Sunday, December 5, 2010

More on Bullying

Well, I started today in tears as I read Nora's note in the Comments of yesterday's Blog -- and I was stunned into insights that I feel compelled to share.

First, it is so powerful to have a witness -- someone who knows your pain, who walked the path with you. Wow -- I do not have words to tell you what it meant to read Nora's note and realize that someone DID understand and DID recognize how awful it was.

This "bearing witness" is what I do in my work with grieving people, but I had never actually felt what it is like in such a powerful way as I did this morning. It means the world to know that someone else was there, was with you, and knows that you walked through your own personal hell. I wanted to get in my van and drive to Kentucky and hug Nora and cry together over the loss of the BFFs we were until I went into exile.

And this is important for every person reading this -- you do not have to solve it or even understand it, you just have to be there with an open heart and sit with the pain and suffering of another. What a powerful gift we give another when we suspend our own discomfort, our own "stuff" and just be present to witness their journey.

Nora and I were in fifth grade when the Terrible Event happened -- neither of us is to blame for the loss of our friendship because we were children doing the things that children do. But how powerful to hear that Nora is also sorry -- not because it is her fault because it wasn't -- but because it is amazingly comforting to know someone else wishes that it had not happened.

"I'm sorry" does not mean one is responsible -- it means one is sad that something happened, and it is the best thing to say in bad situations.

The second powerful thing that I got from Nora's note is additional insight about myself. I did not know that Nora had also been teased, and seriously when I read that my eyes probably narrowed and I decided to hunt down Mike M. It is one thing to mess with me -- but quite another to go after someone I care about -- Mike M. is going down.

Now before you get all worried that I will do something rash, understand that I am a smart person and well aware that he was a 12 year old boy -- also a child. He is not the same person and none of us deserve to be hated for what we did as kids. Who among us behaved perfectly as a child???? Well, my sister, Christine -- of course -- and I apologize for being mean to her but she was always making me look bad with her cleaning, cuteness, singing of commercials, good grades, being mom's favorite child, and so on -- not that I remember every tiny detail of her perfection or anything ;) Here we are -- ten months and 26 days apart in age -- she would be the petite, cute one... sigh...

But I digress -- I found it interesting that knowing Nora was also teased seriously pushed my button -- but not really surprising. One day I unexpectedly came home to find one of the boys teasing Maize with the vacuum cleaner and a couple others boys laughing at the sight -- they are lucky to this day that I do not believe in hitting children. To see Maize being tormented -- and see children intentionally causing that -- well, now the boys know where the big reaction came from...

The third thing I want to say about all this "stuff" is the importance of honoring the impact of bullying on the victim. Nora can attest to the fact that I had the coolest dad and I know he loved me -- but his solution was right for him, not me. I could not ignore the Bully -- that was just not something I could do. The teasing destroyed me -- whether it should or shouldn't -- it did, and that is what should have mattered.

Galen was teased at about the same age -- and you can probably imagine that hell was unleashed over that. No way was I going to allow more asshole bullies to ruin a life. I met with the principal, the teachers, called the police, the parents -- and none of that was effective in getting those boys to stop -- they should have been expelled since I could not personally beat the crap out of them (due to laws and my own belief that one should not hit kids, which could be suspended at any time for future vacuum incidents or bullying).

And so I did what my own parents should have done -- in spite of the fact that he was at a prestigious Choir School and had to audition to even be accepted, and would miss the big European choir trip, and that I loved that he went to school there -- I put him in a public school. He deserved protection that the school and the bullies' parents could not ensure and so as his mom, I did what needed to be done. What mattered was not that I thought he should ignore the little sociopaths, but that he was suffering -- and his suffering required action.

Nora pointed out the recent suicides that have been linked to bullying -- my heart aches for those young people and their families. But as a society, we are also guilty of bullying when we condemn members for who and what they are. It is a difficult thing to honor differences that we do not understand, but it is wrong to be part of a social climate that causes young people to kill themselves or permits others to bully because of differences -- or any other reason.

And here is my summary of today's Blog:

1. Yea Nora -- thanks for reminding us all of the power of a witness.
2. Don't tease my dog, my kid, me, my husband, my friends, gay people, or anyone else.
3. Bullies Suck.
4. Find your inner anti-bully and crush bullying wherever you see it -- even in yourself.
5. You do not have to ignore mean people (sorry dad -- you were wrong on that one) -- deal with them swiftly and decisively, in a nice way, of course...

And now I have to find Mike M., which should not be too hard. We went to Catholic school and every family had 27 kids that were spaced about 12 days apart so families typically had a kid in multiple grades at the same time -- I have already found his brother and sister, and I believe Nora's brother was in Mike M.'s grade -- I knew those excellent research skills I got with the Berkeley Ph.D. would come in handy :) Again - no worries -- I just want to give him the chance to apologize to me and to Nora, and I am sure he has waited all these years to do exactly that!!!


  1. Make that two who started to today reading this and then ended in tears. Love to you both...

  2. What a powerful message! Thank you.

  3. Rule no. 2 apparently does not apply to your poor sister Christine???

  4. Truth is an absolute defense against claims of teasing one's sister ;)