Spearheaded by Mandy Roth and Yasmine Galenorn, today is a unified effort on the part of all the authors listed below to highlight the importance of the issue of bullying.
I was going to talk about being bullied as a kid. And I’m sure that in the list of links below, you’ll read those stories. So I decided to do something a little different. It goes without saying that what kids have to endure at the hands of other kids, of schools, of teachers and other adults who are as insensitive as their kids – sucks. It’s horrific and I read through story after story of young people being driven to self harm and death because of this behavior and it breaks my heart. It’s stupid and unnecessary. And as adults, we need to do a much better job of raising our kids, of teaching them and of structuring our schools to be places of safety.
Earlier this school year, my eight year old daughter was bullied. The sort of deeply emotional bruising that it seems girls engage in at earlier and earlier stages. Her heart was broken. I’m her mother – she’s beautiful and intelligent and strong. But she’s got such a heart. And the taunts were difficult for her to bear. What can I say? I can tell her I love her. I can watchdog the school (and I will say the school counselor did bring the chief instigator in to meet with my daughter and gave my daughter a way to address the things that had been said in a way that ended up empowering her).
But I made her a playlist. One we listen to in the mornings as she gets ready for school. Even her brothers like it. Music has gotten me through so many rough times. A lot like reading and writing have. Every time I hear this one I think of my sweet, strong girl.
Nothing much I can say can really do justice to the heartbreak bullying causes. It sucks and it’s horrible and we need to take it seriously. This isn’t kids being kids. This is mental and physical cruelty. We need to do a better job of addressing it. But you are a firework. You are special. You are worth something. As a human being you matter.
It does get better.
Being different still matters when you’re an adult. That’s a fact. There will always be people who are threatened by anyone and anything that is different.
But it matters less to you. It matters less to you because there comes a time when being different changes from a millstone to simply something about you that you learn to love and accept. It becomes something that will connect you to other people who are just as different as you are (in their own way). Your difference, which made you feel like an outsider is part of you. It’s part of who you are and that makes you beautiful.
I can tell you this now and hope you believe it. And I can tell you this now and if you are very young, I can assure you that if you hang on, your best revenge will be not only surviving the Lord of the Flies that middle and high school can be – but your success as an adult. I think about those people who made fun of my clothes and my hair, of where I lived and what I looked like – and I know I have a wonderful life. All the things they tried to make me ashamed of (and being honest, things I was ashamed of from time to time) they’re part of me. And all that goes into my books. It goes into how I parent my own kids. It goes in to how I try to treat other people.
I can’t lie to you and say that bullying didn’t change me. It did. It made me have to harden in ways no kid should ever have to. It did at a time before the internet. Before cameras on phones. Before the ability to set a vicious rumor out into the world where it would spread like wildfire. I know it’s hard. I know that hopelessness when it feels like things will never get better. When you feel totally and utterly alone. Like no one understands you. When you hurt so badly that just making it through the day seems insurmountable.
But I can tell you that on the other side of all that misery – the place you get to when you’re in your early twenties and you realize it’s okay to be weird – it’s okay to be different and to live in your head and make up stories you turn into novels, where you like books and movies no one has heard of – and then you connect with other people who are different too? THAT is so wonderful. You will. I promise you that you will connect with other people who get it because they’ve been there. When you get to that place when being weird is totally okay and wonderful because it’s who you are – that’s your revenge. That’s your freaking flag you can wave around all day long. They tried to stop you. They tried to make you feel small and make you give up. But you didn’t. More than that? You are fabulously different, awesomely other.
It does get better. It isn’t always easy. But it does get better. Just hang on and know you are loved and appreciated and beautiful. Know that there are adults out in the world who are trying their damnedest to make things better for kids and to curtail the damage bullying does.
Mandy M. Roth
Michelle M. Pillow
Jackie Morse Kessler
Jesse L. Cairns
Ruth Frances Long
October 19th, 2012 at 3:45 am · Link
Thank you for being part of this. I love that you made a playlist of music that touches on being bullied for your daughter. I also like your “it’s okay to be different”. I agree. Once I came to terms with this, everything changed for me.
October 19th, 2012 at 4:11 am · Link
I love “awesomely other.” What a beautiful way to put it.
October 19th, 2012 at 4:17 am · Link
I love the idea of an empowering playlist! Thank you for sharing.
Read my Authors Against Bullying post at From the Shadows.
October 19th, 2012 at 5:32 am · Link
Have to agree… music did help me get through the bs that was my junior and high school life. Books too. Neither judged you if your parents were poor and you could not afford the latest “jeans” that everyone wore.
I did the cutting. I even stopped eatting because of the bullying. I got over both as I matured… but the self doubt and lack of self confidence.
Why I offerd to be a shoulder of support when the person that got me through my high school years and stood up to the bullies for me… her daughter underwent bullying. I gave her the perspective of the bullied.
Then couple weeks ago my middle boy got bullied (which my oldest son dissolved without violence) hubby and I were ready to call the school to deal with right there and then.
October 19th, 2012 at 5:44 am · Link
Thanks Lauren for the uplifting post. To know it does get better and you will make it through it. With the help of the ones who do love you.
October 19th, 2012 at 6:53 am · Link
I’m very sorry to hear about your daughter and he bullying. My son is 6, and he gets bullied at school too. Its sad that it really does start this early.
I myself have been bullied my whole life, even in the last year (at age 28) when I went to college I was bullied. (I too am a blog hop participant)
YOUR post, was insightfull and inspirational. It brought tears to my eyes. If someone, ANYONE, had said anything like you wrote to me in the depths of my problems. I might have seen the light. It might not have been as bad.
I hope your girl finds something she loves and can be passionate about and happy with (music, reading, writing, acting etc) And NEVER lets anyone take that happyness from her!
My message to your daughter: You are NOT alone. Keep your chin held high. You’re beautiful just being you. Xox
October 19th, 2012 at 7:37 am · Link
Thanks for sharing about your daughter.
My daughter is 9 and she has also dealt with bullying from another little girl who claimed to be her friend in 2nd grade. She would call here and make demands of my husband and me through our daughter, leave foulmouthed messages on the answering machine and unfortunately we didn’t have her phone number or I would have called and spoken to the girl’s mother over it.
The final straw was when the little girl threatened to have her father bring his gun to school and shoot my daughter. Watching my daughter sob in fear is something I will never tolerate and the school soon found that out. After I spoke with the Assistant Principal, who assured me the girl’s parents would be contacted and they didn’t want any children to be afraid to come to school, we received one call from the parents (my husband spoke with the mother when she called) after that we didn’t have anymore problems.
That’s not to say it couldn’t happen again (my daughter’s in 4th grade now) but I think we’re prepared and our kids- our 9 year old daughter and our 13 year old son, both know they can come to us, and they have before, and I’m hoping they will continue to do so when they can’t handle things on their own. As a parent, it’s our responsibility to boost their confidence and have their backs. Always!
October 19th, 2012 at 7:55 am · Link
I was so miserable all 12 years of my schooling that, the day after my high school graduation, I left the small town and never returned, not even to visit family. When my own children were bullied in school I pulled them out of public schools before their self image could be as damaged as my own had been. I then home schooled them until they were ready for high school. By that time they had the strength and maturity to make teenage bullies look as childish and petty as all bullies are. All of my children have good self images and strong healthy egos. Now my oldest is facing the home school decision for her own children.
October 19th, 2012 at 8:12 am · Link
Music is such a big part of my life and my kids. I was just talking to my sister yesterday about my oldest daughter. She has alternated over the years of being confident and being the awkward kid people made fun of. It’s been awesome to watch her come into her own this year. She has blossomed into a new beauty that comes from a new confidence. And a giant part of that is because of her involvement in band and getting to know some of the authors she reads. It’s easy to forget how much the small things can matter. Even your advice that “it’s okay to be different.”
October 19th, 2012 at 10:15 am · Link
I love the idea of an empowering playlist. I hate that society seems to tell kids that HS is so important and matters so much. It’s a great foundation for the future, but it’s not your entire life. Great post!
October 19th, 2012 at 11:58 am · Link
Great post Lauren. Hugs to mini me. But yeah on making an empowering playlist. music can be so powerful.
I was bullied in school. In elementary, by a big high school football player, in junior high by a group of 7 girls, and in high school by one angry angry unhappy girl. I dealt with it physically. Maybe not the best way, but it stopped after I fought back.
But emotionally I know it scarred me. I did drugs, drank, and cut. It’s a miracle I am still alive after some of things I did. But I am. And I’ve taken those hard lessons and taught my girl about self esteem and hard choices and standing up for yourself and others.
October 19th, 2012 at 1:08 pm · Link
Thank you everyone who took the time to respond!
To me, making the playlist was a way to let my daughter know I was thinking of her, that I believed she was worth the time and creativity and also that each time she hears those songs, she knows she’s loved and that I believe in her strength. Words mean a lot, but deeds too. I can’t protect her from everything, but in a talismanic sense, I hope it helps.
October 19th, 2012 at 1:10 pm · Link
Raonaid – it’s amazing that you were able to use your experiences to help other people. I love that.
Mandy – yes – that was my turning point, too. Once I accepted that I was different and that it was a good thing, that shift of perspective changed my outlook
Graylin – thank you!
October 19th, 2012 at 1:17 pm · Link
EJ and Renee – thank you!
Ashley – thank you for that! I’ll tell her you said so. It makes me so sad when adults are bullies. Just, what is missing inside people to be a bully? Ugh.
Taryn – oh my goodness! That’s awful. I can’t imagine. I’m so glad the school dealt with it immediately and that it sounds like the parents did too.
Lea – wow, that takes a lot of courage to just leave all that behind. Good for you!
Nikki – aw, that’s awesome! It is amazing to see our children grow and blossom and so heartbreaking when others try to stand in the way of that. I’m happy to hear your daughter is doing so well
Michelle – yes exactly. I try to tell my oldest son this. Some people act like high school is the highest point in their lives. I just tell him that I feel sorry for anyone who’d embrace the idea that the rest of life is downhill after 18 instead of the start of the rest of their lives.
Vivi – ugh, that’s awful. I’m sorry you had to endure that. But I am so glad you got past it because it’s such an honor to know you and count you as a friend.
October 19th, 2012 at 7:03 pm · Link
What a great post, Lauren! I’m sorry to hear about what happened to your daughter, but your way of handling it was really touching. Thank you very much for sharing this.
October 19th, 2012 at 10:43 pm · Link
It’s so frustrating! There are so many anti-bullying programs in communities and schools but they aren’t effective. If asked about bullying kids regurgitate the the appropriate responses, but there is a real disconnect in their actions.
A 15 year old girl from British Columbia, Canada recently committed suicide because of years of relentless cyber bullying. Her death is partially responsible for the police decision in London, Ontario,Canada to charge 8 teenage girls with criminal harassment for physical, emotional and cyber bullying. One of the quotes I read said they would rather charge 8 girls with harassment than have another girl kill herself. It’s about time we start to address this issue where it often (not always) belongs – in the criminal court.