As soon as President Barack Obama threw his support into the “gay marriage” arena, things got dicey on the old campaign trail. Apparently, the Washington Post had been working up a hella bad story about Mitt Romney, and his high school/prep school antics. Talk about bad timing for Mitt.
Now the words are flying through the internet so swiftly that if they were physical entities, lots of heads would be lost to this war. Obama smoked pot and did some other drugs. Mitt was a bully. Which one is worse?
I personally feel that we ought to consider the fact that all teenagers are mutants, and forgive them both, but a disturbing question has yet to be answered. Is Mitt’s bullying a sign of a personality disorder? Is it something we should tolerate in a man who wants to lead our country?
Bullying can be deadly. I had my own “high school” horror stories, as I’m sure all of you did. Kids are mean. Cruel, vicious, nasty. Put them together in a crowd mentality and things get really bad. They feed off each other. Which, of course, makes them cowards, but they don’t see this. The ones who don’t feel right about what is happening still don’t feel comfortable confronting the “leader.” So they don’t.
When my oldest daughter was in eighth grade, I about lost her to a pack of nasty, rotten, mean, ugly, spiteful, yellow-bellied, cowardly bullies. Boys and girls. And I was never quite sure she would come out of it okay. Sometimes, I still wonder if it left an everlasting scar, and she is almost 20.
Kids who are different have a hard time in school. Everybody is so worried about fitting in, that those who simply cannot, or are not capable of it, often become the verbal and mental punching bags of the bullies. When it became apparent my oldest daughter was struggling with public school, I moved both of my daughters to a private school.
What this meant for my younger daughter, Dancing Daughter, was I moved her from a school where she had plenty of friends and always someone to hang out with to a school with 15 kids in a class where everyone hated her and treated her like dirt, because the class diva–a tall beautiful elegant girl who spoke both English and French fluently–was jealous of her. That’s one we never got. I saw it in the girl’s eyes more than once. In the look on her face. She wanted to physically reach out and SHOVE my daughter out of the way. She was probably glad when she went back to public school. I formed a bond with this girl, but I still saw that jealousy. And it made me realize just how wobbly all teenagers are during these years. They are walking a tightrope of trying to belong, and one wrong step and you fall. Even if you are beautiful, and talented, and multi-lingual. Those things don’t really help you when you are trying to grasp the rope.
Dancing Daughter was tough. She hung in there. An eternal optimist, she kept her head high.
Chatter Child, however, thrived at the small school. Her grade was small (only twelve girls), and they were tight-knit. This was a Christian school, so there was an emphasis on Christlike behavior. Apparently, somebody tuned things out during that part of the learning experience. It ended up being the worst possible choice for both of my daughters.
After two years of one or two friends, Dancing Daughter asked to please be allowed to return to public school for seventh grade. And I couldn’t say no. I still remember how bravely she walked through the doors of the public junior high where her old friends barely remembered her, and started over once again. We hoped this would not be a repeat of the private school. But the truth is, Dancing Daughter is able to morph to whatever situation fits her. She is an optimist. If one group of friends are not working out, then she finds another. And not the bad kids. She has always been too busy to be bad, with dance, and cheer, and drill…. But she doesn’t take crap from fake friends. Life is too short.
Chatter Child needed the small classes and one-on-one guidance, and she wanted to stay with her friends at the private school.
So, the horror commenced.
There were two new girls in the class, and they were known for being snotty and nasty, and then turning around and trying to be your friend when no one else was around. Chatter Child didn’t much like this. One was a “cheerleader,” who cheered at a professional cheerleading studio, and thought way too much of herself. In fact, she returned to public school as a sophomore and didn’t even try out for the cheer squad, probably because she knew she wouldn’t make it. In our state, county, and town, cheer and dance are huge. Parents train their kids for years before entering high school, so they can make the cheer squad, drill team or any sport. When you reach high school age, there is no other reason–except for lack of skill or fear–for cheering with a studio and not at a large 5A school, unless you haven’t got the grades. This is not meant to dismiss those who don’t wish to cheer or dance. It is meant to show the character–or lack of–of this girl.
The other girl was a solid athlete with a bad history whose parents had moved her from the state where they lived because she was having problems with boys.
These two decided, one day, that Chatter Child would be the target of their anger, and so they assaulted. It took place at school, where they would invite everyone standing in the circle at lunchtime to a movie, except for my daughter. And they planned parties where everyone was invited but her. And they made sure she knew. There were 12 girls in the class. How do you get away from that? How do you find new friends when there are no other girls to be friends with? And then they started taunting her online. They would post rude comments on her Myspace and Bebo pages. They would call her names. They would text her rude messages. She would cry herself to sleep every night, and refuse to wake up every morning. One day, I’d had enough and I took the phone from her and confronted the little cheer snot, and she backtracked all over the place trying to get herself out of trouble. And I reported it to the office. And to the principal. And they called the girls in. They had long talks with them.
And nothing changed.
Finally, one night, I accessed an Internet chat where the soccer girl was verbally attacking my daughter in an instant message. She called her fat, piggy, ugly, stinky. Told her that her “belly roll” was completely disgusting and all the boys thought she was gross. Mind you, my daughter was not fat, and the girl who attacked her probably outweighed her by twenty pounds. But as someone pointed out to me, why was weight even being used? I can tell you. Because our society has a deep abiding hatred towards “fat” and for some reason it’s still acceptable to attack anyone with this moniker. It’s not right. It doesn’t matter whether she was fat or thin, or the attackers were fat or thin. She should never have been subjected to this. The soccer girl also told her how much everyone hated her. Told her she had no friends at the school, and she should just kill herself. I caught my daughter in tears, and so I took over the chat. I didn’t let it go on for too long before I told her just exactly WHO she was chatting to, and that a transcript of the chat would be taken to her parents, the school, and if necessary the police.
She proceeded to assault me, sending insults at me that no 14-year-old girl should have to endure, let alone an adult.
I figured this would be easily solved now. I had proof. I had the chat transcript. I gave it to the school. They would fix things.
I was wrong.
I took the chat to the principal and the administration. They suspended the girl who wrote it for one day. So all the kids in the class skipped school and went to her house that day. And I realized that a solution would not be coming from this “Christian” school. I still have many friends there, and I do love them dearly, but I do not believe this was handled correctly.
With very few days of school left, I pulled my daughter out. And come fall, she had to go to public school. She failed miserably there. She missed excessively. She cried. She had been depressed during the assault, but now she was most definitely suffering from PTSD, as I tried to help her in any way I could survive the taunts of “you’re fat,” “you’re ugly,” “piggy,” “oink oink,” etc. etc. etc. that still echoed through her head.
Here at public school, she was overwhelmed. She would miss for days at a time. Her grades suffered. Then she tore her ACL and had to have surgery to have it replaced, and that racked up even more time missed. She had a teacher who was disorganized and rude, and one day she told my daughter to “shut up.” I confronted the teacher. I got crap from her, so I went to the principal. The teacher was nicer after that, but it didn’t matter. My daughter was wasting away before my eyes.
She would do okay for a few days, and then one of the kids from the private school–often a boy–would randomly text her a nasty message, and the pain would start all over again.
Sophomore year in high school, we finally had to do something drastic.The mean girl, the cheerleader, was now at her same high school, and in some of her same classes. And she was turning other mean girls who she was friends with against my daughter–AGAIN.
Unfortunately, the solution to a lot of my daughter’s issues was violence.
We preach against it, but it apparently was the only language these mean girls heard. As a sophomore, a girl who was always in trouble, who shared my daughter’s name, befriended her. And at a football game where the nasty girls from the old school showed up to hang with the mean cheer girl and her new mean friends, there was a confrontation. They were taunting my daughter again, this time at a large public school, and the ringleader was a girl who barely knew my daughter. Chatter Child ran from the game, all the way home, more than a mile. It was late and dark, but she didn’t care. She was trying to escape. She didn’t stay to see her friend–the girl with the troubled past–punch out the girl who was causing most of the trouble.
After that punch, things changed. A lot of the girls from the old school apologized, and they became “friends” with my daughter again–sort of. It was tentative. If a snake bites you once, you should always be wary, even if it seems to like you the next day. She never hung out with them again, but they would say hi at the mall, or in public places.
Throughout the entire ordeal, the saddest thing to me was the bystanders. The girls and boys who didn’t really participate but never once stood up to tell the bullies to STOP or to knock it off. They allowed it to happen. Back then I wanted to implore them to speak up. Be Brave. They never did, save one girl who also became an outcast. I am still proud of her.
I never thought of violence as an answer, but in this case, it did the trick. We still had to move Chatter Child to another school, but there she thrived, did well, and graduated.
I asked for a special plan, as the school district is required to do, so her teachers would work with her. The school countered with an alternative. They would send her to another school, which was smaller and where they dealt with “emotionally fragile” kids and young parents.
We went for a tour. The counselor talked to Chatter Child, and she jumped on it. Somehow, the counselors at this school helped her. They got her through graduation. She was a speaker, and I cried my eyes out, remembering the days when I wondered if she would try to kill herself. The panic I would feel some mornings as I would reach in to her bed, and check for a heartbeat to make sure she was still breathing.Waiting to see if she would move, because I couldn’t rouse her to get ready for school.
You don’t know fear until your child isn’t moving, and panic runs through your mind. Did I fall asleep? Did she get up and find some pills? Take too many Tylenol? Did I fail on my watch? Please move. Please breathe.
I was one of the lucky ones. My daughter made it through alive. Not every parent is so fortunate. I watched her like a hawk for all this time, worried that I would lose her, because some stupid mean girl had issues and took them out on someone who was innocent of anything except being there, available, and an easy target.
I wanted to take a shovel to those kids. I am a pacifist, so this anger inside me was alarming, to say the least.
She graduated from high school with honors, in a class with a transgender boy and another young man who came to school dressed in forties style clothing and never talked. Her friends were young parents who ended up dealing with adulthood far too early, and had babies to deal with along with homework.
But she had counselors and teachers who cared. They worked at this school because they cared. It was more than just a job to them.
I lost track of the mean girls, and frankly, I don’t care to find them. I’m a mamma bear. Don’t mess with my cubs. And this was some serious messing.
I read stories now, of kids who suffer similar bullying and kill themselves, and it physically hurts me to even THINK about it.
I write this blog post with tears in my eyes as I look back at what happened. I blame myself for putting her in this school. I blame myself for putting my other daughter in this school, where she had no friends, just so her sister could do better. Could survive. Could get out of bed everyday and go to school.
In the final countdown, it ended up bad for both of them. One just happened to be able to “roll with the punches” a little easier than the other.
And those punches? Did I mention the shovel I wanted to wield?
Bullying is not acceptable. Ever. FOR ANY REASON.
And Mitt Romney, if you were a bully, you better come out and straight up apologize. Don’t claim you don’t remember, because if you did it, I’m pretty damn sure you do remember. Evasive action will not work here. Address it. Then move on.