The bullies I remember from my childhood were just big jerks with inflated egos. None of them were packing anything but extra height and weight. When one of them told me and my friends to get lost so they could play on the big tires, I told him he’d have to wait until we were done. He got up in my face, and I closed the distance and insulted him to his face.
And then he pushed me off the tire. And I got back up, got back in his face, and insulted him again.
I never said I was one of the smart kids. Stubborn, yes. And I was plenty angry.
He pushed me off again, and I got back up and back in his face. I don’t remember what I said to him, but it made him angry, and he pushed me off again.
Then I got back up and back in his face, but this time one of the boys in his group pushed me from the side, and that time I landed on my tailbone. So, I took a little longer to get back up. The bell rang, and it was time to head back in to get ready for our next class.
Which was gym class. I’ve never liked sit-ups, but never have they been as painful as they were that day . . . and the next day and for about a week, really. Stupid tailbone.
When I learned that some of the boys in his second grade class were bullying my son, I wanted to round up those little shits and put them all in the EBD room which was my son’s prison at least once a day during his last weeks in public school. Let the teacher call their parents for once and let them know their kids were being jerks and picking on a kid who just wanted to be left alone to patrol the perimeter of the playground. He was our miniature Sheldon Cooper, and he was having a hard enough time being “mainstreamed” for the benefit of everyone in the school but him.
Now that we’re thinking of letting our two oldest kids take a class or two at the local public school, beginning early March of 2015, I’m remembering the bullying our now 12-year-old son had to endure in public school and in the local Boy Scout troop, and I’m nervous for him already. Some of his Aspie-like behaviors have toned down a bit, but he’s still the family Sheldon, so we’re starting with just one class to get him used to going to school outside the home. So far, the folks at the local school district have been very ready to help get our kids used to their time-sharing program, and I’m grateful, because I need help making sure they learn all that they need to learn by the time they hit the age where their peers are graduating from high school.
I know moms who do a fantastic job homeschooling their kids. I’m not one of them. It hurts to admit that, but I’d have to be blind not to notice where they’re falling behind – no thanks to me and my too-laid-back approach to homeschooling.
I know my son won’t be the only one to have to face the reality of bullying at school. I embarrassed my brothers more than once by attacking like a deranged chipmunk anyone who I thought was bullying them. I saw one boy shove one of my younger brothers to the ground, and before I knew it, I was running over and grabbing the boy by his collar, screaming words into his face (words I don’t even remember). My brother was mortified – understandably. At least, I understood it later.
I remember sitting in a bus with other members of a field crew and watching with mounting panic as some older guys were horsing around with one of my younger brothers. I opened the window and yelled at them to stop and was about to leave the bus to make sure they did. It didn’t look like playing around to me, and I was afraid my brother would get hurt.
Apparently, brothers don’t much like it when an overprotective sister interferes when they’re roughhousing with other boys. I had so much to learn.
I’m worried for my kids partly because of how I am. I empathize with those who are hurting, but socially . . . I fall short. My behavior growing up was often socially inappropriate, and I know I embarrassed people close to me by my impulsivity and thoughtlessness. Plus, I’m pretty self-centered, which is not a great quality in a wife and mother.
I was a bully magnet because I was gullible and trusting. I once flipped off my teacher because a boy in my class (the same one who later bullied me on the big tires) convinced me that it meant “Hi.”
The kids in my class would say things like, “Look, Sarah, it’s Superman!” and, impulsively, I’d look, half a second before I knew they were just messing with me. I didn’t want to miss out in case Superman really was there. Or Santa Claus. Or the Monkees (I had a crush on the tall one).
The bullies in my class, though, knew I didn’t back down from a challenge. I wasn’t good at fighting, but I always got back up. If I were a boy, I’d probably have gotten beaten up a lot worse. But because I was a girl, and the boys in my class weren’t complete thugs, I had it pretty easy in grade school.
I’m hoping and praying my kids don’t find themselves in the crosshairs of kids who pack more than extra inches and pounds. I honestly don’t know how differently I would have turned out if I’d never had to deal with bullies – if my mom had homeschooled me for more than one year. And I have no idea how our decision to let our kids attend at least one class this spring (and possibly more next fall) will affect them. But my husband and I both know that something has to change in order to help our kids learn all they need to learn between now and their high school graduation.
They’ll run into bullies and other varieties of jerks all their life, after all. I’m not saying it’s wrong to protect them from bullies when they’re young, but I am saying that having to deal with bullies isn’t the worst thing a kid can go through.
At least, I hope it won’t be.