I chose to publish this blog entry today because the movie, “Bully,” had its nationwide release, (The Bully Project). I am still on the fence as to whether I will take my children to see the movie; however, I am definitely interested in seeing the movie for myself.
I debated about writing a blog entry regarding the topic of bullying. As a mom, as a parent, we know that bullying is horrible; however, when it affects your own child, the mom morphs into mama bear. Again, I debated, and then the topic appeared on our Mom Congress 2012 Facebook page and not surprisingly, moms (parents) across our country share in the same concerns and unfortunately, their children have had similar experiences.
What led me to finally take a risk and write about bullying was during a lecture we attended given by David Gerrold. Mr. Gerrold wrote the “Trouble with Tribbles’’ episode of Star Trek and is the author of “The Martian Child,” which became the basis of a 2007 movie. The lecture included a Q&A period, of which my 9 year old daughter raised her hand and asked Mr. Gerrold, “How do you become a writer?” His response, “Write about what you love and don’t worry about what others think.” Well, with this blog, I decided to take his advice and write about what I love, my children and just given my general personality, I really do not care what others think of me. So, thank you Mr. Gerrold, thank you Star Trek and thank you Martian Child.
For those of you not familiar with “The Martian Child,” the story line is about a writer who is a widower; he is considering adopting a child. The child is “different, weird,” and believes he is on mission from Mars. The story line reflects on how a parent can love a child unconditionally, with what makes a child special, (The Martian Child). I find this movie pertinent to the discussion of bullying, because of how the child is perceived by his peers within the movie, that being “different, weird.”
Before proceeding, ask yourself, have you’ve been bullied as a child and/or as an adult? Do you know someone who has fallen victim to bullying? Do you know a bully?
As a parent, there are times in our parental career that we are rendered with a feeling of helplessness. Our children become ill or physically hurt. However, nothing can prepare you for when your child is emotionally injured. An illness has medication for treatment, a physical injury, can heal, but an emotional injury is long lasting. In the fall my daughter became a victim to bullying by a fellow classmate. I was not prepared for the emotional turmoil she was experiencing. The tears, the self-doubt, the plummeting self-esteem, the heartache was heart breaking. Both my husband and I felt helpless.
I have to interject here and give kudos to our daughter’s teacher and the guidance counselor. We are fortunate to have an amazing teacher and a guidance counselor that is passionate in her plight against bullying. Eventually, the bullying stopped, both my daughter and the bully received one-on-one time with the counselor and we were able to move forward, or so we thought.
Our daughter began exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, coming home from school, visibly upset and we were having difficulty calming her down. She was freezing up on tests at school and expressing negative talk about herself. She began asking about homeschooling and would come home in tears telling me that she wanted me at school or wanted to have me called to pick her up and take her home. My husband and I decided to seek the help of a psychologist because we did not know how to help our daughter.
Our first appointment was on February 20th, the three of us sat before the psychologist discussing our concerns. Our daughter talked about anything and everything, except the bullying. I brought it up to the psychologist who turned to our daughter and asked her to explain what happened. Insert tears and anxiety here. My husband and I were in shock as we talked in the waiting room while our daughter had one-on-one time with the psychologist. We were 4 months removed from the bullying incidents however; the effects were still deeply embedded. The psychologist, in addition to supplying us with ample follow-up appointments, gave our daughter a self-esteem book for us to read together.
As time passed, her mood began to improve, until one day she came home from school visibly shaken and upset. We had difficulty calming her down to ascertain why she was so upset. Finally, we were able to get through and we found out why she was upset. She was angry with herself because she did not know her multiplication facts as quickly as she thought she should, she called herself stupid, and that she feels different from the other girls in her class because she likes things that are unusual for girls (i.e. Star Wars, dragons and Pokemon). We talked to her, telling her that being unique is good, that we can work on math together and that whatever it was that was bothering her we would try and fix.
Shortly after tucking her in for bed, she ventured out of her room, stood in a stoic pose before me and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to live anymore; I want to live in Heaven.” I cannot tell if my heart sank or stopped. I was frozen. Hugging her was the only thing I could think of doing and I told her repeatedly how much I love her. And promptly the next day I contacted her teacher, the guidance counselor and psychologist.
All sorts of scenarios went through my head; specifically, the 10 year old girl in Illinois who committed suicide after being bullied. She asked her mom to be home schooled, she spoke up to adults and she found herself in a situation where suicide seemed to be the only viable option. I cannot imagine the pain and turmoil that mom is suffering through. My daughter is 9; she just told me that she wants to live in Heaven. Both my husband and I, for lack of a better word, were beyond concerned, we were scared. (Mom: Bullying drove my 10-year-old girl to suicide)
While reading the self esteem book that the psychologist gave us and after this incident, we began reading the chapter on negative self talk. I asked my daughter if she negatively talks to herself and the answer was yes. She again verbalized that she feels different (apparently a child in her class called her weird, the first time she shared that information with us), she feels stupid, she feels that she is not good enough. We went through the laundry list of things that she is good at: swimming, art, reading, music, etc. Not to make light of the situation, but in talking with her, I thought of the Al Franken SNL quote, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.” And well, yep, I said that to her because she is good enough, she is smart enough and people love her.
She was scared to tell the psychologist about what she had said, and honestly, so was I. When the psychologist asked her why she felt that she did not want to live anymore, her response was that sometimes she wishes she could just disappear from the hard and hurtful situations she finds herself in; and she wishes she could go back in time and make the bullying go away. The bully (who is in her class) and the bullying still hurt so badly, it continued to affect her daily life, at this point being 5 months removed.
This is a work in progress situation for our family. Although we sometimes feel helpless under these circumstances, we know we are doing everything we can to support our little girl. The easy part is to love unconditionally, give hugs often (ok, all the time) and listen, listen, listen.
My hope with the blog entry is to share with readers that bullying can affect a child or an adult, anytime, anyplace, at any stage in life and we are in this together. I want to say we have to fight bullying, but we also have to find out why the bullying is taking place. It is a constant struggle and we have to be advocates for our children and others that have fallen victim to bullying. Do I have a solution? Unfortunately, no, but the key is to work with school staff, work with each other, find outside help and know you are not helpless, there is hope. For parents of children being bullied, you are not alone; your children are not alone. The same holds true for adults suffering through bully situations.
I want to end with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, a super mom and advocate, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
United, we are one voice for our children.