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.)