One of my earliest memories is a moment in kindergarten. It was a chubby little boy's birthday, and he was beyond excited. He proudly passed out the cupcakes his mom had sent in, grinning from ear to ear. Then, we started to sing to him, "Happy Birthday to you... Happy Birthday to you..." A few kids sang, "...You look like a pig, and you smell like one too". They started laughing, and the little boy's face crumpled and a tear made its way down his cheek. I remember feeling so bad for him. If I held onto that memory all these years, imagine how it affected him.
What got me thinking about the topic of bullying was finally reading Jodi Picoult's book, Nineteen Minutes. If you haven't read it, it is about Peter, who is horribly bullied throughout his entire time in school, who finally snaps and goes on a shooting spree, killing ten people and wounding many others.
The writing is amazing. She does an extraordinary job building the characters, and somehow manages to make you feel both sympathetic and outraged about Peter's actions. Since having my own child, every time I hear a story like this in the news, I think of the mother. How she must feel, the blame she must place on herself, the shock and humiliation she must go through. We like to think that someone who does something horrifying must have had a terrible childhood. Their parents must be to blame. The thought that loving, well meaning parents could create someone capable of murder is too frightening to think about, but this book forces you to do just that.
To be honest, even though I do feel Picoult is a talented writer, the subject matter put me in a state of depression. But, I am glad I read the book, because it forced me to think about the topic of bullies, and it made me want to start forming a plan for what to tell my soon to be four year old about the topic. Unfortunately, it is a subject that needs to be addressed at an early age. So, I am planning on writing several posts about this issue. For the next post, I am going to discuss ideas for what you can tell your child to do if they are bullied. For now, though, please leave me a comment about one of your childhood memories about being bullied. (Burgh Baby just posted one of hers recently here).