Once upon a time, long long ago, someone tried to bully me. He was a scrawny little red-headed boy who I don’t think ever smiled, and I was a skinny little girl with huge glasses, and he was hurting and confused from the turmoil in his own life and tried to pass it on by calling me “four-eyes.”
I don’t think I was really that insulted by it. I’d read about things like this in my American Girl magazines and was partly delighted to be experiencing something I’d only read about, and partly disappointed that he hadn’t come up with anything more original. It didn’t make me self-conscious about my glasses… I think I just gave him a look like, I’d rather wear glasses than be an idiot! And that era in my life passed away.
But I know people who have been deeply wounded by being bullied as a child, whether because it was more long-lasting than my encounter, or more focused on an area of vulnerability, or less understood by the victim, and it makes me sad. I wish I could go back in time and find those people I love as children and tell them, you are worth so much more than this! They just don’t see – or don’t care to see – the real wonderful you inside the awkwardness and quirks of growing up that make all of us look warty and weird at different times. And I don’t know if it would help, of course. I have never taken my self-confidence and sense of worth from my peer group; it mostly comes from inside myself, from pride in my own abilities, from seeing myself accomplish my goals. But many people are different by personality, and need the camaraderie and acceptance of a social circle to make them feel worthy and complete. Those are probably the ones who would be hurt most by bullying.
I hope that as my children grow older they will not experience bullying – but if they do, and if they aren’t able to shake it off, I hope they will be able to come to me with their hurts, to be loved and strengthened. I hope they will have at least one close friend to stand by their side and fight for them when the world seems to be against them. And I hope that they will make it to adulthood without the scars of childhood alienation and pain that I see on too many of my peers now.