Years ago, my family took a vacation together to Gulf Shores, Alabama. One night my youngest sister asked my parents what they would have done different raising us. My mother made a comment that she would have gotten involved earlier with the school. She would have talked to the teachers about how I was picked on and what could be done to fix it. She said that at the time she did not know how to handle it and she thought staying out of it was the best thing. I remember that conversation being so difficult for me. I was 26 years old and bringing up memories of school when I was 6-10 years old created a huge lump in my throat. I fought back tears and tried so hard to not remember, just as I do now when I write this.
In the 70’s I think the thought was let kids work it out and don’t get involved. School bullying was not an issue that was dealt with as it is now. I still don’t like to think about what happened and how bad it was for me. I never cried or was a tattle tell I was just ignorant and thought everyone was and would be my friend. I think the fact that I kept trying made me more susceptible. I have no idea why I was the kid that was singled out to be picked on: left to sit by themselves at lunch, no one would let me come near them on the playground, and finding a seat on the bus was excrutiating.
In third grade I was in love with my teacher, Ms. Shedd, and she loved me. She let me eat lunch with her at her desk and instead of recess with the kids she had me to little things in the classroom to help her out. I always thought it was because she thought I was wonderful. But that night, in Gulf Shores, I found out that my mom had talked to her and asked her to look out for me. When I look at pictures I think I was cute and not freaky.
So what was it about me? What was it that made me a target when I was only six and up until I turned ten? I know that initially it was my last name. But I think I just didn't get it and since I didn't get it in the beginning I couldn't change the perception of me nor did I stand up for myself. Anna is in first grade and already girls her age are starting the same crap that all girls have had to endure. My focus for Anna has been to not be the kid that made fun of others. I also have tried to let her know how much it hurts when someone is left out.
This week Anna has been the one to be left out. It has affected everything about her. Her attitude, her clinginess, her ability to follow direction, this has all been a struggle this week. On the advice of my mother I asked Anna this morning what was up? what is bothering her?
Her friends are running away from her. She says she goes up to her friends and wants to play with them. When she does this they all run from her and say they don't want to be her friend. My heart breaks a little and I want to hide her away from the world; but, I empathize and ask her if she has a plan to deal with it? Not right now she doesn't because she doesn't know why they are doing this. They were friends before and she doesn't know what she has done.
Personally, I have some ideas why they are mad at her but she doesn't need to hear that right now. She needs me to be on her side. She needs me to let her know I know this is a real deal. She needs me to understand and hold her. Today I asked her how things went at lunch. Better, she said, Carrington and her played together. Carrington wants Anna to be her best friend but Anna is thinking about that.When my family moved from California to Oklahoma I had a fresh start. I started fourth grade in a public school where my last name was nothing in comparison to some of the Indian names my classmates had or were exposed to. The friends I made in my new elementary school and subsequent middle school are still my friends today. We have had many ups and downs but we are each others family. I know I am no longer that little girl in second grade that was never allowed to sit at a table with anyone while I ate lunch unless the teacher made them. But I carry her with me and I can never forget no matter how hard I try.
I can't hide Anna away from bullies and hateful little girls, and I can't fight her battles. But I can pray for her and do whatever I can to protect the spirit and the heart God gave her. Because with her personality, her exuberance for friendships, her tendency to be bossy and pout she sure is going to need all the prayer and love I can give her.