Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bullying, Part III

Mollie writes:

As parents, we are always soul-searching.  "Did I handle that well?"  "Did the kid get it?"  "Did I come off too strongly?"  "Did I miss the point completely?"  We spend 18 years raising our children only to spend eternity second guessing ourselves.

There has always been bullying in our society, we are a fountain of competitive living.  We've always fussed over "Keeping up with the Jones" and whose kid is an honor student at which middle school.  And our kids grow up with the stress of potty-training before age 3 and graduating from high school with honors.  It's no surprise that they lash out at each other in their own mini-cultures, be it classrooms, dorms, soccer teams or slumber parties.  Even the game of "Life" has winners and losers, for goodness sake, reinforcing the need to win in inconsequential ways.

Is it any wonder that our 'stronger' kids feel the need to conquer the 'weaker' ones?  We are an intensely competitive society and we introduce our kids to this from the second they emerge from the birth canal (can anyone say Apgar scale?).  While this is a handy way to assess a neonate immediately upon birth, it's hardly a harbinger of future life.  It only assesses breathing, reflexes, pulse, tone, etc.  at the time of delivery.  But, nevertheless, the race has begun.

I noticed with my own kids the intense need to compete.  One child is completely different from the other, one being math and science oriented, the other being artistic and emotive.  This isn't to say that the math guy isn't sensitive, or the artistic one pragmatic.  It just means that they follow their own internal wiring.  But one bristles at the other's individual differences.  And I am left to wonder - what happened?

It drives me crazy when people put down engineers.  Why is it necessary to dehumanize the folks who bring us bridges, electrical power or mechanical wonders?  But in certain circles, comments about engineers border on cruelty.  The same can be said about housewives, that women who stay home with their kids only do so because they lack the skills for anything else.  And an art degree? Heavens, it should come with a book that interprets "Do you want fries with that" in 20 languages.  What's wrong with working at a fast food restaurant if it supports your real career?  And what's wrong with earning 30K a year when a friend earns 100+K upon graduation from college?

Bullying goes on in our society whether or not we admit it, and often we are personally guilty of it ourselves.  When was the last time any of us felt 'bigger' because our children brought home straight A's?  A lot of us measure our own value by the victories of our kids.

It should come as no surprise that some children carry this competitive impulse too far.  I've heard small children chastise each other because their Matchbox car collection was inadequate or their ears unpierced.

It's nice to have milestones to measure growth, and grades to measure academic accomplishment.  But as a society, we continually confuse grades, Apgar scores, height and weight, skin color, ethnic background, religious values, sexual orientation, and a host of other individual traits as a value to be measured.  It isn't.  It's only a very biased way we evaluate a particular soul at any one time.


It would be nice if we could rise from our own personal abysses and understand that blonde is neither prettier OR dumber.  That a PhD in engineering only means that a person is well educated in a limited area.  That a degree in divinity doesn't mean that a person is closer to God (imagine that, God loving us all equally!?).

It's time to celebrate individual differences.  When our kids graduate from high school, does it matter when they first slept through the night dry?  It bears no relevance!

This Mollie wants parents to come to the conclusion that Garrison Keillor was actually right and NOT joking that all children are above average.  Each soul carries the potential for good and evil, each little person is an adult in formation.  We need to get off the track that bigger is better,  that one religious perspective is the ONLY way to God, that my mommy loves me more because she stays home with me (or works to buy athletic trainers for me) etc.  We need to build a foundation of love and tolerance, not hate and disgust.

When we do this, we will put an end to school bullying.

1 comment:

  1. This makes several very good points, Mollie, chief among which is that bullying doesn't stop at graduation. Even as adults we get so caught up in trying to figure out where we "fit in" on an arbitrary Life Success Scale that we forget to live the life. No wonder our kids are anxious.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.