She yelled at me. Then she kicked me in the thigh. Hard. And she ran off.
I remember feeling my leg go dead, like when you’re punched in the arm and it just ceases to exist for a while. I remember the sting in my eyes and I remember feeling terrible.
I was in grade 4 and I was at the back of the oval sitting on a wooden bench. It was a pretty, quiet spot, with a few trees shading the area. It was a good place to get away and talk secrets with a friend. That friend had gone to the toilets. She told me to save our spot and so I did. When I was asked rudely to move I said “no” and the above was the implication from that.
It’s funny how you don’t forget these things. Even now, a ridiculous amount of years later. I can still conjure the image of her in my head and I still recall her first and last name. She was classed as a ‘tom boy’ and always had a lot of attitude. She played cricket and football with the boys and I was far from any of that.
Years later, I found people commenting about my ‘beautiful’ skin. They said they wished they had my skin tone which they were trying to acquire through too much sun or tanning lotions. I was so surprised. Wasn’t this the same skin that made me stand out? The skin that made me different and the skin that bullies used against me?
And now, I look at my beautiful 18 month old boy. His big strong body, his beautiful brown skin and his long eyelashes. And I can’t help but wonder, will these features, perfect in my eyes, be used against him and be used to hurt his feelings and integrity one day?
As a parent, I sincerely hope not. As a parent I want to wrap him up in my arms and protect him from all the imperfections of the human race. I want to beat down anyone that dare say a cruel word against him.
As a teacher I know this is a part of learning and shaping an individual. That the world is full of bad humans and good humans and humans who are good but make mistakes. It is full of imperfection and part of that involves people being unkind to one another and hurting others by using their differences to attack. It’s cruel and it’s not fair but it happens.
As a teacher AND a parent, I know the best thing to do is make sure that he can face it. That he knows when to get help and when to stick up for himself. I want him to feel resilient and strong. Sometimes it will bring him down. But when he is older I hope he will be proud of his own skin, like I am today. Because I was raised and shaped to never be ashamed of myself or my culture.
And if he makes mistakes and is a bully one day – then I hope he will learn from his actions. That he will know that we all make mistakes and that we can move on from them. I hope that I will be there, with his teachers, to guide him to make the right choices and become a kinder person.
When it comes to your children bullying or being bullied, what do you hope for?