t speak at all that came out.
I wanted to cry, scream, punch something but more importantly, I wanted to protect my child.
How could someone do something like this to my child? How could another child be so mean?
We wonder what makes a bully, what makes a child want to inflict any kind of harm to another child.
We tell children to tell someone – what if that person does nothing?
We tell children it is wrong – and yet, it still happens.
It happens on a daily basis, no matter what steps we take to inform, educate and prevent it, bullying still happens.
As a parent, I tried to see the other parents’ perspective. How would I feel if the tables were turned? I would be shocked and upset but for different reasons.
But when it’s your child, it’s hard to be objective or see beyond their hurt.
I felt conflicted – I have raised my child to choose kind over right, to think of the other person and to do the right thing, but not everyone else shares those ideals.
Sometimes, they may try to but it doesn’t stick. It had stuck with mine and he didn’t know what to do.
On the other hand, I was furious.
“I’m so mad I could spit fire,” I told Mama.
Mama was ready to spit, too.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
I had been fortunate that we had been able to intervene and get Cole moved to another class and steps and measures had been taken to keep him from the child. But why did my child have to be the one made to feel in the wrong? Why was his schedule and life turned upside down when he had done nothing wrong?
“I hope this works, Mama,” I said.
I was more worried about my child and how he felt through all of this. He didn’t understand why someone would do this when he had done nothing wrong.
We talked about it, a lot. It would randomly come up in conversation when we were enjoying ice cream cones in Dahlonega, or when we were walking at the park.
I worried about him. I wanted him to be safe. I wanted him to always know he always was loved, protected and he could come to me with anything. And that I would listen, really listen to what was said and what was inferred.
But my child was worried about the bully.
“Mama, what happens to bullies?” he asked.
I bit my tongue and refrained from saying the outcome I hope befell them. “I am not sure,” was my truthful answer.
“I don’t know why he did that to me, but I worry about what made him do that,” Cole continued.
Here he was, worried what made a child want to bully someone.
“Do they grow out of bullying?” he asked. “Do they stop bullying when they grow up?”
I thought about that and said, “No, Cole, usually they grow up and they don’t change, they just become your co-workers or your boss and you have to still deal with them.”
He thought about this for a few moments. “Then what happens, Mama? If they are grown and still bullying, what happens to them then?”
I smiled gently at my son.
“It will be just fine, Cole,” I began. “Because then, they will be an adult and Mama can deal with them.”
In fact, I’m already making a list.