Notes on a Bully
So Little D is being bullied at school.
Yes, I am using the “b” word. I know we are all hyper-sensitive to it and that it has strong repercussions these days and it’s beyond a hot topic…but it is what is happening.
She is six and the little girl that is bothering her is also six. They are in grade one. This story is not going to make headlines. It’s not going to end in tragedy. It will probably (hopefully) be nothing but a memory for all of those involved in a matter of days.
But it’s bullying, nonetheless.
It is relentless chasing, cornering, chastising, saying mean things, calling mean names. It is hurt feelings and insecure moments. It is a “tough cookie” who is uncharacteristically starting to crumble a little. It is some plea for control and intimidation on the other girl’s part and probably a little boredom and a call for attention. It is weeks of irritation and frustration that finally came to a boiling point the other night, with tales starting to slowly tumble out…a few in the car ride home. A few more over dinner. A last few at bedtime. Thankfully irritation seems to be the prevailing emotion on D’s part…not sadness or insecurity or fear…yet.
It is a mother whose protective instinct was absolutely on fire. A father who was left angry and saddened. A little girl who decided she “didn’t want to talk about it anymore,” and went back to her art project.
But we wanted to talk about it. We wanted to determine a plan of action, starting with her and how she should react. Then to me, alerting the teacher about the situation so it’s on the radar. Then back to all of us, promising to check in with each other regularly about the issue and whatever progress comes of it. We wanted to reassure her that she’s not at fault. That this is going to stop. That in our family we don’t act like bullies, we don’t like bullies and we don’t tolerate bullying – personally, to our friends, to our family…even, and especially, to kids we don’t even know that well. We wanted to use the opportunity to set a precedence. To explain that this is not the last annoying person she will ever encounter in life. That it’s not the last time someone will make fun of her. Not the last time she’s going to want to skip basketball practice because she feels uncomfortable. Not the last time she’s going to have to stand up for herself. And absolutely not the last time we will have her back.
We wanted to keep talking about it so that hopefully in the future when the kids are older, the emotions are more intense, the stakes are higher and there is so much more to lose…
We won’t have to talk about it.
Yesterday she went to school with her plan in place, a watchful teacher for whom I am very thankful overhead, and a bit of hesitation. And I am happy to say the day ended well. The little girl did approach her at lunchtime and started to say that her teacher had spoken to her…and Little D stood her ground and simply said, “I don’t like when you do that to me.” She said “Ok.” And apparently walked away.
Will that be the end of it? Today will be the test, I suppose. And tomorrow. And next week. And next month. And those days when the teacher has forgotten this was ever an issue and her watchful eye falls a little. And we forget to ask after school if she had any issues. Those days when she’s left to navigate the school yard (and the world) on her own.
Those will be the true test.
I have a feeling she will pass. I hope with all my heart that she will pass.