I said this today.
I realized that I suffer from the same mass media induced preconceived notions of what makes us "normal" or at least having the appearance as such.
I was chatting with a friend when she told me that her child's school called to tell her the tragic news of her daughter's classmate committing suicide. What? The same age/grade as my kid? So, the social networker that I am, I looked up the name/family shared with me and said, "but she's so pretty and what a nice looking family." What??? Horrifyingly, had I assumed that the pretty and popular kids weren't vulnerable? Clearly I had.
I've seen it in the news. It has made for gripping Dateline NBC specials on bullying and its effects on all involved. But to hear of a case of a child killing herself separated only by geography and by not so many degrees of separation??? I'm lost. I'm a parent, the grown-up and I'm lost.
I have been known to say more than once... "if you can live through Middle School then you can do anything." For the love of Pete, why should they have to "live through" school? Why can't they thrive, flourish and discover who they are without fear of what others will do and say? Why do we place these kids in these fish bowls and then watch the piranhas feed on the guppies? Do we simply excuse the behavior as "kids being kids"? When did that become approved child-like behavior to create an environment for other children to struggle, hide, fear and ultimately hate themselves because of the words and/or actions of others?
I don't know a parent who hasn't said, "they bully others in an attempt to make themselves feel better." Great. Problem solved then, right? I mean we have outlined a cause and an effect here. Shouldn't we be past this growing concern and the increasing bullying situations? We seem to outline the cause and effect just fine it is the solutions that we seem to struggle with. How do we fix this? Some parents don't want you involved in their lives for any reason, others live in denial, some may not care and some just don't ask for help. How do we reach out to them and hope that they let us in?
Someone said to me today..."In the 'old days' as my 13 year old says, we feared hellfire, and that kept us from attempting such [bullying behavior]. With religion falling so far by the way side, kids are only thinking 'they will be sorry when I'm gone.' " Sadly, I think that this is true. Some falsely see it as a revenge while escaping. While we all believe, practice and hold things differently I think that we have let pieces of our values go. In the iconic era of "Leave it to Beaver" or "Father Knows Best" they seemed to lead idyllic lives. But even The Beav had issues but they were prettied up and watered down for that generation's viewing standards. They had real school yard bullies. This generation didn't invent it. They had absentee parents. This generation didn't corner that market. They had children full of insecurities and self doubt. I think it just feels like we perfected that when it is so close to us now.
My own child has said to me, "the guidance department does nothing so why bother going to them?" Of course, my kid said it a bit more colorfully than that! This has been a rough year for her. I'm afraid she hasn't revealed all the pain she has felt this year as she can see in my face my anger, fear and shock when I hear about school bullying. I've seen it first hand with things kids have said to her on-line. I have intervened. I was also amused by the school representative telling me that I should take her off-line. Dear friends, that won't end it. That just means I won't see it.
Schools used to expel or suspend students. But with that action in today's day and age you find that there isn't a 'place' for those kids to be housed during the day. Our schools are too small with too many kids to find a special in-school suspension location and forget about out-of-school suspension. What is learned when the children can be left home with countless stimuli including the family computer. Sure, take the computer away and what is a child left with? A cell phone....a game system linked to the Internet....house phone....and so on. They are still armed with today's in-a-instant bullying aids. Send a mean text. Send an embarrassing picture to others. Post an insult on someone's on-line "wall". Bullying has only evolved with our evolving society. We have given the bullies and the bullied an instant form of pain and torture. It isn't real or truly mean when typed out. They never verbalized the words so they must have less power. Let's ask the victims that took the most permanent way to escape their pain. Oh, wait.
It's easy to say what is right and wrong in hindsight or in theory but harder yet in practice. The benefit of the doubt is given more freely than you would think. Kids being kids; children need to work it out themselves; [that child] must have a bad home life....one more excuse means one more child lost.
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