I just read an article in a national magazine about a case in which some middle school girls bullied another classmate and the classmate committed suicide. Sad case for all involved. It got me to thinking about bullies and those who bully and about a long ago incident in my own life…perhaps my story will help someone, perhaps not, because years pass but mostly human nature stays the same.
It’s been a long, long time since I passed my middle school years. Middle school however remains the toughest years for kids. And with Facebook, the Internet and cell phones I think it’s even harder. They struggle to find a place for themselves, they just discover the opposite sex, and formerly kind kids can become just plain mean.
My 7th grade year my parents moved from a southern city back to their home state in the north and I had to start a new school. Entering a new school the first year of middle school is never easy, but it twice as hard when you are the new kid.
I was skinny and small and unfortunately for me, smart. So while I struggled to fit in this new environment, I excelled in my schoolwork. Like most middle schools there were cliques, with a queen bee and all her minions. The queen bee took no interest in me. I wasn’t worth her time but one of her followers took it upon herself to make my life a living hell. Why you might wonder? Maybe it was because of a test where I got an A and most others failed. Maybe it was just because I was new and appeared as though I couldn’t defend myself, which in all honesty was pretty much true. At any rate she took every opportunity to berate me, tease me and make my former love of school torturous.
I couldn’t talk to my parents; they weren’t the type of parents you could confide in. They would just recite the usual adage, “sticks and stones, blah, blah, blah.” So every day I came home from school, I cried myself to sleep and dreaded the morning.
This girl, I’ll call her Muriel, began to egg me on further. She wanted to fight. I’d never been in a fight. I didn’t even know how to fight and I certainly wasn’t going to fight in school because it didn’t matter who started the fight, both participants would face suspension.
The year went on and the bullying continued, even gaining more bullies to stand beside Muriel. It was like a snowball, gaining momentum. I wracked my brain for a solution, dreading each day but never letting the bullying change me.
And then I had my answer. The last day of school was approaching and I would stand up to Muriel and her crowd. I wouldn’t have to worry about suspension on the last day of school and my family was moving that summer back to the south.
I still remember the day I gathered all my strength and walked up to Muriel. I fairly shouted that if she wanted to fight, I’d fight. But it had to be in the front of the school on the last day of school. She was shocked. Who was this mouse that was now roaring in her face. She might even have wondered if I had some secret plan. I didn’t. No plan, just my stupid idea to stand up to a bully. What was I thinking? Muriel would kill me, with everyone looking. I had two brothers and I’d never even fought with them!
Muriel tried to change the location to the back of the school, but I refused. May as well just be a big show.
That day I went to school much as I imagine someone goes to their execution. My immediate future was starting to look a bit bleak!
Passing in the halls Muriel still tried to change the location. But a strange thing happened, that day. Kid’s were coming up to me and offering their support. I found that no one likes a bully, not even bullies themselves!
The final bell rang and I walked to front of the school--to my doom. I turned around and walking behind me was a crowd. And they were on my side!
So I went to the front and waited. We all waited, and waited and waited. After about 20 minutes, someone came up to me and told me that Muriel had sneaked out the back door and was gone.
I didn’t have to fight. I simply had to stand up to her and she was the one who chickened out. What did I learn from this event? I learned that bullies are insecure people who pick on those they feel cannot or will not defend themselves. Once you stand up to one, their armor falls to the ground.
I doubt kids will change. I’m a pacifist and I definitely do not encourage fighting, but sometimes you just have to stand up to a bully and hope it turns out like it did for me. No fight, just a bully’s weakness revealed. And parents-- if a bully is affecting your child negatively, get him or her therapy to deal with it. Teach your kid’s to be kind. Teach them that if they push someone around you will not condone or tolerate it. There will always be bullies. The world changes daily, but people--they stay the same.