Bullying will never go away and we are stupid to think it might. There is a term in nature called “survival of the fittest” and the reason some animals eat their young is they know that the weak or deformed newborn has little chance of survival and as such gets sacrificed for whatever reason nature deems the “greater good.” Whether it is instinctual or emotive I doubt even David Attenborough knows but it happens and whilst we might be able to train Apes to sign and dolphins to jump at our command, there are some elements of nature we just cannot change. I believe bullying is one of them.
Now before you go misquoting or emailing me, incensed that I should suggest any parent sit down to dinner with their weaker child Hannibal Lecter style, or think I am saying it is okay to bully (because quite frankly it is not) please take the time to hear me out.
Everyone who read my previous blogs at Chasing Oprah and here at FMM know that my son has been bullied time and time again for being “different” and not just for having Aspergers. His various “crimes against humanity” have been anything from being called gay, a retard, fat, fairy, baby, poor, stupid, ugly, slow, dangerous, dumb and spastic. These terms have been thrown about by children and adults alike. It has come in the form of name calling, physical torture, beatings and exclusionary tactics (being the only kid left out of certain activities) not only by his peers but by the shallow narrow minded parents who not only allow their children to get away with it but encourage them to do so by doing nothing about it and sometimes even being a party to it.
The weekend his entire group of friends went to a kids party while he sat home and cried was tough. Bathing the bruises and wounds from the local baseball bully was worse but the emotional scars hurt him more. They break my heart. When your child cries into the arms that can no longer rock them to sleep, saying they wish they were dead, your heart breaks and it is hard to not want to seek revenge. I say this in light of the extremely sad and tragic death of a young 14 year old boy who did just that this past weekend, bullied to the point of no return he took his own life. You don’t ever think your kid means it but obviously some do and Jamey Rodemeyer is a tragic example of how sticks and stones can break your bones but words can also hurt you. My sincere condolences go out to his family and I speak of his death in the fervent hope that this will change how we deal with these situations.
It was my son Kai’s party this past weekend and we had talked for months of excluding the bullies who had made his life hell and who had gone out of their way to exclude him, but the reality is, it was more their parents doing than the kids and what better way to demonstrate how to be a better person than by being one yourself?
So they were invited and came and I was surprised to find the dad geared up and ready to play air soft at my expense (the one who had referred to Kai as a retard and who had excluded him from all group activities for months including his own son’s birthday party). So I asked him to step outside a minute to have a chat before the party started. It didn’t quite go as expected, I have to say that. Stomach churning, knees shaking, I started explaining that I wanted to simply reach out to say he and his son were more than welcome but that I just wanted him to know that he had really hurt my son with his behavour. I went on to say that I wanted all of the kids to just get along so if we could just move forward we could better demonstrate how to be better human beings and as such the kids would learn a valuable life lesson in kindness and forgiveness.
Well after ten minutes of him saying he had read about me on the internet and telling me I was dead and/or nothing to him (along with a litany of almost incomprehensible and unfounded expletives), you have to give me kudos for not giving up – I was like a crow on a piece of well baked road kill. The guy was standing there mimicking my voice, screaming at me while the parents of the kid I was sharing the party with tried to pick their gaping jaws off the floor now surrounded by the kids who came to hear what the yelling was about. A well known technique in dealing with, umm, crazy /unstable people is to lower your voice and so I started to whisper, apologizing that he could not understand me and repeated that he needed to listen, not to my voice, but to my heart, on behalf of our children.
Well I finally got through the cracks (of which there were many) and he admitted it was the other parent, the mother of the major bully, who had orchestrated the whole thing, a fact I already knew and as he opened up to me he then went on to say that the other kid had gone on to bully and injure his own son as he had mine, all of which I not only already knew, but had also warned him of in an email he had never bothered replying to.
Okay, so I really wanted to say that he should have grown a set of balls, manned up and NOT let her have manipulated him into being so hurtful but I didn’t (at least not to his face but certainly later to the parents when we had a laugh about the absurdity of his behavour including many jokes about what he may and may not have read about me on the internet but I digress). I explained to him that he was better than that (yes my nose was growing) and that for the sake of the kids we all (meaning only him really) need to think of the kids first and what we teach them. I held my hand out and refrained from spitting in it first and we shook hands, me not getting an apology out of him for his behavour but a promise that we would not let this kind of thing happen again and we would always model less discriminating attitudes to and for our kids although he didn’t bother saying goodbye or thanks for the party when he and his son left (harumph).
Later that day, when the major bully was in my car on the way home, he opened up to me and the kids, proclaiming, completely out of nowhere, that his mom held stupid grudges for no reason for way too long and that she just hated everyone and ruined everything and he really wished she wouldn’t. I know this was his way of apologising for what had happened to Kai and also wishing his mom was different because her pig ignorant discrimination negatively affects his life as well and he knows it! I used that moment to explain to this kid that he knows my rules and while he treats Kai with respect he can be a part of our lives and should he make a mistake (because we all do) that he needs to make the appropriate reparations and as long as he was trying to be a better person then he can be in our life. Ha! I got him! LOVE THAT MOMENT WHEN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!
That night, both the boys who would have been left out had we acted in revenge instead of with forgiveness, slept over with the massive group of pre teens I had in my care. They were the most respectful and well behaved they have ever been. It was a great night and NO-ONE got hurt.
Bullying will never stop. What we need to do is educate the rest of the world in how to deal with it, give the schools enough resources and support to deal with it and be brave enough to face off with the people instrumental in causing/ allowing it happen- first stop: the parents. I know I made a difference in these kids lives. I did it with love, compassion and some knee shaking stomach sickening bravery (when facing the dad).
I may not have a set of balls, but when the need arises I have very well hung eggs!