It seems like there is a cultural push to curtail bullying. At first glance it seems like the right thing to do however, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’m not so sure.
When I was very young a neighbor girl named Tina pulled a fist full of hair from my scalp. I told my parents and they said it was OK for me to do it back if there was a next time. I thought, ‘why wait?’ As soon as I saw her, I walked right up and pulled a fist full of her hair out. She ran home crying and told her mom, who consequently came over to talk to my parents. To the best of my recollection, this is the first time I was bullied and I’m happy to report, the last time either girl had their hair pulled out. Although I can still remember the strange and painful feeling and the sound that it created.
When I was a few years older, I was at the local skating ring where Girl Scouts troops were having a special day. There was a girl from another troop who I didn’t like. I don’t remember why. I badgered her for most of the event until towards the end, she started crying. I was happily satisfied at first, but then felt terrible a bit later. I didn’t get in trouble at all for some reason.
In Junior High a girl by the name of Grace, of all names, decided she wanted to scare me. For weeks she kept threatening me. A casual friend noticed this and said that all I had to do was threaten her back. She also gave me pointers on fighting, just in case the plan didn’t work. The next time Grace threatened me, I threatened her back and offered to fight her after school. Before the end of the school day, I was called into the principal’s office. Grace had turned ME in! To this day I smile at how insightful my friend had been. And no, I didn’t get in trouble that time either. The principal had been aware of the entire situation.
I have many other examples where I was bullied. I am glad that I only bullied someone once and then felt bad. I’m also proud that after Grace, I haven’t backed down when someone’s trying to make me the victim.
The point of this rendition of my childhood is to show that a person can be the bully or the victim at various stages of their lives. I think experiencing both is part of maturing. When we try to buffer our children from bad experiences then they are ill prepared for adulthood where the stakes are much higher. I also suspect that safe rooms and ‘everyone gets a trophy’ are results of our cultural attempt to protect our children. I would argue that it’s better they learn these lessons as children than as adults.
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.