My baby brother notified me to some extremely disheartening news recently. The daughter of someone we know had committed suicide and bullying had apparently played a key role. The news hit me unexpectedly hard, no not because I was a family friend or a contributor to this young person’s life but because I knew what it was like to be bullied and picked on at a young age.Through the years I’ve heard people say “oh, its just kids being kids” or “its not that bad ignore them”. It’s always that bad to the child whose getting picked on or bullied; whether physically or emotionally, and as of the last decade or so it’s gone far beyond kids just being kids. Often times most bullies are emulating behavior they’ve been exposed to. I’m at the age where I can look around and say kids these days can be friggnin’ mean. I’ve witnessed it as a Camp Counselor and just out and about. I don’t know the exact story or the form and fashion of bullying that led to a child’s life being lost but I do know from my own experience that bullying, regardless of the super snarky comebacks your mom tells you to give the next time around, will never change the fact that for some reason one or more of your peers has decided to single you out and make you feel unworthy or small.
As my brother and I discussed the recent incident, I reminded him that I knew quite well what it was like to be picked on and especially at such a young age. I could’ve gone on for hours about how hurtful some of my peers were when we first moved to South Carolina after my parents’ time in the Army. I was “Alaska Girl” for a while since that’s where I had last gone to school, then there was Peach Fuzz (lame, just lame), and I was told I “talk like a white girl” (Speaking proper English and being educated has NOTHING TO DO WITH ETHNICITY) which started in the fourth and didn’t go away even after graduation. It really upset me when the name-calling moved to my mother and her physical condition after her back-to-back aneurysm surgeries. They called us both ugly, made fun of her shaved head, and picked on me because “I thought I was smart or something”. by middle school there had been a few physical altercations, and by high school it was back to some of the emotional verbally abusive type behavior, for a while I tried and tried to fit in and be accepted, but that got old so I gave up and went back to being myself (nerdy, somewhat funny, and creative). My little brother took a minute and could recollect some of the incidents, but of course at the time he didn’t realize what was going on, especially since there was a seven year difference between us.
I say all this to say that when he told me about the unfortunate situation that someone had faced, I remembered my own pain and dealings. Your parents and family can love on you all they can but during your formative years it’s not always their approval you look for, it’s also your peers. To be shunned, ousted, picked on, bullied, or mistreated can be hard for most adults; one can only imagine what goes on with a child or teenager these days.More and more we’re seeing reactive behavior to the affects of bullying and its become much more lethal than the days of throwing your book bag down and “going at it”. [ I am in no way shape or form promoting fighting in schools.] At some point people have to STAND UP TO BULLYING, say “Enough is Enough!” and be willing to make a change; that goes for teachers/administrators, students, and yes parents you too. Sadly bullying doesn’t always have signs nor does it always stop in school, there are plenty of bullies in the workplace for adults, but the key is getting the right dialogue going to encourage positive change and feedback.
If you need more information check out www.stopbullying.gov