I worry about the kids these days.
I worry about their parents too.
I fear too many parents have checked out, leaving these kids without a proper foundation on which to build proper people.
I fear people’s hearts are full of ignorance and prejudice. I fear they know nothing else.
And, I worry we will lose too many children (and adults) to the meanness of others.
As a kid I was bullied terribly. I was picked on by the woman who gave birth to me (she is NOT my mother); thankfully, I have a wonderful woman whom I truly feel blessed to call my mom, and who alongside my dad eased many of my childhood pains. All because I had a few extra prepubescent pounds –as most of us do- and did not live up to the standards that woman laid before me. She was hurtful and mean. We became estranged for a very long time and I later reconnected with her as an adult, though not much had changed. I lost those lingering pounds (turns out I was living undiagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes for years, until I was finally diagnosed at the age of 17), but she still nagged, always telling me what I did wrong, trying to convince my husband I was “crazy” and that my diabetes was a ploy for attention, telling him he should take my baby from me. We no longer speak and there will be no more chances given.
I was bullied in school, again because of being chubby. I had to take two buses to and from school in grade 6 (while living in the country); a collection of boys would get off the bus unnecessarily, and follow me, on to the other bus, just to continue the torment. In junior high the kids called me names. They called me things like fat, rolls, and Wonder bread. They would MOO as I walked by, sometimes as many as 25 or more of them; they wrote those names on my desks and locker in permanent marker. Occasionally they hid stale bread or bread bags in my desk. For two years I ate my lunch in the office.
Secretly at home I cut myself. My parents didn’t know (and probably still don’t) that at night I would run sharpened pen caps up and down my thighs until they bled. I starved myself for months and came down with a massive internal infection at the beginning of high school. Several times throughout high school, for a whole host of reasons, I thought about ending my life. Once I tried to (thankfully) no avail. I was never comfortable in my skin. I was never comfortable around the other kids, even the ones who were genuinely nice and kind to me. I never really had friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I had acquaintances, I still talk to several people I went to high school with, but they all stayed in touch and developed relationships. Fortunately, some of those people and I are developing new relationships. I hope to foster those communications and translate them into true friendships.
I had not thought of a lot of the torment until recently.
A couple of things brought it to mind: the Rob Ford scandal in Toronto, ON (which came to a head the day we moved out of the city) and some kids today.
Rob Ford clearly needs help. He does not need ridicule. He has a family. Rob Ford has school-aged children. The media should be ashamed of themselves, especially those taking aim at him for the purpose of a laugh. It is cruel and disgusting to see people like Stephen Colbert poking fun at him on television; unfortunately, Rob Ford is not alone. Yes, he holds a public position (and one I think he should step away from, because nothing is more important than your own health), but he is not unique. There are many, MANY people out there struggling. If you laugh at him, you are laughing at them all.
And then there are those kids today.
Sitting in a Subway restaurant with my husband and son, I heard some of the most hurtful and hateful things come out of their mouths. Sat there they were poking fun at the young men working behind the counter, ignorantly requesting to see their green cards (something we do not even have in Canada); the one young girl made some snide remarks regarding a couple of dykes. There was a bucket load of ignorance at that table. So, my husband and I spoke up. And, we did so quite loudly (not hard for me if you know me, my voice has volume!).
While it is easy to be angry with them, easy to blame them, I think the real blame lies with their folks at home. They were about 14 or 15 years old. Perhaps, this hit close to home for me because we were in the same town I went to junior high. Perhaps, I felt like I was on the receiving end of all that cruelty and meanness again. No matter. I still blame the parents.
As parents we are responsible for the people we unleash on the world. If we subject them to ridicule, if we teach them it is okay to laugh at another’s expense, if we do not curtail bad behaviours when they first occur then I fear we will be left with a world full of mean people. Is that what we really want? Is ignorance really at home in the hearts of our youth? Scary stuff.
To those of you who are being bullied, whether you are young or old, please, reach out to someone…
If you feel like you do not have a soul in the world you can turn to, I invite you to turn to me. I will be your friend. I’ve been where you are.
I made it through.