The Morning News
I had really hoped to sleep in this morning. My little Buzzsaw had other ideas, and I found myself awake. So I came downstairs and decided to catch up on some news on the laptop. And I came across an article whose topic, quite frankly I am sick and tired of having to read about. Another child has taken her life because of cyber-bullying. My cup of coffee was tasting very good until I read this article.
This has to be one of the most pathetic acts human beings have ever created. I remember being bullied when I was in 4th grade, by kids who were my friends outside of school. In school, they teased me, took my belongings and hid them from me, made fun of me, and even physically pushed me around at least once. I never understood why. What did I do? Why would they play with me outside of school, invite me to their homes and hang out with me, yet treat me like a stray dog inside the school building?
As an adult I dealt with bullying while I was onboard a ship while serving in the U.S. Navy. It depended on the day as to whether my coworkers were going to be nice to me or not. I just wanted to be their friends and be accepted. They just wanted an easy target for their own personal stresses and frustrations. I have put these things behind me; but once in a while they come to the forefront of my memories. Like this morning when I read of another tragic loss of a young life due to the actions of a few pathetic and cowardly bullies.
It was bad enough for me to be humiliated to my face and made fun of behind my back. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like to know that your attackers are sitting comfortably in their own homes and solely using the tips of their fingers to rip and shred your psyche apart. It’s disgusting. It’s pathetic. It’s cowardly.
Why can’t we stop the cyber-bully?
It’s crazy right? If a student is being teased and threatened at school or at home, they have options. They can report the abuse and, hopefully, the abuser is punished and stopped. But if you sit in your home and tell someone they should be dead, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again . . . nothing. No recourse. As a human being I am frustrated and disgusted. As a parent I am absolutely terrified because in just a few short years my little Buzzsaw will be old enough to be exposed to this crap. Whether he is a victim or a witness to this stuff, it is shortly going to be part of his social world. How do I protect him? How do I give him the courage to stand up against the bullying?
I recently went back to school to get a degree in paralegal studies and I am beginning to understand just how complicated the laws are and how difficult it can be for laws to keep up with the mind-boggling speed of changes in technology. I am beginning to understand how careful lawmakers need to be when making changes to address the current needs and trends in society. Balancing freedom and safety is a delicate act. It should be. Democracy is a delicate thing that can easily be destroyed if we aren’t cautious in how we treat it. I believe laws are the last resort when citizens cannot work out their differences for themselves. I don’t believe we need laws to tell us how to treat each other if we can do that for ourselves. However, it seems people are more comfortable with the government telling them what is right and what is wrong. They would rather let the government do the heavy lifting.
It starts with the parents
Most people know that children mimic what they see and hear. When you live in a house with a toddler it is like living with a tiny, living mirror. Whether its words, body language, or interacting with their environment, the child is a mirror image of what they see their parents and other adults in their life doing. I have lost track of how many times I have seen Buzzsaw growling with frustration because something isn’t working right, and come to the horrified realization that that is how I look to those around me. Eek!!
It’s not a very huge leap to conclude that children are learning how to be bullies from their parents. They are learning that it is okay to make fun of someone who is different; they are learning that it is okay to gossip about and mock those who would rather do their own thing, create their own identity, and not be social sheep. Ironically, it is those unique people who end up changing the world. I would lay down money on a bet that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were not the star quarterbacks dating the head cheerleader. J.K. Rowling understood this; Harry Potter was shunned and mocked and bullied by those that didn’t like that he didn’t fit into what they thought was socially normal. He ended up saving the fictional world from the worst evil imagined.
At a recent gathering of friends my husband and I attended, I found myself sitting around a table with the other wives . . . gossiping about a teenage boy!!! I wasn’t very comfortable with this situation. These are nice woman and great mothers. But it occurred to me that they didn’t realize the message they were sending to their kids.
The topic of conversation was the boyfriend of the daughter of one of the mothers at the table. This was her daughter’s first boyfriend, and while my friend liked the boy and said he was a nice kid, we were still discussing his uniqueness in a gossipy manner. This young man likes to wear a raccoon tail attached to a belt loop on the back of his pants. I personally like people who don’t care what others think and dress in a way that makes them feel happy. I wish I had been that confident when I was 16; maybe I wouldn’t have waited until I was 42 years old to dye my hair blue. I wish I had the that strength of character to do my own thing and not what everyone else was doing at that age; maybe I wouldn’t have lost my virginity at 15, or got drunk for the first time at 16. Or got high for the first time at age 17. I wish I had liked myself as much as this boy does because maybe I wouldn’t have spent the first 30 years of my life determining my self-worth based on what others thought I should be or how I should look.
I was also drawn into a conversation about the boy’s sexuality. According to the gossip in the conversation, the boy has said he thinks he is bisexual and he had a boyfriend prior to dating my friend’s daughter. My friends have different and much more conservative backgrounds than I do, and I can understand that this is not something they expected to be confronted with about their children. I grew up with a mother whose best friends were gay men. I knew these men before I even knew what sex was, let alone the difference between “gay” and “straight”. Over the course of my adult life I have lived in many places and I have encountered many different types of people. 7 years ago I was living in Northern California and I had the opportunity to work with a couple of people who are transgender. I actually didn’t know one of them was and asked them to check on a customer in the male bathroom and I couldn’t understand why “he” didn’t want to go check for me. I found out a few weeks later that he was still legally a she and wasn’t comfortable going in the men’s room at this point. I feel like my not realizing the situation was actually a compliment to him. I also began to understand that my body image issues were nothing compared to those that struggle with the feeling and knowledge that their body is wrong. Being over-weight didn’t seem so bad any more, it was something I could easily address if I was willing to do the work.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression; this was not a mean and nasty type of conversation. We were
gossiping about discussing this boy and his uniqueness because he is my friend’s daughter’s boyfriend; and because my friend isn’t sure what to think about his questioning his sexuality. She has never knowingly known someone struggling with this issue. And it’s her teenage daughter with her first boyfriend, sex is an issue. Period.
I was also uncomfortable with the conversation because other kids were within earshot as well as being drawn into the conversation at one point. One of the older kids (18) and his friends know this boy and are aware of his statements of being bisexual. From what I gather, it is no secret at their school. I started to wonder what kind of example we were setting for our children by gossiping about this boy. Even though we weren’t being nasty or hateful, we were showing these kids that it was okay to talk about and even snicker about people just because they are different. I didn’t feel okay with that fact. I didn’t feel okay that we were setting the example that it is okay to mock someone for dressing different or for struggling with self-identity. It could so easily be one of our children who become the topic of such conversations in other kitchens.
And it’s not just at kitchen tables that this example is being set. It is in the news when politicians sling mud at those with opposing views; when commentators report on the latest hate parades that Westborough Baptist “Church” like to hold across the country; when social networks, magazines, and news channels make the antics of Miley Cyrus and the fashions of Lady GaGa headline news. And when people are bombed because they have different religious beliefs.
It starts with me
I have decided that I am not waiting for the laws to catch up with social reality. It isn’t the government’s job to tell me how to parent my child. I volunteered for that position when I brought Buzzsaw home. Instead of laughing and snickering when I see someone dressed in a socially unique fashion, I will talk about the creativeness of their choices. Instead of cursing and condemning those with different beliefs, I will teach my child what I know about the different beliefs and let him decide for himself what he believes and what he doesn’t believe. I will show him tolerance and understanding instead of hate and judgment. I will show him how to love himself for who he is and not what the rest of the world thinks he should be. And I will insist that he be brave enough and strong enough to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. And he will learn to honor and idolize people who take their uniqueness and change the world; he will not learn from me to idolize people just because they make millions from throwing a ball, or singing a song or, acting in a movie.
I’m going to teach him to forge his own path, beat his own drum, sing his own song, and if he wants to wear a raccoon tail on the back of his pants, MORE POWER TO HIM !!