When Lorelei was very little, she’d get mad at her big brothers and yell, “Shub up! Beeg bully!” With four older siblings, it’s not surprising she’d heard the phrase “shut up,” but I’m not sure how she already knew what a bully was: someone bigger, stronger, more powerful, higher in the pecking order, who uses their position to pick on someone else.
Of course, older siblings tease younger ones. Lorelei was never subjected to the systematic bullying that devastates so many childhoods. My own experience with bullying took place on the school bus.
I was an extremely precocious child, and in my earliest memories of riding the bus, when I was a first grader, the big kids (8th graders who appear as adults in my memory) made a big fuss over me, calling me to the back of the bus and having me read passages from their science books aloud.
But what was cute one year was bullying fodder a few years later. I think I was in the third grade when some of the middle school girls on the bus began picking on me. I remember some nasty name calling, and once being smacked. I remember some of the girls who were involved (kids from good families whose parents would probably have been shocked by their behavior), and not much else, except dreading the bus ride home. I told my mother everything, and I’m sure she talked to the principal, and I think I ended up not riding the bus for awhile. I know that I was lucky: people listened, and eventually the bullying stopped.
I never bullied anyone myself (except my little sister, as she loves to remind me), but I often regret that I didn’t try harder to befriend the kids in almost every class who were bullied. I do remember trying to talk to some of them, and in my memory they often repelled friendly overtures. Perhaps they distrusted me, or maybe that was part of their self-defense mechanism, or maybe it was their own difficulties with social interaction that made them bully magnets. I don’t know.
As parents, we are proud of our children for taking a stance against the bullying of some of their classmates. Our kids aren’t perfect, but they are kind. I wrote here about how William dealt with a boy who was bullying (or perhaps constantly annoying) him.
While my sister and I both laugh at her stories of how I picked on her, but I also feel bad. And I think sometimes about the girls who bullied me. Because I went to a small Catholic school, and still live in the town where I grew up, I don’t have to wonder what happened to them–they are still around. And they grew up to be nice people. Do they even remember the incidents on the bus? Was it was the big deal to them that it was to me, or was it just an amusement and quickly forgotten? Do they ever think about it when they teach their own kids how to treat others?
Being bullied led me to be kinder to others and to teach my kids to do the same. I hope that the reformed bullies from my past DO remember and model kindness for their kids.
For more entries in #1000Speak: Building from Bullying, click here.