Wednesday, April 11, 2012
A personal post about bullies and making peace with the past
Today was a huge day for me as a parent. It was the day of a mediation/peace building meeting at my daughter’s school to come face to face with the child that has been bullying her. No one actually planned that this would take place on the Day of Pink – the International Day Against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia and Transphobia in schools and communities. I guess the stars and planets were all in alignment and everyone’s schedules led us to this day.
I did not know until a few weeks ago how bad the bullying had become. This was a problem earlier in the school year but we thought we had adequately dealt with it. I was shocked when my daughter came to me sobbing that she didn’t want to go to school anymore because one kid had been picking on her for several months. Looking back, it all makes sense now. She was getting very moody and displaying some attitude to me in the morning. She faked being sick a few times and when Sunday evening would roll around and it was time to get her stuff ready for school, she would give us a really hard time. I thought it had something to do with the math tutor she was working with during recess. Turns out, her bully had enlisted the help of some friends in tormenting her in the school yard, in the lunch room and hallways. I was furious when I found out and it took everything in me to NOT go over to the school yard, grab that kid by the neck and teach her a lesson myself. Don’t anger the Mama Bear because she has a real bad temper! Thank God for my husband who has a calm and cool disposition. He keeps my feet on the ground and he was there today to keep me in my corner.
Overall, the mediation went okay. I hesitate to say it was a success because that is yet to be determined. Things got quite tense between myself and the mom at one point. She tried to say that my daughter was provoking her daughter. How one child provokes another to steal their lunches and taunt them in the hallway, I have no idea. Anyone who knows my daughter knows that she is far too sensitive to provoke any kind of conflict with another kid. (Okay, there was that one time when she knocked the kid over the head with her flute, but now we all know why). We talked it out, we all had our chance to speak. When it came time for the other girl, the bully, she was quite defiant, refusing to take responsibility for any wrong doing. After more talking, and sharing, the girl became visibly shaken and couldn’t hold back any longer – she broke down and started crying, hard. It felt like someone had popped a hole in the balloon and all the hot air came rushing out. It felt like relief.
We were all kind of taken back by it, yet my daughter was the first one to get up, walk across the room, look her bully in the eye and offer her some tissue. The girl tearfully apologized, to which my daughter didn’t say a thing, she just shook her hand.
At this point I was overcome with emotion, one for being proud of my girl for being so brave, and two, because it brought back painful memories of my own experience of being bullied in childhood. For me, it didn’t turn out so positive. I never told any teachers or parents that I was being bullied, I just endured it. To make a long story short, I was one of very few brown skinned kids going to a school in a racist town. We were picked on for being different, and I always fought back which made me an easy target. Most of my time in school was spent either watching my back or defending myself, which was exhausting. I never told any adults because at that time I just thought that’s the way things were and we just had to deal with it. It was rough and as a result I think I was probably running a “low grade depression” throughout my entire time in high school. Despite it all, I finished school, went to university and did something with my life.
But I never had closure. There were no mediations, no peace building meetings with my bullies and their families. Although I put up a strong façade to survive, it was severely damaging to my self-esteem and self-worth as a person. I think in many ways I have spent much of my Life trying to prove to everyone that I am good enough and smart enough, yet still there is an inkling of that feeling of “I’m not good enough, and I don’t belong”. Today, in that school room, it all came rushing back and has got me to thinking about how appropriate it seems that this all occurred on today of all days, with my daughter holding my hand and my husband by my side.
My daughter feels better. She said to us afterwards that she accepts the apology, but she still doesn’t trust her and the girl will have to prove that she won’t be mean to her anymore. “I’ll give her a chance”, she said. Smart kid. I’m so proud of her for having the courage to tell us what was happening, to ask for help and stand up to her bully. I shudder to think what this could possibly do to her self confidence if left with no action taken - like what it did to me. Her bravery was enough to initiate peace between her and the bullies at her school, and it’s enough for me to start making Inner Peace with my own bullies of school days past.