Well, it’s February 29th. It will be four more years before I’ll be able to write anything that will be branded with that date. Something about that small fact made me decide not to just scribble something down about writing or some ridiculous thought or adventure I had. I didn’t want to just throw it away. It’s Leap Year and so I decided to take a small leap myself. I’m throwing away all of my fears about what people think about me or that I may get pulled into confrontations that I try so hard to avoid. I’ve decided to take a leap for my son and all of the other children who are being bullied in this world. If I don’t stand up, who will? If I don’t leap, who will? I firmly believe that it takes just one person to make a tremendous difference in a child’s life–just one.
I’ve made no secret about the fact that my oldest son, who happens to have autism, has been bullied on multiple occasions. I’m not going to recap everything here but if you want to get a good idea about what our life has been like, please visit this link and read https://wckedwords.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/cowardly-lions/ With all of the bullying he has endured, from a kid trying to shove his head in a toilet to the unprovoked smear campaign started by two boys whose mothers are PTA officers, the goal has been simple- to make my son feel like less than he is.
The latest incident involved three boys berating and shoving my son all because they thought he was in the wrong line. One child against three. The most heartbreaking part of this episode was that one of the boys involved has been his friend since the first grade.
I remember a very specific event during a first grade birthday party at a ranch that involved this particular boy who I will call John. It was my son’s turn to ride one of the horses and he was asking all of the kids if one of them would ride with him. They purposely started changing positions in line so that they couldn’t be paired with Carson. I was standing right there because I was leading that particular horse. My son started crying and I was ready to go absolutely crazy on this one particular boy. That was when John stepped up and said, “Carson, I don’t want to ride but I’ll walk around the trail with you while you ride.” It was a single moment of courage that not only changed that moment for my child but forever endeared this boy to me. It was an instance that proved that it just takes one– one person, one choice, one moment of courage- to make a difference in a child’s life.
Now it is four years later and this same boy is standing behind two other boys that are known for being ringleaders and instigators. They chose to bully my son and in this instance, John swayed to their side instead of standing up for his friend. Now, I don’t think this boy has changed and become a bully; I just think that quiet kids get scared that they will be on the receiving end if they stand up. That’s sad because I think that if he had defended my son that maybe another person would have stepped up too and then maybe another. It would have become a case of one becoming many, but it still needed just that one child to step up first.
But my son didn’t get to experience people coming to the rescue, in fact, I think what he will remember most is looking at the person who had always been his friend and seeing him side with the others. I can’t imagine what that felt like for him to know that he had absolutely nobody to stand up for him. Out of the twenty-something kids in that line, not one single child spoke up or got a teacher when these kids began physically pushing my child. Not one. And I’ll never know what that felt like for my son because his autism makes it very hard for him to interpret and express emotion and part of me doesn’t want to know. I’m not sure I could handle it.
He didn’t tell me about the incident for a week and the school certainly didn’t tell me, and the three boys were simply sent to the office, reprimanded, and sent back to class. There was no justice for my son and the other kids learned that it must not be a big deal to mistreat Carson or any other “different” kid for that matter.
So, needless to say, I’m pissed. I’m an educated, sympathetic woman who understands the roots of bullying and why they do it, but you know what, I’m tired of giving all the understanding and sympathy to the bullies. Bullying is a choice. I don’t care how crappy a kid’s life is, it is a conscious choice to hurt another person. For every child who chooses to empower themselves by making another child hurt, I guarantee there are three in similar situations who choose not to. Let’s look at my son as an example. Every single day he is reminded that he is different. He is told and shown that he isn’t cool. He’s a loser. He’s weird. And every single damn day he chooses not to make others feel like that. He chooses to be kind and try to make friends. He chooses to be one that can make a difference. If my autistic, bullied son can make the choice to be a kind human, then there is no excuse for the kids that don’t.
Yeah, I’m enraged about my son but there is something else driving me here. In a city next door to ours a nine-year-old little boy named Montana Lance was being bullied so badly that he went to the nurse’s office at school, locked himself in the bathroom and hung himself. Nine years old. His existence had been made so miserable by other children that he took his life. His parents will never hold him again but these bullies get to go home every night and carry on with the same behavior that killed another child. This shatters my heart in so many pieces but it also sets me on fire because he’s not the only child to do this. It enrages me that so little was done to prevent this tragedy. What child will be next? There’s always that deepest, blackest fear in the back of my mind that it could be my son. But I’ll be damned if that happens. I will be one that stands up and I’ll take the hand of anyone that chooses to stand up with me and we will make people notice.
It is time to bully the bullies. It is time to let people know that bullies are cowards. They are pathetic cowards that prey on the weak and different. But the great thing is, we outnumber them. It’s time that we stand up and speak out. We have to empower our children and teach them that courage is good. We have to make kindness cool and we have to let the world know the simple fact that “Bullies Suck!” If we create kids who believe in standing up for the weak others will follow and eventually the bullies will too. It is my first priority to protect the bullied but it’s my second goal to create a path for the bullies to follow so that we can save all children from the destruction caused by this behavior.
Talk to your kids. Talk to your schools and don’t put up with mediocre attempts to prevent abuse. A hallway lined with “Don’t Bully” posters (like my son’s school) means crap when it isn’t backed up with action (also like my son’s school). So, if you’d like to help make a difference I ask that first you watch the trailer for the new movie “Bully”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5114WHxofzU Then I ask that you help fight the “R” rating it has been branded with that will prevent it from being screened in schools. Go to the following link and sign the petition. http://www.change.org/petitions/mpaa-dont-let-the-bullies-win-give-bully-a-pg-13-instead-of-an-r-rating#
I’ll be posting more as I take steps to educated the kids in my community and I hope that when the time comes, you will join me. Until then, I leave you with something I wrote for Montana- one boy who deserves to be fought for and never forgotten.
Nine years gone
Nine years of a family’s love
Nine years of bedtime stories, laughter, hugs, scraped knees, and shared moments
Nine years of giggles, hopes, dreams, and worries
Gone because of vicious playground “games”
Childish games with a grownup ending
All played in front of eyes that didn’t want to see
And ears that wouldn’t hear
How loud would he have to scream?
A noose drawn tight
Around a tiny neck
Tied by little hands
A boy gone
His final silent scream
But did they hear?
Did any of them hear?
The playground still buzzes with the same childish games
The children who taunted and pushed and whispered
Go home to their mothers’ hugs and kisses and bedtime wishes
And I wonder if any of their hearts are haunted
By the boy named Montana
And his desperate, final scream