Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bully for You, Bully for Me

I recently took the train home from the city. It was mid-afternoon and many high school age kids funneled in and out, on their way home.

Two high school boys sat in the four-seater in front of me and we rode along uneventfully. But when fate added two long-legged, short-skirted high school girls to the mix, the dynamics changed dramatically (shocker). The scene provided everything you'd expect--bravado, booming machismo, loud giggling, and posturing. I found it hard to read after the influx of testosterone and bare legs, so I listened. (I guess I technically eavesdropped, but then everyone in the entire train car could be accused of the same. Did I mention the extreme volume of their conversation?)

Here's what I remember:

"Why are you hitting me?"
"You are soooo cool."
"I love the collar on your purple shirt."
"That teacher is a douche bag."
"I am so not talking to you."

Then, I heard this venomous tidbit,
"I fucking hate that kid. He drives me crazy. He's such an idiot."

Woooooaaaaahhhhhh Nelly. Then,

"There's The Prostitute." They discussed this unsuspecting high school girl who had been dating her boyfriend for a long time (two months? two years?), but this did not exempt her from slutdom.

I wanted to peer over the seat, step on my sage soapbox and say, "You, yeah you, young boy, in the ghastly purple shirt with the definitely-not-cool collar--you only wish you were getting laid by a girl as hot as The Prostitute. If you ever get so lucky, use a condom." "And you, girls, with way-too-short-skirts-and-I-don't-care-if-they-are-a-part-of-your-uniform, cover yourselves for crying out loud."

But that would've been mean. And I would've been lowering myself to their standards, blah blah blah. Instead, I made a production of moving to a different seat, far, far away from them;
amazingly they left their egocentric bubble long enough to notice. My gut said that any advice I may have pontificated would've provided fodder for weeks. I can hear it now, "Remember when that hot MILF* stuck her nose in OUR business? Who does she think she is?" But, after grabbing their attention with my witty insults, could I have planted a compassionate seed in their cruel, young, still-influential minds? Did I make the right choice? After I moved, their words sat like a brick in my stomach.

These children are someone's kids. I assumed (always risky) they have parent/s or some other responsible adult raising them. Did their parents know how they spoke about others? How did they get to this juncture--the one where spitting venomous attacks at others was more than ok--it was cool?

A friend recently told me that she was brutally bullied through both high school and college. She wanted to end her life. (I was, and still am, stunned. She's so very wonderful and very accomplished now.) Were her bullies raised by parents who guided and loved them and did the best they could? I know every child's upbringing differs vastly. But is there a common trait, linking all bullies like a string of lights? Obviously, some children bully because of indescribable home lives. But I suppose that others come from not-so-horrible homes, like the one hubby and I create for our children.

How does a bully become a bully?
Are there warning signs when a bully is young--a pre-bully--that a parent can identify and re-direct their child? How do I circumvent this phenomenon? How do I raise my children to be neither bully nor bull-ee? How do we collectively stop this damning epidemic?

*Yeah, yeah, I know...but it's my blog and I can compliment myself anyway I choose. (Mom--please don't Google MILF.)


CynthiaK said...

This is a hot topic these days. I worry both for my own children, hoping I'm raising them "right", and for what they'll be exposed to.

It's a parent's responsibility to give our kids the tools (and natural instinct, hopefully) to be respectful young people (and then adults). I also see that teachers are less involved with kids than before (at least at my kids' school) and children are asserting themselves more than ever, not always in positive ways.

No easy solution.

I would have cringed at those conversations on the train, too. Sheesh...

Jeanne said...

Again. . . .you have covered a topic that weighs so greatly on the minds and hearts of parents. Bullying is something I pray I will not have to experience with my child, however it seems more rampant that any flu virus.

You showed much more restraint with the teens on the train. Unfortunatley, I tend to wear my emotions so they would have been able to read my not so kind thoughts all over my face.

Kudos to your class, restraint and for discussing such an important topic.

Jamie said...

Thanks for bringing up such a great topic. I wasn't an angel when I was a young girl, but I never - I mean never would have thought about talking like that to someone or about someone.

I understand you wanting to give them a piece of your mind. I feel that way often. Unfortunately, you were correct in suspecting what their response to that would have been.

Since I don't have any answers to this social problem I will only say that for me and my husband, we try to do our small part by raising a child that is nothing like that.

Jamie said...

Thanks for the nice comments on my blog! Jamie

marymac said...

Dude, whether you are calling YOURSELF the MILF or the kids are, rock on witcher bad self, yo!

I have kids in high school, middle school , elementary school and preschool and I see bullying at all levels- as a mom I guess I just feel like I can't take the bullies out of the world, I can only help my kids learn to deal with them.

Honestly, judging from some of the high school conversations I hear regularly, those kids weren't that bad- sadly.

Marie said...

Public eavesdropping is one of a writer's powerful inspirations! I assign it early on in my Creative Writing classes. And
Second City assigned it to your brother when he took a class there!

Corrie said...'s something I think about often. I like to think I provide a loving home and teach my children to respect others. can we be assured that providing those foundations are enough? I guess we can't. *sigh* We do our best, keep the lines of communication open and hope for the best.