Remember that "It gets better" campaign? The one about how life after high school is so much better and you don't have to worry about bullies any more? It never rang true for me. Yes, life after high school is better, without a doubt. Yes, there is so much more to live for after high school fades away. And yes, it is much, much easier to be yourself after exiting the petty, pressure filled halls of high school.
But there are still bullies out there.
I have been thinking about bullies a lot lately.
We were at a party a few weeks ago, and one child, was repeatedly hitting, pushing, and otherwise tormenting the other kids. His parents did not correct him. Or maybe they did, but was not enough to make an impression. My son told me he did not want to play with him. My three year old was avoiding this child because he didn't want to get in trouble with him. Good call kid.
But the child in question wanted the toy my child had. His father handed him an identical toy. Then nature called and I, like so many Moms, handed off the baby and ran to the bathroom. Things seemed under control when I walked away.
But then I hear him crying. My son, who had been playing nicely all morning, crying that unmistakable cry of fear and injustice and embarrassment, and I looked out the window in time to the the mother of the other boy, the hitter, ripping the toy away from my child. The explanation I got was "they weren't sharing, so no one gets to play with it." Fair enough. But the violence with which the correction was given, that it was given only to my son, that her son was blameless, that my son was stranded in the yard, a crying sobbing mess-that left me thinking of just one word: Bully.
I don't think I will view that mom the same way again. And I think I will listen to my child when he says he doesn't want to play with the other boy. They found my line in the sand and they crossed it. They bullied my kid.
And the worst part is, he is still talking about it. We've told him that the other kid was wrong. We have told him that the other adult was wrong. We have reinforced that misunderstandings happen, mistakes happen, no one meant for him to feel this way, and yet...
He cried himself asleep again tonight. He said it was because he is unloveable. He said it is because no one likes him. He said it was because he was naughty. When I asked why, he brought up the incident at the party again, and the time I sent him to his room yesterday for pushing the baby. He says he gets angry in his room. He says when he is angry, no one can love him. I tell him I love him, even when he is angry. Even when I send him to his room. I tell him again, that thing at the party, that was a misunderstanding. Remind him of all the nice things he has done today, what a great job he did sharing with all the other kids at the party, what a good brother he is to the baby. He says it doesn't matter, he is a naughty boy and no one will want to play with him ever. I hear his heart breaking. He is three.
Bullies exist after high school, it's just now they target your kid.
I haven't been writing much. We have been in the middle of a move-from the city to the suburbs. To a smaller house where my hip doesn't hurt everyday, on a quiet street where there has never been a drive by shooting, in a neighborhood where I feel safe sending my kid to public school. It was a hard decision-to leave my friends, to leave the house we restored, to move all of 6 miles away and start paying a mortgage from the begining. There were some real tangible and immediate benefits to the move-like less pain for me, more yard for everyone, the chance to sleep through the night without being woken up by city noise.
Then there was Halloween. I have never enjoyed Halloween. Now that my kid has CSID I dread Halloween.
My friends in the old neighborhood were great about it last year, this year I don't know anyone. We decide to tell the kid the Switch Witch will come and turn all of the candy he can't eat into prizes he can enjoy. He is so excited. He can't decide on a costume.
Halloween day is one costume after another tried on, discarded. There is a tantrum at 5:55 pm. Trick or Treat starts at 6:00 pm. We take a time out. He falls asleep, and we can't wake him. Halloween is over at 6:05 pm.
I have been posting updates to my personal Facebook all day, because if I don't laugh I will cry. I will cry because it's been a long day. Because even if my kid had gone trick or treating, I would have had to confiscate all of his candy. Because no one seems to get CSID. Because he's handling it better than I am and he is three. Because I am lonely.
The Trick or Treaters show up dressed, polite, only taking one item. There are 6 of them. I have four bags of candy, plus a big bucket of non-candy treats. Halloween is over by 6:30 pm and I post a generalized comparison of the difference between Halloween in our secluded suburb, and Halloween on the city. I have lived in no less than three apartments and one house in three different neighborhoods since I moved here in 2002. My observations include all of them. They do not mention any specific place. Any specific incidences. Any specific people. It's just twilight zone suburbs vs. wild night in the city. I use a hashtag. I never hashtag. It's #ihatehashtagsbutilovethesuburbs. It is a joke. Anyone who knows me knows it's been a difficult transition. I posted just last week about the neighbor who's harassing us for planting trees. It's been a long day.
I got the email this morning. A concerned former neighbor feels she must put me on notice. They are all talking about me in the old neighborhood. Apparently they think I am "throwing mud and burning bridges". It implies that I am not grateful for the way they took me and my family in. (What? We were paying our own mortgage.) It implies I will be ostracized.
It implies that I am a bitch.
It says my descriptions are accurate, but that I should not share them.
It tries to censor me.
I think one word: Bully.
Here's the thing the "It gets better campaign" got wrong: the bullies are still there after high school. The queen bees are still buzzing around. Making noise. Threatening to sting.
But here's the difference between high school me and 30-something me: I know that their noise speaks volumes about their insecurities, and holds very little truth about me. I know that what they think about me makes no impact on how I love, and who I love, and who loves me.
This is what I will tell my sons about bullies. Yes, they are out there. They will be out there your whole life. They are not truth. They are but noise.