At the beginning of this school year, my first as a mother of a child in school, I experienced for the first time the unthinkable task of comforting a child who has felt rejected.
Jade came home from school that day feeling more confused than sad. When I asked her if she was making new friends in her class (which you may recall I realized quickly was absolutely the wrong question) she shared a playground story with me.
The girls (you remember which ones) were playing nicely when Jade approached them and asked if she could play too. They exchanged looks, one whispered to the others, and then they all ran away from her laughing.
Jade?? She is gorgeous! She’s funny, talented, and SO kind. Not that it should matter what she is or isn’t at their age. So why were these FIVE-YEAR-OLDS treating her like she had the plague?
I’m volunteering in Jade’s class once a week where I work with a small group on reading skills. Jade is 1 of 6 kids in her group, and the only girl. She has found her place among the boys, probably because she has 3 younger brothers. She’s part of their clubs, their inside jokes, and they often fight to sit next to her. It’s a different story among the boys.
There’s a Club (gang maybe?) that one of them has invented, and although its a “boys only” club, he’s invited Jade to be a part of it. And even more surprisingly, he has named his testosterone-driven group “The Mimi’s”.
A Mimi looks (or at least did a few weeks ago) like a ball on a stick with a triangle at the bottom. It has its own store where it sells goods to only certain other Mimi’s. Its exclusivity at its finest.
One day while I was in their class, one of the boys in their reading group (who is NOT a Mimi) drew a picture. He showed it to the gang leader and said, “Look, its a Mimi!”. I will vouch for this young boy: I have seen many Mimi’s drawn over the course of the year, and he was spot on. However, the leader said, “That is not a Mimi. This is a Mimi”. He proceeded to draw an entirely different creature altogether, showed it to the other boy, rolled his eyes, and turned away.
Who taught them to act this way? Did they see it on television? Or are they genuinely just looking out for their own well-being, which at this age only means having fun even if its at the expense of someone else? It always has at least a little to do with acceptance.
Regardless of the reason, this is unacceptable. And if they act this way as kindergartners how can things possibly get better from here? The answer is: they can’t. Which is why bullying is more prominent than ever, especially with the added ease and convenience of cyber-bullying.
After watching the video that I’m sharing below I was thinking about experiences that I’ve had where I witnessed bullying taking place. When I think about my involvement with bullying in public school, 3 specific kids come to mind. I was never the originator, but I also never said anything to prevent it. Observing and not speaking up made me just as guilty as the culprits.
A note about Facebook: I don’t have any regrets about no longer using it, but I will admit that for me FB was a good way to try to mend relationships (or lack of) that had weighed heavily on me. I have been in contact with one of the bully-victims in particular, and it amazes me how differently I see her now that I don’t have the anxiety of what people will think of me if I talk to her. She’s so thoughtful, always congratulating me on life-changing events and thanking me when I do the same for her. She’s a beautiful person inside and out, and I feel so grateful that she made it through that stage of her life and moved on to find happiness and love. Not every target of bullying is so lucky.
Today being Sunday, I’m feeling a lot of guilt for skipping church, so I’m also thinking a lot about what Christ had to go through for me. Clearly the word “bullied” is an understatement in this case. But I can’t imagine that very many of those who contributed ultimately to the murder of their Savior did so willingly. Many of them must have felt very threatened, physically or even socially, about what would happen to them if they didn’t support the crucifixion of who will forever be considered, by most, to be the most important man in the history of time. Either that or they had been brainwashed into thinking that this man wasn’t worthy of the respect and kindness that everyone else deserved. Its hard to believe that people could be so cruel, and not a single person today would believe themselves capable of such cruelty.
So then why is it okay to treat people so thoughtlessly now on a seemingly lesser scale?
I wish I could say that starting today I will be the one who institutes the biggest change the world has ever seen; one that will spread so quickly that I will never have to worry that my kids will be the subject of these senseless acts. Unfortunately, I believe the world is only becoming more accepting of evil, so even if every parent on earth taught their children to be kind to others it still won’t protect them completely from how others could possibly treat them.
The single most important thing we can do as parents to combat the effects of bullying is to show our children love at home. Maybe that’s why we have a large family; so, if they’re as lucky as Aaron and I have been with our own siblings, my kids will always have a built in support system.
This video does end happily!