Tag Archives: children

Bullying – What’s the Answer?

There is a lot in the news about bullying. A whole social movement has developed that is anti-bullying. This is a good thing. The emotional immaturity that goes with degrading another person just to make your own life seem less pathetic is an evil in the harm it can do to both the victims and the survivors. I say this because many are bullied and don’t go down the dark path of suicide. They’re the lucky ones. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the human mind is a miraculous thing in its ability to cope – but in its strength is also its weakness. I firmly believe that much of what we deem mental illness is nothing more that the conscious mind’s way of dealing with unconsciounable circumstances. Because of this, there is a VERY thin line between coping and breaking.

As bullying got more and more press, I began to think – is it really an epidemic? Or is this another way that the media is taking something that has been going on forever and is only now giving it attention to sell advertising space with the buzz word of the day? This is in no way meant to belittle the pain of the stories we see on the news and Bullyville. What I’m saying is that as I listen to these stories I think to myself – “I remember having that happen to myself” and “that happened to someone in middle school.”

For whatever reason, and maybe a subconscious push on my part, I’ve talked to people that I went to high school with about some of these things. I was shocked to learn that every one of them could remember a time of being bullied – and more than one admitted to attempting suicide. Actually attempting  – not just thinking about it.

Because of the media focus, it makes one thing that bullying is so much worse now that there is a higher rate of suicide. Is that true? Were my classmates just lucky in that their attempts weren’t successful? Did we cope differently then? Are kids – who by definition are emotionally immature – not taught appropriate ways to deal with things?

One difference I’ve noticed with my daughter’s play school. They teach that you don’t “exclude your friends” and if exclusion happens, they “talk” about their feelings and tell the “excluder” that it’s not nice and they don’t like it. This is definitely a different way than what I was taught by my father. I remember my father telling me that if anyone ever pushed me around, if I didn’t defend myself – to the point of beating their ass – then I would get my ass beaten when I got home. Still, even with this lesson, I was picked on to the point of delving into chronic depression as a teenager.

So where did things get worse? Is today’s approach better than what my father taught me? The media reports would suggest that, well, maybe not. But I know enough about the money-making goals of the media to know that they sensationalize things and focus on stories that more often than not, do not represent the majority of human experience. Again, this is not to belittle the trauma of those who are bullied. These are thoughts that have given me pause from saying “we need to go back to a time when we were willing to fight to stand up for ourselves rather than talk about our ‘feelings.'”

I don’t know what the answer is. I know it’s not suicide. Actually, suicide is not even the root issue – it’s what leads up to a child wanting to end his/her life that we need to focus on. My gut tells me it’s at least three things – the bullying behavior itself, teaching our children effective ways to cope and respond and a question that plagues every parent – if something horrific like this were to happen to my child, how could I have prevented it and why didn’t I know what was going on?

I guess one of the main questions is where did bullies learn the behavior and what is lacking in their own lives that bullying has become a way for them to create a false sense of self-esteem? I don’t know if I’ll ever know the answer to that question – and there may actually be more than one answer. I just hope that I can teach my daughter the respect that she needs – for herself and those around her so that she grows up into a strong young woman who defends herself, others and doesn’t need to bully people because she is comfortable and proud of who she is, the way she is.

All parents want this for their kids. It’s time parent actually start talking to each other on how to get this deadly social disease to stop spreading…before we have to buy more burial plots for our nation’s children.

Piercings and Babes

It’s not what you think.

My soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter just asked me if she could get her belly button pierced when she gets older. I never would have imagined that my response to this question would not only be shock, but a resounding NO. This reaction did make me feel like a hypocrite. I have sixteen total piercings and three tattoos. Of course, she only knows about the piercings in my ears and nose, but still. Part of what made me feel hypocritical is that she said she wanted the piercing because one of her teachers has a jewel in her belly button. I actually caught myself thinking, “What is the world coming to that teachers inspire kids to pierce themselves?”

Then I looked in the mirror.

Still, my answer is not for a very, very long time. I want her body to fully grow before she starts poking holes in it.

Truly a first world problem in the 21st century.

Children, Illness, Rage and Strength

Any time a child is sick, it’s really hard to deal with it in any type of rational way. I say that because, at least for me, my reaction tends to be completely irrational.

My 8-year-old niece has AML leukemia. She was first diagnosed right before she turned 6 years old. She was in the hospital for approximately 6 months for chemotherapy and finally won the fight – or so we thought – by going into remission.

For those of you who don’t know about AML leukemia, it’s one of the worst, most aggressive forms of leukemia there is. Learning that she had it will be a day that I will never forget. I remember standing outside the hospital conference room as the doctors met with my sister, her husband and my mom to tell them the news. My sister and mom started crying and mom just looked at me through the window and nodded, confirming that our worst fears were true.

I braced myself against the wall and started sobbing, almost collapsing onto the hallway floor. I was completely in shock and couldn’t understand why a child would have to fight cancer. Even after hearing everything the doctors had to say, there is just no logical way to understand WHY it happens. My reaction is always completely emotional with such things. My husband asks me why I cry and the only explanation I can give is that there is so much pain and fear that it leaks out from my eyes.

After she went into remission, it was like our prayers had been answered. This little girl could finally get back to a normal life. For 21 months, every doctor visit was a reason to celebrate. I was so excited to have my sister and her kids visit 2 weeks ago because I knew that Megan would be thrilled to be so close to Forks, WA – the setting of the Twilight series, her favorite movies. Wanting to make it special for her, I arranged a Twilight tour with Team Forks so she could see all of the places that were described in the books. Without my sister knowing, I mentioned to the tour guide – Randy – that Megan was in 21 months of remission from AML leukemia. I hadn’t planned on telling him, but was moved to do so after he told us the story of his sister losing her battle with cancer. Randy did everything he could think of to pay special attention to Megan and make sure she had a wonderful experience that she wouldn’t soon forget, including gently teasing her about her crush on Jacob Black.

A day or so after my sister and her kids returned home to Ohio, Megan had another check-up with the doctor and her blood tests indicated that the leukemia had come back. Three days later, more tests confirmed that yes, the same cancer was back. Thankfully it hadn’t mutated or gone to her brain, but it has returned which means 6 more months in the hospital after 21 months of “normal.”

I have reacted even more emotionally this time. I couldn’t understand why it happened the first time and even more angry that it’s happening again. She’s only 8 years old and when the two rounds of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant are complete, she will have spent a approximately ONE year in the hospital. Only 8 years old.

I know that life’s not fair. As an adult, I accept that. But this situation seems downright cruel to me. I have to admit that I struggle every day with this uncontrollable rage that keeps building inside of me. Rage that it’s happening again, that I’m so far away and that I don’t know what to tell my 3-year-old daughter when she asks what’s wrong.

For any person of ANY faith, times like this really challenge you to believe in anything. What I do believe in is Megan – she beat this once, and she’s going to do it again. I dare anyone to try to say that they’re stronger than her, unless you too have been through what she has…being only 8 years old.