“Just call her the ‘IT.'”

Those words were uttered by my “friend” back in elementary school. Somehow, she convinced the entire fifth grade to call me “IT” for a whole day. In P.E., everyone just stared, pointed and laughed. At lunch, nobody sat by me. Every time I asked a classmate a question, they replied, “What do you want IT?” and then laughed hysterically. Just as the day was wrapping up, she walked over to my desk, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Hey, don’t be such a stick in the mud. It was just a joke.”

Some things you just don’t ever forget.

With the age of cell phones and the instant gratification of social media, bullying has been taken to a whole new level. But, let’s be clear. It never, ever, left. While I applaud the recent creation of programs like “No Place for Hate,” ultimately we have to teach our kids to stand up for themselves. We have to teach them that they might lose a friend, or two or 20 if they defend themselves, but in the long run you don’t want people like that in your life anyway.

A few years ago, my oldest found himself with a bona fide bully. In all honesty, I think this sweet kid just wanted some friends and some attention. Thankfully, with the intervention of some caring teachers, administrators and parents, we were able to find some real solutions and the bully grew up and became a nice kid. In the process, my son learned how it felt to be on the receiving end of a bully. I pray it’s helped him to never be on the giving end.

Why do I share all that with you? Because I think all of us has a bully inside. There are moments when we want our way, when we think a girlfriend needs to be put in her place or we see our solution as the shining example. And we bully our way through the door to get people to listen. I know I’ve done it and I’m not proud.

I’m certain that my kids will encounter more bullies and that I’ll be tempted to steamroll my way through the door, but I’m hoping for one thing. I’m praying that I remember just how much it stung to be shunned by all my friends in fifth grade. How I came home that night and sobbed in my pillow so my parents wouldn’t know. How my innocence was stripped away in a matter of hours by a mean girl. How much it hurts when people call you names and then swing by your desk and call a truce, as if nothing ever happened. How important it is to forgive and then make better choices when choosing your community.

You don’t get to do life over, but you do get to do it better everyday. Here’s to a better day and hopefully a laugh as you enjoy this picture of me in fifth grade, circa 1985.

5th-grade

5 Comments

  1. Kathy@9peas on October 2, 2013 at 8:46 am

    You are such a cutie!
    My oldest had his first run in with a bully around 9th grade. Administrators, teachers, etc.. worked towards a resolution that was positive for both boys. It only worked briefly, after time the bully started up again. My son (on his own) researched the fine print on bullying and when the bully pulled his next prank to impress his other football team players and his coach, my son informed him that he would be reporting him to the next level within the code of conduct. This would mean “You Can’t Play Football if you keep this up, leave me alone”. The coach heard it, realized Noah knew his stuff and the bully NEVER bothered him again. It was such a vital lesson, and one I’m actually glad my son had in his life. I wish there were no such things as bullies, but dealing with this while young has helped my son take on harder levels of ‘standing up for yourself, and your beliefs’ while in College.

  2. Valerie on October 2, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Great post, Kathryn. I can remember being bullied…and being a follower (fearful of the bully) of the bully in 6th grade. It was such a long and painful year. I think my favorite line from this post is “How important it is to forgive and then make better choices when choosing your community.” Yes!!! Even now…as a grown-up…I need to be vigilant as to who I am in community with…bullies even exist in blog land!!! Hugs.

  3. Elizabeth on October 2, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    You are a very cute 5th grader! 🙂

  4. verdinalouisa on October 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    What a cutie then; what a beauty now!

    God bless!
    V

  5. Karen on October 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks for this post. I wasn’t seriously bullied, but as a girl who didn’t fit traditional girl stereotypes, I never really fit in and that was hard. My parents, products of immigrant working class families, either weren’t aware or didn’t know what to do and I was left to work things through on my own. At some point I realized I craved friendships so badly that my worth was defined by their success and I needed to change that.

    Now I find myself constantly aware of whether a friendship or experience is a positive or a negative for me. It’s made a major difference. One of my cousin’s is a bully and she recently said something nasty to me on Facebook and I’ve decided to give Facebook a break. It’s been wonderful. And I also talk a lot about this with my 4 year old, about being with friends who make us feel good, about why we should, in turn, make our friends feel good. I want her to feel more supported socially that I was.

    Thank you for the post…

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