Do you have moments when you just want to bury your face in your hands and shout, “Those @#$%*@# bullies!” Know what I mean?
A few days ago I was babysitting an adorable two-year-old. We were at the playground, and I was waiting for him at the bottom of the hill while he skated down on his little toy car. When it took longer than usual for him to arrive, I got a little concerned but told myself it was nothing. Finally he came flying toward me, hysterical with tears, his face red with anger. A short distance away two boys were in his wake, cheering and laughing and pointing at him. I wondered how they could live with themselves, proud for making a two-year-old cry. I wanted to do terrible, awful things to them right there in front of their parents, who were ignoring the entire scene. But instead, I scooped up my kid, and looked those evil creatures straight in the eye with so much anger, and said, “Don’t. You. Dare.”
I was horrified by the whole incident. I was upset with myself, that I had not been there to protect him. But mostly I was shocked at the cruelty of these two children. Had I somehow forgotten how mean kids can be? Or had I simply blocked it out, because it seemed so impossible? How can anyone triumph in the tears of a toddler?
Cornered is a story I wrote which was featured on the Figment.com homepage a few weeks ago. From reading the comments and reviews, you might conclude that it is a story about bullying, written from the point of view of the bully. As the author I would like to say that this is not just a story about bullying – it’s about the failure of the adults to prevent or in any way deal with bullying. Yes, the story is told from the point of view of a bully, who just so happens to have an abusive father. However, the circumstances in which she is being raised are no excuse for her behavior, and they certainly do not protect other children from being scarred for life by her words. (By the way, according to Figment it only takes 5 minutes to read, so go for it!)
The way the saying really should have ended is, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will scar me forever.”
I was picked on from 3rd to 8th grade. That’s what happens when you get good grades in pretty much everything when you’re 10 years old. I was in an all-girls school, and the sort of attacks which happened were mainly constant commentary on my looks, my actions, or even things my teachers or friends did that somehow involved me. When I was in fourth grade a girl threatened to punch me in the face and break my glasses. What had I done to deserve that? God knows, probably ace a multiplication test. The worst incident was when my English teacher published six of my original works in the year journal. Since most students only had two pieces published, this was an obvious act of favoritism. There was a clique of about six girls who were straight up plotting to kill me for it.
Where am I going with this? To one very simple conclusion. As adults, it is our responsibility to never underestimate children in any area of life. Just because they’re small does not mean they’re less capable, less powerful, or less intelligent in any way than a grown person. On the contrary, they are more powerful than us in many ways we refuse to see. We must be willing to know their true abilities if we have any hope of protecting and teaching our own.