Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Power ...of one

She was all arms and knobby-kneed legs. Skinny as could be, although she could eat like there was no tomorrow. Sure she was little; but this was back in the day when they still accelerated children by advancing them a grade in school. So there was a reason that she was small, with no hint of puberty yet in sight. She was all of ten years old. But she was nervously excited, to be boarding that school bus. The bus that would take her to middle school for Grade Seven and Eight. She'd have her own locker; she would move around the school, a different class room for different subjects. She was in the big leagues now.

*****

She was voted class representive for her Grade 7 class. She didn't really want to 'run' for it, but her parents thought it would be good for her, to get her out of her shell. She was smart, she could do it. Her teacher thought she could do it. And it was easy for the kids to vote her in, nobody wanted to do it, it was such an uncool thing to be on school council, and hey, the skinny kid with the polyester outfits, that would be a great joke.

*****

Gym class was horrible. In the change rooms, she couldn't even fake that she could wear a bra. The biggest girl in the class, who was taking grade 7 over again, would call her out.
"Look at the skinny one, look at her in her undershirt!!! Who still wears undershirts? That's so GAY!!! You're so gay! "

And things got better once in the gymnasium. She got used to being the last one standing, the loser prize for whichever team had the misfortune of having to include her.
*****


There was a new girl in school. This large, blonde Texan Tara. All brash, she walked with a swagger, spoke with a drawl, and she loved to follow the skinny girl through the halls. Walking closely behind her, kicking at the heels of her class rep. Waiting for the little one to break.

The skinny one who now wore glasses and who couldn't wait to get braces to straighten out her crooked overbite. The little one who was now showing signs of puberty, but not the pretty ones. The hormones were doing a number on her nose, with little spots cropping up on the tip. She was now wearing a Mona Lisa style held back with bobby pins, to help clear her forehead from cropping up the next set of blackheads. But she didn't wear a Mona Lisa smile.
She endured the daily harassment, not saying a word. Although most times she wished she could grow a huge superhero arm and give Texan Tara a huge whollop on her head. Like she deserved.

*****


Grade 8, senior year. She had made it through that first tortuous year. And she had even done the unthinkable before the summer broke; she had turned around and demanded that Tara stop with her harassment. Surprisingly Tara did; she gave the little Chinese girl props for standing up to her... they even became friends of sorts, before Tara moved away again. Things were starting to look up.


The mid-year joint class project was to put together a book of puzzles, games, articles about the students in the class and memories of the school year. The girl was so excited about this, and she worked hard with a couple of her classmates to do her share of the project. Everyone was so proud of their accomplishments, and couldn't wait to see the final published copies as they landed on their desks.

Flipping through the pages, she could hear some quiet murmuring in the classroom, and some shocked gasps. And then she got to it. The page that was put together by three boys, jokers of the class, if you will. Only what she saw wasn't funny. The boys had compiled a list of nicknames for each member of the class. Some were very cool, clever even. And others were not.
Little Chinese skinny girl with glasses and braces, who was now suffering from severe acne around her nose. You can just call her Rudolph now.

As it was the end of the school day, she just gritted her teeth, held back her tears, and made her way quietly to where the buses were. After she boarded the bus, she sat down, leaned against the window, let it all go. Sobs wracked her frame, as the burden of not talking, not saying anything, just holding it all in, became too much to bear. She could hear the voice of one of boys in her class just behind her, apologizing for his part in that project. But the damage was done.

*****
I attended a presentation that L's school had brought in to deal with the subject of bullying. Through skits and interactive discussions, the actors demonstrated the different types of bullying, from the physical to the verbal. They wanted to drive the message home about safe schools, and that even if you're a bystander to this abuse, you are no better than the bully. The main message was to tell someone, your teacher, an adult. Someone who could empower you.

When they asked the kids at the outset to raise their hands if they'd ever experienced bullying, I saw my little boy's hand go up. And I knew what he was talking about. Because he had told me and his father, and then with our support he had told his teacher. I promised myself that I would do everything possible to try to protect my children and help them protect themselves from this type of abuse.


But my heart still ached that he had held that information inside for over a year.


And as she vowed, never again, the little skinny girl's heart cried a few more tears for her own unspoken years.

15 comments:

Family Adventure said...

My heart just broke, too, Karen. Every mother's fear, this is.

Badness Jones said...

Oh Karen....I think most of us have been through bullying at one stage or another, and though the wounds scab over, they never really go away....but those kids, those bullies, they peaked in high school, and the rest of their lives go downhill - and look at you, you're amazing, and better all the time.

My heart is aching for Liam, growing up hurts.

Beth said...

This post makes me sad.

I am glad that Liam's school is talking about bullying and getting it out in the open. Hopefully this will make it stop.

Maria said...

That was heartbreaking. :(

Being a kid is tougher than people like to admit.

C said...

Oh, Karen! This post really made me cry! What a sad post! :(

I think it is wonderful that Liam's school is talking about bullying. I noticed that there are more campaigns on TV about bullying. It's great that this is being discussed.

You are such a wonderful writer.

Ginaagain said...

Karen, this was a truly touching post. I've been thinking about it all day. Liam is fortunate to have you for his mother.

Kellan said...

Oh Karen - I just want to grab that sweet little skinny girl and hold her and hug her and love her! I'm sorry this sort of thing happened to you in school, but you are beautiful now - you were always beautiful. ANd this post was beautifully written and expressed - you are so talented! I hope your Liam stays away from any bullies. You take care of your children - I will take care of mine too. Take care - Kellan

Rachel said...

I am so sorry. Very sad.

Kat said...

Wow, Karen, this was so well written. Sorry. I've been there, it sucks donkey eggs. Mmmwah!

Huckdoll said...

Beautifully written, Karen. I'm sorry for the little girl, thank God the schools are tackling this issue from a much younger level now.

Sniz said...

This is such a poignant story and one, unfortunately, I'm sure many people can relate to.

Lizzy in the Burbs said...

Kids can be so mean sometimes, it's really heartbreaking. They don't realize how just a few words can effect someone for the rest of their life. I'm sorry your son had to go through that. It's great that he did confide in you and the principal. Hopefully it empowered him, and for certain it has taught him empathy for others. I think any child who has known the pain of bullying will try twice as hard to be kind to others because they know how it feels. I'm so glad that they are addressing these issues in school, some children just don't know any better, unfortunately.

Lizzy

Don Mills Diva said...

Oh Karen - this post really made me tear up. It's obvious that you are still carrying so much of that little girl inside you. It's heartbreaking to think that our kids have to relive our childhood pains...Beck is right, growing up is hard.

Kami said...

Kids are so damn cruel. My heart breaks for you and for Liam. Why can't we all just treat eachother with respect?

Your writing here is so amazing Karen, great style! I hate the subject though, bullying is a cut that hurts so deep.

BookMomma said...

What a lovely and bittersweet post... but certainly not without hope. Thank you.

Cheers as we do some Weekend Bloghopping!

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