Over the past couple of weeks, my husband and I learned some distressing news. Our youngest son has been bullied at school by some of the other boys in his grade. They are all in grade 7, only 13 years old. When I heard it broke my heart. And then I got angry, angrier than I’ve probably ever been.
I grew up in the 1970’s. Like anyone who did, I understand bullying. I was bullied and so were some of my friends. I’m sure the vast majority of us were at one time or other because there was no general consciousness about the ramifications surrounding this sort of abuse. We were told to “deal with it” or to “fight back.” It was black or white and many of us cowered in fear every day, hoping our bully would get tired of us and move onto someone else.
Things are different now. Bullying takes many forms. We are all familiar with the stories of cyber bullying, to say nothing of physical and verbal attacks. A child can feel isolated very easily, which is just what the bully wants. Kids carry weapons now. They hurt themselves out of desperation. The whole issue makes me sick and sad. We all understand the consequences now.
I won’t get into all the details here. Suffice to say, my son endured vicious name-calling and a couple of the bullies got physical with him. It all began as a prank in which many kids were involved and they suddenly turned on my child and made him the focus of their attentions. He was devastated. These were boys with whom he’d always been friends. We’ve had them at our house. We’ve had them over for sleepovers.
They won’t be back.
What do I say to the bullies? You have lost the privilege of being friends with my son. He’s a good kid, a kid who stood up to you in defense of some of the other kids. I think you picked on him because you sensed his inner strength. That strength led him to tell us what you’ve been doing. I’ll tell you this, you picked on the wrong kid.
Thankfully, he told us what was going on. Thankfully, our school has a wonderful vice-principal who spotted some of the activity and acted on it immediately. The support from our teachers and administrative staff has been incredible and I appreciate how quickly they notified the parents of the bullies.
Sadly, not all those parents seem to care. We have yet to receive apologies from at least one of the kids involved in the worst incident. If those bullies were my children, I would march them over to apologize and I would teach them the errors of their ways. This preventable situation has hurt our entire family.
As a mom, I am furious and sick to my stomach over what’s happened. As a human being, I understand things sometimes escalate and kids of this age don’t always operate with a rational brain. As a writer, I want to tell the world so some other parent out there might recognize the signs and talk to their child.
Our son talks to us, that’s never been a problem. Over the last couple of weeks, he’s been a bit quieter when it comes to the topic of school but it’s end of year. Not a lot is going on. We honestly didn’t think anything was wrong. But once we did, you can believe we had some serious conversations. Once we knew the truth, we roped in every school authority we could: his teacher, his principal and of course our great vice-principal was already gathering information and hauling those other boys into the office. The school will be assigning a teacher as our son’s “point-person” so he always has someone to talk to and they have assured the staff will be watching him in the hallways and outside. We are thankful for those measures and our son tells us he feels better about going to school. He believes a couple of the boys expressed genuine remorse. His demeanour has changed for the better. He’s joking again. He’s singing in the shower again. I think he’s happier because he knows he isn’t alone.
That’s what any bully wants: to make you feel alone. So tell someone, please. Your parents can help. Your teachers can help. Let us.
What happens next for my son? He knows who his real friends are and so do we. Next year is his last year in elementary school and we’ve taken steps to ensure he has a good circle of friends in his class. We will remain in touch with the school officials to monitor what’s going on. He’s told me he might like to take self-defense classes. Done. Anything to make him feel better about himself.
He said to me the other day, “I think I’m ready to forgive one of the boys. I might want to be friends with him again.” Although we applauded his maturity and compassion, we have cautioned him against making any rash decisions. After all, we don’t take this lightly. Bullies can be reformed but we’ve told him he might want to wait a while and spend time with his good friends, his loyal friends.
He agreed. He’s smart that way.
Like I said before, you picked on the wrong kid.