When my mother told me that she remembered Christy Brown (the Irish man who had cerebral palsy, who the film My Left Foot was about) and that growing up, he was a local character around Dublin that everyone knew about, I asked her if he ever got made fun of or picked on and she answered shocked, ‘No!’ The other kids would never have had it. She said she was stunned when she came over here, had kids and put us into schools, at the amount of bullying & meanness exhibited by the classmates towards each other. That didn’t exist in her day. Children didn’t treat each other like that. It wasn’t acceptable behavior, meaning it wasn’t accepted, by the community. And the community, as a connected group, didn’t allow it.
We allow it. We allow it by putting all the work on the child who’s being bullied or ostracized. Anti-bullying groups, psychologists, their answers consist of the victim changing. The victims are given tools to cope with it. They are explained to by their parents, again & again til it’s sounds tired & hollow by both, how some kids sometimes do mean things. They are restricted in where they can go, in who they can be while the perpetrators get to keep on being themselves. We allow it by using phrases like ‘kids are just being kids’ & ‘you can’t make people like others’. We allow it by doing nothing about it. This all needs to stop. And it needs to stop now. We need to begin something new because these antiquated, passive & hypocritical solutions of love & tolerance aren’t solving anything. These poor kids aren’t coming out of this better people, these aren’t opportunities for them to grow. Ask anyone who’s been ostracized or bullied as a child because they were different & they’ll tell you all they got was damage, that they got out of their childhood just by the skin of their teeth. And they’re the lucky ones. Because the casualties are getting higher. All because these beautiful children act like they have a right to be their true selves in front of someone trying to take away that right. This is an epidemic that folks don’t think they have a hand in or out. But we do. Let’s be the community that gets angry when a child is mistreated. Let’s take the shame off the child it’s being done to and put it on the child doing it. For they should be so ashamed. Show the child the meanness, the ugliness, the harm of their actions. Give them consequences undesirable enough that it’s not worth doing it again. It might save a psyche and a life. Teach our own children how abhorrent it is. Take our children to a park & tell them to look for a child alone & have them ask the kid to play. Find out from your child who the child in their class is that nobody bothers with & invite them over. Watch your own child, be brutally honest with yourself about their behavior. Show your child how to muster the honor to defend kids who are picked on, the compassion to include kids who are ignored. Teach & practice with your children that kindness, compassion & integrity are more important in your home than smarts, looks & sports stats. The least that could happen is they’ll be better people for it.
Our society doesn’t function like this but it can. Let’s start, connecting ourselves back with each other, with these little ones still growing. And with ourselves.
And if you cannot understand the need for this, be grateful. As a mother, it’s hell.