Friday, November 8, 2013

You Are Special! : Standing Against Bullying Part 2

I have started this blog post dozen or more times in my head, so my prayer that it might come together in a cohesive thought. The topic of bullying means a great deal to me and it is my hope that by talking about my experience that I can do a little to rid our children's generation of this destructive device.  
I want to start by saying without the love of our parents, I would not have made it through. We were lucky enough to know when we were home we were finally safe from toxic words. I want it known that do not have any malice or hate for those that hurt me, but I will say those many of the words still run over and over in my head. I get nervous by the mental daemons that I will face every time I go home and I am not sure that will ever go away. I will not share very specific experiences more general experiences because I don't want to hurt those that have changed their behaviors, because I believe bullies are not evil but bullying is an evil tool.


My bullying story has some of the same beginnings as Jo's; with the warts, the being significantly taller and being born in the wrong family. In Elementary School, I wouldn't hand in my homework. This would frustrate my teachers, because they knew I understood the course work. They never knew it was so I could miss recesses that were with the older students would be there to tease and harass. (I was lucky enough to be in a very kind and receptive class so I didn't receive much in class bullying through out this whole journey).
This worked pretty well until my upper elementary years, until I met a new kind of bully.  One that I had no defense for their harassment, adult "role models".  We grew up knowing that no matter what you show respect for adults, which is something we have all passed on to our children. But this respect created a lot of conflict in my young mind as someone I should have been able to trust and respect, embarrass me and publicly question my intelligence on multiple occasions.
I came out of that grade, knowing without a doubt that I was stupid. That knowledge that I was an idiot, further propelled the missing assignment thing for years to come. It was no longer a coping mechanism, it was the way it was. I never talked to my parents about this experience, and only after leaving for college I found the words to finally discuss it.
It was in late elementary that I realized my athletic ability especially in basketball and track made my freakish height useful which made me "special". I knew that if I could be a good enough basketball player during the season, than at least for that 2 months I would be useful and there would be more good said about me than bad.
Notice here I am the third tallest student that remained very much the norm throughout my years.
There was some harassment by my peers in Junior High about the length of my pants in regards to my ankles (which very bare) and when I would walk by many of the kids would hike their pants up and yell, "Waiting for a flood." Which looking back this doesn't seem huge, but it felt monumental then. I was pretty shy and this was very embarrassing, then it spread to where even some of the High School students were doing it as well. This was hard on me because my height was suppose to be my safety.
For the first time ever found the words to talk to Mom and Dad about what was going on. I begged that I could just get home schooled or have a fresh start at a different school (At this point Bubba was being bullied by adults and peers intensely, and in a small town bulling often trickles down to younger family members).
My mom was confiding in one of her friends about me, her friend had two children that were my peers. Mom talked about how the "flood water" thing made me feel and really was seeking for advice on how to handle it (this mom had older children and had been through the junior high/high school years thing several times). Shortly after that, I received one of the kindest apology notes from her children. I don't know what that mother said or how she explained it but I knew that her kids really did like me and they had never considered how that had made me feel. They made sure that it stopped, by not doing and told those that were doing it that they looked really silly. From that experience I knew that someday I wanted to be the Mom that could help my children be more compassionate and help those that don't have a way out. I want to be the Mommy friend that shelters broken hearts and helps them heal. I was lucky to have more than a few of these Mommy's looking after me.
Sophomore year was a completely life altering year.  I received some of the worst bullying I ever had, Jo had recently graduated (which she sheltered and protected me, besides being one of my best friends) and a few people moved to our town that changed the way I thought about myself for the better. Be mindful when I entered this grade in my opinion of myself was, that I was an unintelligent (pulling mostly B's and C's) freakishly tall but a pretty good basketball player.
There is nothing bad in the blurr just the School name and year, the reason I was across the bottom is the other cheerleaders were about 5'0-5'2", I was almost 6'0" by this time. And I did have hair it just was incredibly short because I donated it to locks of love.
Between being a cheerleader when I would be referred to as "lurch in a skirt" and being put on a Varsity basketball team that didn't want me, many of the members being very vocal in their expression even with some physical threats. Walls I had built up to protect myself came crashing down, I suffered from depression that pressed down on me so hard I was sure I would break. One night almost did I remember thinking I wish I could just end it all by taking my life. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of my mom finding me. And that it would break her heart.
Thankfully the Lord knew that this year would be a refiners fire for me and sent me backup. He knew what he wanted me to become and sent me people that could make that happen. I can't tell you about all the wonderful people that he sent me, but I will tell you about a few that I am not sure I would have had the same result without them.
The first person that altered my life, was Mr. Pace. He was the physical science teacher; he was funny, really popular with all of the students but he had a zero tolerance policy for harassment. Instead of joining the adult gossip session that happened during lunch. He would eat his lunch with the students then open his room for students to "hangout". Suddenly there was a safe place for those of us that were getting bullied before school & during lunch. If he heard a student say something below par about another student he would give a deep growl with a glare and it would stop.
The other important addition to our town this year was the Neilson family. They had a son that was my age; he was tall, nonathletic, good, a little socially awkward and very smart. I became very good friends with him, he had a goofy sense of humor that always seemed to bounce off all the negative energy of others. He told me I was smart, which was weird because I knew that I was stupid. But the longer we were friends the more I realized that he wouldn't have told me that I was smart if I wasn't, so suddenly I realized that adult was wrong, so long ago. And if she was wrong about that, maybe the other negative things that I had been told that reran in my mind were wrong too. I started pulling mostly A's and a few B's and didn't receive another C throughout High School. His parents were always kind and seemed to appreciative my desire to be good and their home was always a safe place.

This is from my senior prom, this is the infamous 30 yrd. material dress that I made, maybe one of these days I will talk more about the whole thing it was kind of my sewing masterpiece. I was always lucky enough to have a best friend that was taller than me to go to the dances with that I knew would treat me with respect, I hope my kids are as lucky.
The only way I can think to explain the next part is by referencing the book "You Are Special" by Max Lucado. If you are not familiar with it click on the link.

Suddenly I started thinking about the fact that I would be going to college for a degree and not just to play basketball. Because I had friends that reminded me that I was special, not my just my basketball ability. Suddenly the black dots of shame for being a clutz, not wearing the right clothes, or being a goodie-goodie started coming off and the gold stickers of being a good athlete didn't matter as much (I still competed, but it wasn't the same). It seemed like the more I learned about myself the harder some of the adults in the community tried to push the sticker system.  Junior Year was a joy and I had such dear friends that stood beside me. I knew that I would be able to make it out some how.
Senior Year I lost my Grandma, a classmate and several friends. Without my friends both, adults that looked out for me and my peers, I wouldn't have made it through that year. Mom and Dad facilitated the opportunity to page at the State Capitol building which propelled me past all the negativity that had burdened me for so many years. When I came back from that very positive experience, again the bullying adults decided to have their last hurrah at tearing me down and gave great gusto to it. I was frustrated and annoyed with their selfish attempts but I didn't care about what they thought I knew I was special and I was almost out of there.
Since then I have had time to talk to my school friends and they had similar experiences as mine, where it wasn't students so much that were unkind but adults. Which seems crazy to me! Why?!!! How does that make sense?!
We need to get out of our heads that some how bullying makes us a stronger, better people, because it doesn't. I am a better person for the people that built me up and were kind to me. Many of my faults and weakness steam from the daemons that float around in my head and my self doubt that tells me I can't do it.
photo from: Sierra

Fast forward 10 years from my graduation. I was able to be an adult adviser for Idaho HOBY, I was able to closely interact with 10 very amazing teenagers. They are going to move the world. They are strong and resilient.  They are positive, kind, compassionate and they helped me remember my worth. One of these ambassadors is Sierra Norman.
photo from: Sierra
She shared with us that she had been the recipient of bullying, when I found out I was mad (kind of a Momma Bear reaction). But then I was so inspired by her reaction to her challenge, she has created her own non-profit called Snotty is Naughty
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Snotty-is-Naughty/305691669487976
It's goal is to educate girls on the negative effects of girl-to-girl meanness. She is currently in the process of creating a documentary on girl-to-girl meanness that will be featuring interviews with victims, victimizers, families, and other who have been affected by girl-to-girl meanness to come out Spring 2014. She is working with politicians, parents, students and anyone that wants to help. Without her strength and example I don't know that I would have ever had the courage or drive to write this post.  Lets follow the teenagers and children that can see the vision of a world without bullying and be mindful of the way we treat their special growing spirits.

Please, check out the Snotty is Naughty Facebook Page for updates on the work she is doing and to donate to her cause, click here.

5 comments:

  1. Great Job Scary! I love it. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. A great post. I can relate to so much. From the small town to the wrong clothes to the adult bullies...your story brought tears to my eyes. High school was the worst time in my life. I'm so glad that there is a big movement against bullying. They used to preach that bullies were kids who were bullied or abused at home, but new studies find that it's not true. Bullies can be my kid or yours in a loving home; even adults. Bullies have new tools now and our kids have whole new ways to be tortured. The Internet, photoshop...there are even fight websites where a bunch of kids jump on one kid and videotape it. This stuff is all over. But there are laws being written now to protect our children. I don't think bullying should be a right of passage for kids. I bet it was hard to write this postt, but I'm glad you did. Way to go!

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    1. Thank You Amy. I am so glad the laws are tougher than they used to be, but I really have fears that the laws might be tougher on kids than they are on adults. In our family we have a set of Family Commandments. One of the
      "commandments" is to say only kind words and use kind tones. Then the subsequent rule following is that we can't use words like stupid, hate, fat, etc. I was sad when I heard those words coming out of my sweet little boy so we made the rule and now he is our word police.

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  3. Scary, thanks so much for opening up about this. I'm shocked by the bullying you encountered from adults. And I'm so happy that things got better for you. And I'm thankful for the encouraging people in your life! One more things, I know we haven't met in person but from what I know you are an awesome person! And I do want details on that spectacular dress. Lots of love! April

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I thank God for supportive people in your life. It is impossible to underestimate the power of kind words and positive attitude. We all need someone to believe in us and tell us we are smart, beautiful and special :) Again and again :)

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