Monday, October 15, 2012

Rage to action

I had a great weekend.

So many things that happened were awesome.

Even the dog walked well on leash..... I KNOW!

But not everyone had a good weekend......especially not the Todd family who's daughter Amanda took her own life in despair last week. 

The rage over that is bubbling just beneath my skin...All weekend it was on  my mind.......I cannot give it full vent (for which you may be grateful)....because I don't know where it ends.

Both my children were bullied.  Both were failed by those around them.  I wrote David's sanitized story here and here.

But that's just it....it doesn't tell how we had to repeatedly fight to have our kids protected from skilled, manipulative bullies.  In one "meeting" with an elementary school principal he told us the tone of our letter in which we demanded the bullying end immediately and the bully be dealt with was unacceptable.  Just that week a young teen in Nanaimo had taken his life over bullying and in tears I pleaded "I do not want to be that mother burying my child".

"They" were unmoved. Did nothing. No follow through.

And they let it happen over and over.

Eventually they broke us and we moved our kids.

The scars are deep and they hurt for the kids and for us.

And yes......  the rage is still there.

We have a huge support system that loved us through the pain and disappointment.  We can afford therapy for our kids.  And we caught it before they utterly despaired.

And it keeps.on.happening.to.far.too.many.children.

Pink t-shirt days are not cutting it.

The stereotypical bully we "teach" kids to stand up to is a caricature of a 50's throw back of the tough schoolyard brat.  The bully of the 2000's is altogether a different cat. Skilled beyond the adults around them, devious behind smiling faces, smart..... not a thug who throws a punch but an underground operative who knows how to go undetected if necessary to get to the victim. Subtle, not obvious ....  and deadly.

As parents we barely stand a chance.... we can have every rule in place.... no electronics in their bedrooms, no online presence after 9pm....whatever...but we are not there all the time, not in every space our teen is.  And as Amanda found out - one small reckless moment online can kill you.

We can point fingers all we want....and it feels good for 15 seconds....until you realise even that will not protect your child. 

It's on me, on us, as parents and on us as a community.

We have to tell our kids from very young what is acceptable.  Pushing a kid off the swing, or budging in line at a playground is not to be laughed off. It is not cute.

Advertising and TV that demeans people is to be spoken about and called out.

Jokes, memes, texts that hurt through humour are to be discussed for their hidden message.

We have to teach them how to speak, that words are powerful and can hurt.  That words can also break down barriers and build people up.

This weekend we talked to our kids about sitting down next to the kid alone at lunch.  To say hello, to look people in the eye.  To speak up when they see a friend in trouble.  To move out of the preconceived comfort zone that actually straight jackets our teens from acting with their hearts.  To step away from the crowd and do the right thing without counting the personal cost.  Because maybe what feels hard or uncomfortable for us may save a life or at least make a needed connection.  We cannot underestimate the strength of character it takes for a teen to sit down next to "that" kid, or help out "that" kid....we have to build that character in our children, expect it of them and credit them when they do it.

Their school has a motto - "Silence is acceptance" and we have talked about how that looks and feels.

It's such a vicious world out there.  I wish I could protect them.  But I will arm them with words and strategies.

We will talk and debate and dialogue. Alot.  Eyes will roll which is fine as long as ears are listening

I will model for them when I see anyone, child, teen, adult bullying or being bullied I will intervene.

And I will love them.

And I will pray it will be enough.

RIP Amanda.

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