Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Taking the Bully by the Horns

My parents, as I'm sure most parents do, have certain moments from their children's lives that have stayed with them and become part of their repertoire of fondly and frequently told anecdotes. Those memories are especially meaningful because those moments were particularly painful, joyous or amusing. My Mom usually recalls my first word (cracker, I think), my first crush (Jamie Tookshure), or my first bra (I didn't need it).

My Dad likes to tell about the time I almost shot the neighbor kid in the balls.

I realize now that the young man in question was really just a terribly unhappy and mixed-up little kid, due to his unstable and volatile home life. When he and his sister began to cramp their mother's whoring boozehound freewheeling lifestyle, she would simply park them with her father until she felt able to cope with the demands of motherhood again. What they endured during those brief periods of maternal conscientiousness is anybody's guess. Her father, an exceedingly mild-mannered and soft spoken older gentleman, lived on our block.

Back then, I didn't know that's why he was the way he was. I just knew he was a big fat bully. But a really cute one. So I vacillated wildly between hating his ever loving guts, and wishing with all my heart that I was his girlfriend.

The year that I was twelve, my Mom stopped doing hair in a salon and became an instructor at the local Beauty College. The job meant better pay and regular hours which was good, but we had to be at home alone for a little while each afternoon. My middle sister and I let ourselves in after school, while my youngest sister stayed with a sitter.

For the most part, it was fine. I had been babysitting for several years already, so I was not afraid of being left alone. My sister was only two years younger than me, so she didn't require any real care. Sure...we drank pickle juice straight from the jar and rifled through my Dad's underwear drawer for naughty magazines, but we were pretty responsible when it came to really important stuff.

His Mom got pregnant that year, and perhaps not surprisingly, his taunting took on a more sinister quality. Up to that point, he had merely infuriated me. But then I began to be a little afraid of him. And though I didn't always understand the things he was saying to me, I knew they were dirty words, describing ugly things. We steered clear of him when we could and sometimes sheltered his younger sister from the misogynistic behavior.

There came a day of reckoning of course. Doesn't there always?

One day, he pushed me too far. He made me really believe all the horrible and confusing things he was saying. Though I didn't know exactly what "screwing" was, but I knew I didn't want to do it, and I sure didn't want to do it with him. Not anymore.

He had pursued us all the way home from school, jeering, teasing, leering. How does a twelve year old learn to leer for God's sake? The answer, which is all too obvious now that I am an adult, makes me feel sick. We made it home safely, but he was undeterred by the locked door. He pounded on it, he shouted at the windows. He would not give up. After a while, I got good and pissed. My fear turned to resolve.

I got a .45 pistol from the closet where my father stored all his guns and hunting supplies, which, of course, we had been instructed never to touch. I had no qualms about doing this, and no fear of reprisal. This was an emergency. It was self defense, plain and simple.

I knew it wasn't loaded, but he didn't.

I took it downstairs, opened the door, pointed it at his crotch and said,

"Get the FUCK away from here or I will shoot your balls off."

He went.

And I was wrong about not getting in trouble.

My parents were, understandably, appalled by what I had done. I was duly punished. But there was something underneath their stern admonishments. It was pride. And the fact that my Dad still tells this story with a funny little grin on his face reminds me of how I felt when I found out that my son had beaten the snot out of a neighbor kid who had taken a swing at him with a baseball bat. Curiously, shamefully, undeniably...proud.

Proud because of the violence inherent to such an act? No, certainly not. The violence itself really is horrifying on a personal level. To know that one human being is capable of doing another physical harm is a reality that most of us rarely if ever, encounter. So when it does enter our staid, civilized lives, the horror is jarring because of its tangibility. It becomes a real thing. Not just a news story or an episode of COPS, not just a chapter in a book.

But like my father was with me, I was proud that my son stood up for himself. Proud that he had enough self-respect not to take any shit. Proud that he kicked ass and took names. And aside from pride, there was a strange sense of relief. The burden of his well-being was lifted just a little, knowing my passive child could and would defend himself.

So....you're wondering where all this is leading no doubt. Well, the lovely and talented Kristin of Motherhood Uncensored has started a radioblogging/talk show/roundtable discussion kind of thing, that's really pretty cool. Her topic this evening is bullying.

As the mother of boys, it's a topic that is very relevant, especially since my boys are both at an age where this kind of thing is rearing its ugly head more and more.

Recently, Diminutive One was being taunted by a classmate to the point of feigning stomachaches, headaches, earaches, an obscure heel disease, strange scapula ailments...

When I finally got to the bottom of it all and contacted his teacher about the matter, her response was swift, and inordinately, I thought, emphatic. The taunters would be dealt with immediately as outlined by the Bullying protocol established by the school system. There would be no tolerance. Strict punishment would be meted out.

It was just a little teasing.

Now, I'm glad that steps have been taken to put a stop to bullying. I really am. I know that scores of adults still carry scars from the bullying they endured as kids. I know kids have hurt others and themselves to put an end to the torment. I know people have died as a result of bullying. And that is something we should not accept, enable, or tolerate.

But I wonder, if, in all of our zeal to eradicate the problem, we haven't robbed our kids of the ability and the opportunity to stand up for themelves. Because it's only by doing so that kids realize they have the strength and the courage and the freedom to not be a victim. There can be no empowerment without victory. There can be no victory with no battle fought.

So where do we draw the line in the sand between intervention, and interference? And once drawn, how do we assess whether we are toeing the line, straddling the line, or leaping clear to the other side of the line?

It's hard to say, really. Like so many other parenting issues, there are many shades of gray to consider and examine.

Husband and I have to chosen to let our children know that violence for violence' sake is unacceptable. Putting their hands on another person in anger is unacceptable. Causing another person harm is not how strong, healthy people ease their own pain. If they are threatened, they should inform a parent, teacher, or law enforcement officer.

But...

If they are being assaulted, they have every right to defend themselves to the extent necessary to prevent personal injury.

And to remember that bullies (adults and children alike) are usually just scared, unhappy, lonely people who don't like themselves very much. And that maybe, just maybe, an offer of friendship might be more effectual than a fat lip.

Or, one could threaten to shoot their balls off. I can personally attest to the efficacy of such a measure.

7 Comments:

  • At 10:55 AM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    Tawanda! You rock!

    ...and I drank the pickle juice too!

     
  • At 1:19 PM, Blogger sunshine scribe said…

    Threatening to shoot their balls off would be undeniably effective. You do rock.

    I worry so much about bullying. My brother was bullied badly as a child and I worry about the same for my son. He isn't agressive or boistorous or like may of the other boys. He's quirky and a book worm and all the wonderful things that teasing is born from.

     
  • At 5:44 PM, Blogger ewe are here said…

    Bullying seems to be getting worse and worse in the schools. And now a lot of the little snots are armed. And school officials, especially over here, seem to look the other way a lot. I don't understand it, and I'm dreading the day my boy starts school. Because I will become the ugly american if anyone bullies my boy and be in the school officials' faces until any such issues are resolved.

     
  • At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Jenny said…

    Some people deserve to be shot in the nuts.

     
  • At 2:30 AM, Blogger jen said…

    Rock on, sister.

    Ahh. bullying. we are not there yet, but i so worry about it. and even more so the insidious chick bullying, more vile than hitting.

     
  • At 9:57 AM, Blogger Karyn said…

    I'm with you.

    We do not use "angry hands" in this house, as I have call to assert every damn day.

    But.

    You put your hands on my kid and all bets are off - I give him, his brother, my dog and anyone else complete and total sanction to kick your ass into oblivion.

    Bullies do suck, whether they are cowards or insecure or abuse victims or whatever... we all make choices. Abuse? Yeah, I know about that. But I'm no bully. I still carry scars from my own childhood snobs with whom I shared a playground. It shakes me to my core when I think of what my children have yet to grapple with...

     
  • At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Kathy Noll said…

    Hello, the title of my book, work, and website, which has won National Awards, is used in this article without reference: "Taking the Bully by the Horns"

    Please visit www.kathynoll.com

    Thank you,
    Kathy Noll, author
    "Taking the Bully by the Horns"
    Saving Children's Lives, Making the World a Better Place, and Empowering Those in Need.

     

Post a Comment

<< Home