Bullying


The world I grew up in was very different to today’s world. I would go to school expecting a day of bullying. But I also knew that it would end – that I would come home and be free of it. Lonely but not tormented.

Nowadays, bullying invades homes. On mobile phones, on social media, the four walls are no longer enough to protect children. What a world!

Fortunately, I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of cyberbullying. Not even second-hand. But someone asked me to share this graphic she helped to create, and she’s keen to receive comments and thoughts. I’m doing it because I can’t imagine how awful it would be to never be able to escape the bullies.

That graphic describes the situation in the US. This site gives advice for those in the UK.

Some of us try to make the world a better place, but new challenges keep appearing.

I have several blog posts planned, inspired by reading other blogs. I hope I get round to writing them. This one wouldn’t wait.

Mapelba writes:

Have you heard the theory that there are countless parallel universes, that at particular moments in your life when one decision was made, another universe began with another you who lived the choice you didn’t make.

In my memory, I made the decision aged six, but really I think I always did this. At the age of six I was more able to rationalise it.

As I saw it, they picked on me. They all chose to tease me. In reality, it probably started as normal childhood behaviour. This is the way young children treat each other. But I didn’t know about that. My response was not to react – never to show that their taunts upset me, because if I did it would be worse.

In the parallel universe, I cried and they stopped teasing. They included me instead of spurning me.

In the parallel universe, this blog doesn’t exist, I don’t write and I’ve never heard of social anxiety.

But I’m married to someone else, have different children and probably still live in Britain.

My life is different in the parallel universe. I can’t say whether it’s better or worse. Where I am now, in this universe, it’s pretty good.

Mapelba says:

What moment in your childhood would change where you are now? Of course, perhaps it the small forgotten decision that made all the difference. You’re alive because you took an extra minute to tie your shoe and so you weren’t on your bike in the intersection when the truck ran the stop sign. But those moments you can never know.

After my previous post, Erika recommended that I watch a recent TV programme. I won’t repeat the link here, as most of you won’t understand it, but I’m devoting this post to it.

In the programme, three people in their forties return to the schools where they were bullied to confront their former bullies. The former bullies – two of them, in each case – are not told whom they’re going to meet in advance and have no idea what’s going to happen. The hero (that’s how they’re described in the programme) enters the room and initiates a discussion about how they suffered as children.

In each case, the former bullies react in a different way. In one, a woman, who doesn’t remember the actions attributed to her, says, “If I hit you, there must have been a reason.” Later, she tells the hero, “You need to think what you did to make children hit you.”

In another case, a man, who remembered it happening, says, “You asked for it,” meaning that the hero behaved in such a way that bullying was inevitable.

In the third case, the bullies admitted that the bullying took place and apologised.

I found the programme fascinating, but I’m not sure I agree with the way it was organised or with all the conclusions viewers were encouraged to draw. When you’re accused of something, especially something you don’t remember doing, and especially when the accusation is sprung on you without warning, you generally do your best to defend yourself. Those people might have thought differently after reflection, but they weren’t given time for that.

Nearly forty years had passed since the events described. The people had all changed since then. I don’t think it was fair to blame those people for what happened when they were young children who didn’t know what they were causing.

The suggestion that the boy asked for the bullying, or brought it on himself, was dismissed as ridiculous, but I suspect it was true – it certainly was in my case. I came to expect to be bullied and so I behaved in a way that would make it almost inevitable – not intentionally, of course.

Another thing I didn’t like about the programme was its implication that all bullying includes physical violence.

BUT there were parts I liked and agreed with completely. The fact that bullying can influence future profession, life style, country of residence and more. The importance of talking about what happened.

So if a lot of people watched that programme, I think that was good, because it showed that the effects of bullying go much further than the playground. I wish there were a simple solution. Any solution has to be based on more education and more adult involvement. Beyond that, I don’t know what can be done to prevent bullying.

On 3rd March, 2002, I received an email. It began: “Hi, it’s Gill Balbes (as was) here. Was talking to Jane the other night and she was telling me about how she’d been in contact with you and that you remember me (as I do you) so I thought I’d say hello. Schooldays seem a long way off but it would be nice to hear how you’re doing.”

Schooldays certainly were a long way off. It was over thirty years since I’d walked out of the school gates, vowing never to have any connection with any of the girls I’d known over the previous seven years – a few even longer. It was only recently that I’d added my name to the Friends Reunited site, opening up the possibility of contact, although I didn’t expect anyone to write to me.

But Jane did write and I made a decision: that if I was going to correspond with anyone from school, I would make the relationship meaningful by being open about what happened to me there. If they didn’t want to discuss it, there wasn’t much point in reuniting.

Fortunately, Jane did agree to discuss it. She also apologised for what she did to me, although I didn’t hold her or any of the former pupils to blame as adults for their actions as children. I always knew the bullying (which I called teasing then) had had a bad effect on the rest of my life, but never thought the children were mature enough to understand what they were causing.

Jane soon put me in contact with Gill, who had more time to write. Gill and I corresponded almost daily for a long time, and she became a very special friend to me. It was Gill who told me about social anxiety. I didn’t realise the significance of it at first, but gradually two things became clear. I was not alone in being this way and it’s possible to improve. (I don’t think it makes sense to say there’s a cure, and I don’t think there needs to be one.)

Gill has been the catalyst for many changes in my life – for starting to write, for starting a blog, and much more. We have now met several times. After ten years, I still count Gill as a very special friend.

—o—

Do you have a friend story you want to share?

Please note: I have scheduled this post to appear on the right day, but probably won’t be available to comment for a day or two.

Sorry – it’s been a while. I’ve been wondering what to write about. Then I saw this question on Facebook from A Soldier’s Mother:

What is the single moment you wish you could live over again? Not necessarily to change anything – just to experience it again?

There were several replies. Most found it hard to pick out a single moment. Me too. What would I choose? The moment after giving birth? How wonderful to relive that moment without having to suffer what goes before it! But isn’t the suffering part of what makes that moment so special?

At this point, I could go off on a different tangent: the value of suffering. But I won’t – not for now, anyway.

So, what other moments do I want to relive? Our wedding day is another significant one. But there are other, less notable moments I could relive. Walking on the mountains of Switzerland or elsewhere, dancing, giving a presentation to an audience. I really enjoy all of those.

A Soldier’s Mother later said she decided not to ask what moment people wanted to change in their lives because it could make them sad. But I thought about it anyway. One moment stuck out. There must be others, but this one blocks the others from my mind.

I was fourteen. I’d been bullied for nine years, although I never thought of it as “bullying”. I decided to stop talking. It was the only thing I could think of doing that might stop them tormenting me. It worked – partially. And I’ve been suffering from that decision ever since.

I don’t deny that my life has been good and still is, but it could have been better and easier and less complicated without it.

So, I invite you to think about either of those questions (without being sad – I’m not). And, of course, you’re welcome to comment below (although if you’re looking at this page of this site – not just this particular post – the comment button is at the top of the post).

Yes, I have decided to reveal all. I realise this could have serious consequences for me, notably that they’ll be coming to take me away. I just don’t know who “they” are.

So this is it. I promise I didn’t make this up. No, in fact I borrowed it from mapelba, who wrote it this comment: “I was a first class criminal in high school. I broke the laws of fitting in.”

A great comment. I could have said it myself. If I’d been clever enough.

***

My next post may well highlight the wide diversity in shapes and sizes of boo….

Until next time 🙂

Sometimes ideas go around from blog to blog. One person blogs about something and others decide to blog about the same thing. I first saw this idea on Rosalind Adam’s  blog. She got the idea from someone else. Probably others got the idea from her. That’s how it works.

This idea has a name. It’s called the Fun and Games Blogfest. You blog about your three favourite games. That’s fun, I thought. I could do that.

Then I thought some more about the games I played as a child. And each game I thought about led to thoughts about bullying. It’s not that I didn’t play games in my childhood. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy playing games in my childhood. But my overwhelming memories now are not about the happy times. They’re about the sad times. They’re about the times I was left out of games, or worse – made to feel worthless when I tried to join in.

So I decided I didn’t really want to blog about games I played. But I was still left wondering how I should react. Should I ignore the whole thing and not mention it, or should I write about my feelings? By writing, doesn’t it spoil things for others? The original idea was just a bit of fun. I don’t need to ruin that with my hangups.

This doesn’t apply only in this particular case. It’s true nearly every time childhood is brought up in conversation. I think that anything I could add to the conversation wouldn’t be appropriate. It would turn a fun conversation into a sad and boring one. So I keep quiet.

But I’ve kept quiet all my life. I’m fed up with keeping quiet. I want to speak out. I want others to know who I am. But I don’t want to spoil their fun.

When I attended my last school reunion, I kept quiet and listened to all the fond memories. Inside, I was crying for the girl who didn’t take part in those fun things they remembered. Afterwards, I decided not to attend the next reunion.

But that’s what I don’t want to do. That’s what social anxiety is about – hiding away so that society doesn’t know who you really are. I don’t want to do that any more.

That’s why I don’t know how to react. Any ideas?

Just a question today.

In the dark, distant days of yore when I was at school, teachers didn’t really have the skills to deal with bullying. They hadn’t been taught this, and presumably what seems obvious to me wasn’t obvious to them. For them, as long as violence wasn’t involved, what happened between the children was none of their business.

Nowadays, things are different. Bullying is discussed as part of their syllabus. Schools have bullying policies.

So why is bullying still rampant in schools?

 

BULLYING

Just a question today.

In the dark, distant days of yore when I was at school, teachers didn’t really have the skills to deal with bullying. They hadn’t been taught this, and presumably what seems obvious to me wasn’t obvious to them. For them, as long as violence wasn’t involved, what happened between the children was none of their business.

Nowadays, things are different. Bullying is discussed as part of their syllabus. Schools have “bullying policies”.

So why is bullying still rampant in schools?

Note: I wrote this post yesterday. Today, after receiving that news over to the right, I’m feeling much better.

Recently, I wrote a post entitled Guilt. It was about guilt in Nicola Morgan’s YA novel, Wasted, and the way it spawns dangerous behaviour in one of the main characters. This current post is more personal, and it’s also influenced partly by Nicola Morgan. This time it’s her post about emotions and writing. She writes about events that can render a writer temporarily incapable of writing, especially fiction writing. She mentions emotions that stump creativity.

By chance, that post appeared exactly two weeks after my mother passed away, an event that caused emotions in me, although not the ones you might expect.

People, when they heard the news, started to talk to me or send me messages. They all said one thing: you must be feeling so sad. I said thank you and felt awful because I didn’t feel sad. And, because I didn’t feel what everyone expected me to feel, I thought there must be something wrong with me. It took me some time to work out the truth.

My mother was 98 and had suffered from dementia for at least five years. I felt sad five years ago when I realised I no longer had a mother I could consult with or converse with. I lost my mother five years ago, when nobody said how sorry they were. Working that out made me feel better but didn’t completely wipe out the guilt, because there were other reasons for it.

My mother and I were never close. I never shared my life with her, neither events nor feelings, especially as a child. There was a reason for that. She was over-protective of me. She worried so much about the little things that I felt I couldn’t tell her about the big things. In particular, I never told her that I was bullied at school. I wanted to protect her from further worry and also felt that telling her wouldn’t help me and could make things worse for me. I don’t know how much that was true. By not sharing, I drew a wedge between us that remained to the end.

When, late in her life, a suggestion was made of looking for a home for my mother near to where I live, I made enquiries and decided against it. I won’t go into my reasons for that here. They relate back to a way in which my mother made my childhood very difficult for me, although she didn’t intend that at all. The decision not to have her near me put more of a burden on someone else; perhaps that was wrong of me.

So, although I’ve found logical reasons why I don’t feel as sad now as people expect, I still have reasons to feel guilty where my mother is concerned.

Do feel free to comment on this post, whether you think I should be feeling guilty or not. I wrote it to let out my emotions and (hopefully) free my creative tubes.

I’m very glad to leave the place of my week-long solitary sojourn and return to the vibrant vivacity if M2’s house. Before that, M2, J and I have arranged to meet at Waterloo for a day out. We all know each other from uni. Planning to meet people from uni has none of the apprehension that meeting people from school does. At uni, I fitted in, joined in.

So I leave my suitcase at the left-luggage office, which is between platforms 11 and 12. (Sort of 11¾?)

I finally get my ploughman’s lunch, so I can tick that off on my list:

Eat shortbread
Drink cider
Eat ploughman’s lunch in pub
Eat fish and chips
Eat salt and vinegar crisps
Eat scones with jam and cream X
If summer, feel rain
Buy underwear in M&S X

Unfortunately, the food in the pub we choose is not wonderful – maybe that’s why it’s empty – but at least the company is good.

We visit a museum called “Enchanted Palace” at Kensington Palace. It’s a bit strange but interesting. Then we walk around the gardens and take tea in the Orangery, a very posh-looking place. And I finally get my scone with jam and cream. Mmm. So this is the final table:

Eat shortbread
Drink cider
Eat ploughman’s lunch in pub
Eat fish and chips
Eat salt and vinegar crisps
Eat scones with jam and cream
If summer, feel rain
Buy underwear in M&S X

The underwear isn’t essential; I bought some quite recently. Back in the gardens, someone is feeding squirrels:

In the evening, I finally give M2’s husband the answer to his question. It was day 22 when he asked me what I learned in my life that I wish I’d known earlier. I haven’t really been thinking about this question ever since, but I haven’t had the opportunity to answer – or that’s what I tell myself. This is the last opportunity, so I take it. “I wish I’d known before the age of five how children treat each other. That would have made all the difference.”

You see, on my first day at school, through no fault of my own, I missed the first part of the day. At the end of the day, the teacher gave out drawings to the children. One girl said to me, “You won’t get a drawing because you didn’t do one.” It’s a perfectly normal thing for one child to say to another, but the mocking tone of her voice made me think I was being singled out, that there was something wrong with me. That feeling stayed with me. I expected to be treated differently and the other children picked up on that and did as I expected.

The next post will be the penultimate one in this series.

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