Mean people suck.

RebeccaUncategorized4 Comments

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Okay, peeps, this one took me a while, so forgive what’s about to ensue.

Mean people suck.  Honestly, if you ask me my number 1 pet peeve, that’s it.  I can’t stand people who just can’t be nice. It’s pretty ironic then, that the biggest challenge this family has come across this year hasn’t been that deployment, but of bullying.

I was never the popular kid in school.  My junior high years were spent in tears, hiding from the boys who made my life a living hell.  I can’t tell you how many times I curled up in my dad’s lap, bawling, begging him to let me transfer schools, or how many times I came up with any excuse not to go to school.  But he’d retired from the military, we weren’t going anywhere, and I had to learn how to deal with it.  My idea of dealing with it was really to turn red with mortification, get down the halls as fast as I could, and ignore it when one of those bullies grabbed my yearbook and ruined it by calling me demeaning names all over the “sign-me” pages.  I just choose not to look at that year.

Luckily, I grew up. I went to high school, made the cheerleading squad, grew a thicker skin, and found some of the best people that I am blessed to still call my truest friends today. I survived it just like countless other people do.  It doesn’t make me brave, or special, or even a victim.  It’s simply what happened. It’s something I try really hard not to think about.

I generally hate bullies.  Seriously, there’s nothing worse in the world to me than someone who has to rip someone apart just because they can.  There’s nothing honorable or humane about it.  It simply makes you a bitter, angry little person if you build yourself up by tearing someone else down.

I swore up and down when I became a parent, that the same would never happen to my kids. But that’s the thing about parenting, you can’t control the actions of other kids, and sometimes, other little kids suck.

This fall, our second son, The Hulk, came home from school with a bully problem.  This one kid wouldn’t leave him alone.  He called him fat, stupid, lame, idiot… you name it.  Of course, our little man is none of these things, but it’s hard to tell that to a kid enough to have them believe it. Parents can build a kid up so high, but it takes only a few cruel words to knock them down. The bully tripped him, pushed him, kicked him, and ridiculed him. I have never felt so powerless as a parent, and my biggest concern?  Don’t let it turn violent. The Hulk is known for his temper, and when I called the principal for not the third, but the FOURTH time, I finally told him, “one day he will snap, and you will wish you would have done something.”  
Agree with it, or don’t – my boys are taught not to start a fight, but they’re sure-as-hell allowed to finish one.
Nothing I did as a parent work.  Not calls or notes to his teacher, not calls to the principal.  Even when I asked to meet with the bully’s parents face-to-face, I was given the run around.  They were “working on it.”  They were “changing seats at lunch.”  They told me they’d move The Hulk to another class, which I vehemently opposed, because when you’re the victim of bullying, you shouldn’t be the one forced to leave your favorite teacher ever.  
I pull the “be the bigger person,” speech.  You know, where you look for the excuse on the other kid, like bad parenting, a wretched home life, but what it came down to was me turning all Mama-Bear.
Because then the kid does the stupidest thing ever.  When he can’t provoke The Hulk, this massive third-grader turns on Thor (our first grader), and bullies HIM, knowing it would get The Hulk’s attention. Well… it did.

One thing about our boys?  They may drive each other mad at home, but you mess with one outside of this house, you’d better bet the other three are coming for you. So the bully goes after Thor, and the next thing you know, it’s The Hulk in the Principal’s office for retaliating violence.  Now, I have to say, at this point, the other kid swung first, so I’m kinda like:

Because… well…  I’ve called, multiple times, begging you to do something.  Anything, and you haven’t.  The kid got violent, my kid ended it.  If you have a problem with that, you should have paid attention for the last few MONTHS that I’ve called you.  Yup.

Then the crazy thing?  They still don’t do anything, and this kid just keeps coming back for more.

Right.  But The Hulk is holding his own, he’s putting up with it and not retaliating when part of me is begging him to just knock the crap out of the other kid ONCE.  Does this make me a bad mom?  Maybe. But man, am I just sick and tired of the school doing nothing to protect my kid, and then punishing him when he protects himself.  Luckily, but the time Christmas comes around, they move the bully out of his classroom, and I’m able to breathe during the school day.

Then, when Captain America faces some hazing’ish activity in the boys locker room for hockey?  The Hulk leaves the cool-kids table and throws himself down as the sacrificial lamb, taking on whatever is getting dished at his brother, too. Because they are a team, no matter what the scenario. Amazing.

Now let’s move on to Captain America, our super-moral oldest.  This kid, man, he’s got a heart the size of well… the universe.  If there’s a kid who doesn’t have a friend, Captain America befriends him.  When he turned nine, he invited this little girl to his birthday party, and I didn’t think anything of it – until her mother pulled me aside with a huge amount of thanks, saying her daughter had never been invited to a birthday party, and generally had no friends.  It’s moments like that which make me take a second look at my children and see them for the extraordinary human beings they are.  When I asked him about it, he just said, “Yeah, well, she’s cool, we can be friends.”  Then he ran off to play like he hadn’t made a monumental difference.  But he did.

So two years later, it’s now January, just shy of Jason making it home from this last deployment.  Captain America bursts through the kitchen door, just off the school bus, and says, “Are you okay?” And I’m pretty stunned while he hugs me, shaking.  I ask him what’s wrong, and he tells me that the same little girl was getting picked on by an 8th grader on the bus. *Let’s just take a moment to say that I think putting 5th graders in middle school, so they ride home with 8th graders on the bus is just FFFFF’ing ludicrous, but since I don’t control the school district, I’ll suck that one up.*

This bully is pulling the “You’re so fat your picture is an aerial photograph,” kind of crap on this not-so-tiny little girl, and I swear, I can feel her self-esteem crushing under the weight of his assholery as Captain America tells the story.  So what does our Captain America do?  He stands up on the bus, and takes the seat next to the girl, looks at the bully and says, “Leave her alone.  She didn’t do anything to you.”

Now at this point, as I’m holding my ten year-old in our kitchen, I want to simply soak in the miracle that he is.

 Now while I’m in awe of what he did, I can feel what’s coming next.  That 8th grader turned on Captain America. He called him fat, which Captain America laughed at.  Come on, he plays hockey 4-5 times a week.  Have you seen the kid?  Well, he laughs, which pushes the bully harder.  He calls him things like dork, ugly, geek (he pointed out Captain America’s saxophone case).  And when that doesn’t work, he turns physical and says, “I’m going to kick your ass.”  Of course, hearing this, well, I’m just like:

 Right, so when the kid threatens him, Captain America replies, “yeah, well, you don’t even know where I live.”  Because apparently that diverts an ass-kicking?  Anyway.  The bully looks at him and says, “Oh yeah, well I’m going to get off the bus at your stop, follow you home, kick your ass, and then I’m going to kick your mom’s ass.”

And now I understand why his first concern when he got home was if I was okay.  And I’m just…. livid.

 So I squeeze him tighter, and tell him that I’m okay, and there’s zero chance of an 8th grader hurting me. Even though irrationally, I’d like to hurt the parents of that 8th grader. And then Captain America kills me with, “but dad isn’t here, and I wasn’t home. I was so scared he’d hurt you.”

So I try not to burst into tears at how worried he is, and instead reassure him and feed him, because you know… he’s a guy.  I send him on his way and then call the school.

They suspend the other kid from the bus, but not until the head of the bus department says, “tell your son to tell the bus driver next time, he doesn’t need to put himself in harms way when someone else is getting bullied.”  Wait.  What?

Absolutely not.  There is nothing I’m more proud of than Captain America standing up and stopping it. And at this moment, I realize how screwed up we’ve gotten as a society when we’re basically telling our kids, “hey, don’t stop injustice, just find somebody bigger.” What about when they ARE the bigger person.  Why aren’t we teaching them how to be that bigger person so they’re prepared as they grow?

Now, okay, when I wrote THIS blog, it went insanely viral, and not all the reactions were good.  I was told I was endangering my boys, yada yada yada, but I stand by this concept. I am not a perfect mother, not even close, but by GOD, I will teach my boys to stand and stop what they know to be wrong, not just let it slide. I would far rather get a call that one of my boys has a black eye because he stepped in, than try to build back up his soul because he knows he could have stopped something and didn’t. No, I don’t want them hurt.  I would stand in front of my kids and take anything that could hurt them, but I can’t always BE with them.  So I just hope I don’t raise the boys who stand by and watch the world burn around them.

 And then it occurs to me, and I’m hanging up the phone, that my boys, these tiny little creatures, have more courage than most adults.

Even more than me.

You see, this deployment, I was brought to my knees by bullying.  I was ripped apart by someone I loved, shredded, spit out, and then I opened myself up to have it happen time and again.

One thing I’ll say, is that it’s the people you hold the closest that have the potential to hurt you the most.  Am I blameless in what initially happened?  No. There are two sides to every story.  I’ll own up: I said something careless about missing someone in my life, not realizing that would hurt someone else. When I did realize it?  I apologized profusely.  But, damage was done, all hell broke loose, and suddenly… well…. It was kind of like this happened:

I got bullied. Really publicly. Like random people messaging me public.
Now, I’m nowhere near perfect. Please don’t think that, or even harbor the thought that I think I’m perfect. I’m so flawed that I’m amazed I’m put together some days.
You want my flaws? I’m a nerd. I could solve everything with a Harry Potter spell. I’m a stressed out girl, with the capability of extreme selfishness. I’m a procrastinator, and my house will never be clean enough for my mom to just “drop by.” I write better than I speak, because I have a tendency to lose the filter on my mouth, and writing makes me pause before I hit “publish.” I also love fiercely, which I hope makes up for everything that can be absurdly wrong with me.  And seriously, I’m well aware of my flaws, and just thankful for the people who love me not just in spite of them, but because of them.
Does pointing out what’s wrong with me equal bullying?  No.  But attacking someone just to see how much you can hurt them… well, that is. We’re not kids, but the definition doesn’t change just because we’re adults.  

Why did I let it happen for so long?  Because I loved the person. It took until this moment, watching my little boys both stand up when I couldn’t muster the courage, that I realized just how silly I was being. I would tear down the school, an army, a hockey team for my boys, but I couldn’t stand up for myself? What was that teaching them?

Why didn’t I say something?  Well, if you look back through the blogs, you’ll see hints of it here and there, but nothing definitive.  Mostly, because I loved that person, and partly, because I was scared to death of getting bullied here, on the blog, most of all.  And part of me was still this little lost puppy, begging for scraps because I was too afraid to let go of how comfortable my life had been before this happened, instead of embracing what it was becoming.

So I let it happen.  And I cried, and I avoided going out.  My kids lost a good portion of the friends that they’d had for YEARS through our unit, and Jason wasn’t home which meant I turned into a veritable hermit.
But standing there, watching my boys stand up to their bullies, and for the people who were getting bullied, I was truly humbled. So often I’m trying to teach them to be good men, when in reality, they’re showing me how to be a strong woman. And it strikes me, how much like children we adults are.  How there are so few people who will stand up and say something when someone is being bullied and beat down.  I have two friends, TWO, out of everyone, who stood up and said something, and it cost them their friendships with that person.  As much as I am so immeasurably sorry to have caused a rift like that, to have cost them their seat at the cool-kids table, I am just as humbled.  Thankful. They’re heroes to me, just like Captain America when he stood up for that girl on the bus.

And if my kids can stand up, then damn, I’d better.

When everything really hit the fan, when I was getting multiple people calling me telling me what had been said/posted/done, it took everything in my power not to lash out, to tell my side to everyone, but then Running Woman called and sent me this:

And she was right.  So I held myself together, sucked it up, and remembered that what people say about you when they’re trying to hurt you says little about you, but a whole heck of a lot about them. And when it came down to it, there was no use fanning the flames.  I just needed it to stop.

So I held my head high as much as possible, leaned on the people Like Mrs. Green Bay and Mrs. Back-bone and got through it.  Because deep inside me was the jr. high school student getting called fat as she walked down the hall.  How quickly those emotions can resurface when you’re bullied as an adult.

But as you can see, it’s okay now.  Jason’s home, and there’s not much he’ll let touch me, or hurt my feelings.  Come on, you didn’t think our little boys got those huge doses of courage from ME, did you?  
The point is here that yes, mean people suck, but my God, the beautiful souls in this world more than make up for it.  I’m blessed to have some of those souls right under my roof.
I hope that I teach them this:

And this:

There’s something to be said for kindness, peeps.  For the general decency of not saying something mean, simply walking away.  Sometimes that takes more strength than firing back. Am I proud of my kids for standing up to their bullies, especially when I couldn’t?  Yes.  Lord, yes.  But what I’d be even happier with are parents who STOP RAISING BULLIES.

Maybe the key is to love ourselves.  Maybe it’s to love our kids, and teach THEM to love THEMSELVES.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a rite of passage, or just the evidence that no matter what, mean people will exist.  I just don’t know. I wish I did.

 
 But it is what it is.

  In all honesty? When I see those bullies from Jr. High pop up as mutual friends on Facebook, I still cringe, and revert back to that thirteen year-old girl crying in the bathroom. I can’t help it.  I can’t help what happened this year, not to me, Thor, Captain America or The Hulk. But I can say that I’m so proud of how they acted, how they held themselves above and stood up for themselves and each other.

We are a stronger family because of everything that’s happened this year.

And as we drove back from hockey this January, once the dust was starting to settle, and Jason’s return was imminent?  This song came on my iPod:

Well, Aidan told me, “hey Mom, that’s my jam!” And once I looked at what they’d been through this year, I got it.

So I turned it up.

And we sang as loudly as we could.

4 Comments on “Mean people suck.”

  1. Molly Lee

    Incredible. Your boys are awe-inspiring and a model for the younger generation. As parents you are setting off a ripple, with your boys as a source and prime example, and I hope their actions and behavior influence those around them. Thanks for letting us in to see something so deeply personal and moving!

  2. Gisela-David

    *Standing ovation!! Totally needed to hear this today. You took the words right out of my mouth. Your boys… my goodness! You are doing amazing things with those kids. They are going to make such a great difference in the future as they get older. We've had some similar experiences and my oldest is in kindergarten. I hope he will continue to look for the good and always do the right thing no matter what. I can't believe they said to basically sit back and watch and stay out of it, instead of praising him for standing up for others. I don't understand why it makes people feel good to drag others down. If I ever have a girl, I'll tell her to look for a Yarros.

    1. Gisela-David

      I always got in trouble growing up for standing up to my bullies too. I was always the one in the principals office while the other kid got off easy. I even had one kid learn the hard way that trying to grope a girl is not funny.

  3. Kayli Sue

    What a great post! Thank you so much for sharing. My boys aren't in school yet but it's coming and I am so scared they will get bullied like I was. But I know my son and he sounds like your oldest. He is so kind and will stick up for anyone. On the playground there was a much bigger boy swearing at this little girl and my son stepped between them and sternly told the boy that he wasn't being nice, grabbed the girl's hand and played with her the rest of the time she was at the park. He was only three!! I let people bully me. But he has learned from his father not to let that happen. I need to be better at that. Thank you again for your post!

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