Apparently, bullying starts younger than I remember.
A few years ago, due to an issue with her foot, my daughter wore a boot. As she slowly limped down the hallway with a friend, the class bully decided to push her…for no reason at all. It wasn’t done in a flirty, “let-me-pull-your-hair-because-I-like-you” way. It was malicious. I’m not sure if this is a blessing or a curse, but my daughter has inherited my mouth. So she gave that boy a piece of her mind and the ordeal was over. That is, until she told me about it.
I was really proud that she stood up for herself, and her reaction taught me that she would always be okay. However, upon further discussion, she informed me that this kid regularly picked on girls in her class. I don’t know what goes on in a household that would allow an elementary school boy to think that pushing, hitting or kicking a girl is okay, but that’s a topic for another day. With that said, even though my daughter handled the issue, I felt the need to say something on behalf of other moms who might be dealing with this as well. So, I contacted her teacher and this boy’s mother via email to alert them to the fact that he had deliberately hurt my daughter, who, as a reminder, already had a bum foot.
In his mother’s response to my email, she said she would address it. But just for good measure, she added a petty comment alluding to something my daughter said to her son (which was “shut up”, for inquiring minds). Note to self: work with my daughter on better word choices and maybe some applicable hand gestures. Adding this quip to the end of her email voided her entire reply. By turning his behavior around on my daughter, she indirectly told me that his conduct may have been justifiable. In my mind, no matter how many times my daughter told her son to shut up, there is no acceptable reason for physical violence, specifically between a boy and a girl. My concern was that this could happen to someone else’s kid. And it has. His most recent display of aggression happened a few weeks ago with a swift kick to a girl’s ankle, which landed her in the nurse’s office.
Since this boy’s behavior hasn’t changed, I have made my daughter aware that a boy should never harm a girl. It’s a shame that this boy hasn’t received the memo. With my daughter being only ten years old, I don’t even want to have the puberty conversation with her, much less talk to her about physically violent boys, who will eventually turn into assholes as men. But here we are, discussing it.
I’m not really sure why action wasn’t taken the first time this kid displayed signs of aggression. The boy’s PTA mother is well known at school, so maybe some low level politics had been involved. Regardless, this situation in its entirety baffles me because if my child displayed multiple behavioral issues, I wouldn’t be up the school’s ass, trying to make myself look important. I would be up my child’s ass, trying to figure out where I went wrong. But that’s just me.
Right now, this boy is on the path to popularity- the cool chicks like him, and the boys want to be his friend. But he is also on the path to self-importance. He will soon come to realize that he has the ability to make people do whatever he says. He will laugh at the expense of others, and the minions in his group will laugh and follow in his footsteps in the name of being “cool”.
I am not a fortune teller, but I know that if his parents stop enabling his behavior and involve themselves now, he might have a better shot at being a decent human being.
And that’s my point.
We are highly expendable in every job we will ever hold except for one. Being a parent is an irreplaceable role, and it is imperative that we remember that. If your kid needs more from you, be there. If he is acting out, pay more attention and intervene when necessary. If another parent informs you that your kid has done something wrong, be willing to accept that your kid isn’t perfect. Address issues with your children in a real way, rather than with a simple ten minute “your-behavior-was-not-nice” lecture. Make a commitment to your child, even if that means losing your coveted role as a PTA member.
One of the scariest things about parenting is that we don’t always get it right. But while our children are still young and impressionable, addressing issues when we see them is essential to their development. Whether you are a parent of a bully, or of a child who is being bullied, remember that inaction is also an action. So speak up, pay attention and be present. Your children, and the society that has to deal with them, will appreciate it in the long run.