Reflections on Bullying and “When We Were Kids”
While we were growing up our parents told us how well off we were. It often started with a ‘WHEN WE WERE KIDS…” statement.
While we listened to their tales of walking miles to school in the snow and cold we felt lucky–although we also walked miles in the cold and snow. We were better off than our parents had been when they were growing up, it seemed. That gave us, and our parents, a sense of comfort. I am not sure that is still true.
A recent school board meeting here in Monona included the topic of bullies. I am well versed in the topic of bullies. When I was in school I attracted bullies. But somehow the bullies these days seem different than the ones I dealt with.
For nearly a decade now this new brand of bullies have been on the horizon. We had student shootings at schools. Those shootings were caused we were told, in part, by bullies who made the lives of the shooters terrible.
More recently we have had a rash of students ending their own lives because they are not able to deal with the bullies. At times adults have even become involved, using the computer to bully teens to their death. After these deaths the bullies continue.
This past winter after a high school girl in Boston ended her life the bullies wrote bad things on her ‘memory page’ for her friends and family to read.
In February I had an email from my high school reunion site. I had no desire to connect with anyone from high school but the email took me there. It pulled me in. I found myself writing a few messages to people. They wrote back. The best thing that happened was that I was able to write long overdue ‘thank you’ notes to people who I needed to thank.
When I was in high school I was lucky because of the proximity of my locker to Terry Mullin. His locker was next to mine. Terry was on the football team. As bullies punched me and kicked my books down the hall, or poured chocolate milk over me, Terry and other members of the football team stood up for me. One of them was always looking out for me it seemed. That made life bearable.
This winter the email from my high school allowed me to thank Terry Mullin. It prompted me to write to other members of the football team. Their messages back to me were great. I wrote to the drama club because people in that group helped me along the way also. All winter we enjoyed new relations as fifty-year-old men and women. By early spring I had a whole new version of my time in high school.
As I watched the Monona School Meeting on television with my teenagers we talked about my experience and the experience they are having–that they see others having. In the end we wondered if bullies were really that different now or not.
Too often these days it seems there is not a Terry Mullin or football team, drama club or others, there for the students the bullies target. Perhaps that is the biggest difference from then to now.
By having a meeting that includes the topic of bullies Monona seems to be taking a step toward encouraging people to stand up for the victims bullies target. I like that idea, embrace the thought that at fifty a student here in Monona might be writing a thank you to someone who made their life during high school bearable. If this conversation continues our kids have the opportunity to have it as good as we did.
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