When The Girl was in 8th grade, she was targeted by Mean Girls. She was lucky. Not because she was bullied. There is nothing lucky about it*. According to nobullying.com/causes-of-suicide/ “Teenage bullying is one of the leading causes of teenage suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in young children.” My daughter was lucky because she was targeted by a handful of Former Friends, and the bullying consisted of them telling her “We’ve never been your friend” and running away when she approached. While the loss of a BFF can be devastating (at any age) it does not compare with the stories that make the rounds via social media or breaking news.I had no idea. I mean, I knew something was wrong – my usually cheerful, gregarious tween became curiously quiet – but, when pressed, she would only say that she was “tired”. Her mysterious fatigue (which we blamed on a growth spurt and hormones) only lasted a week. It wasn’t until one of the other mothers greeted me with “I’m so sorry that Lauren’s having problems in school” and suggested I pick up Queen Bees and Wannabes that I knew there had been a Serious Problem. When I confronted discussed the situation with her that night, she shrugged “It’s no big deal. I’m not going to be friends with them in high school, so why should I care if we’re not friends now?”
“But why didn’t you tell me? I’m your mom! You’re supposed to come to me when you have problems.”
She gave a slow “no comment” blink.
“Because I would have gone to school to kick a** and chew bubble gum….”
She smiled. “…and you are all out of bubblegum.”
Seeing that 8th grade is far behind us, you might be wondering why I’m bringing this up now. Contrary to what the EIC says, it’s NOT because I’ve been unable to come up with a topic for a post for days weeks months. My daughter went to camp last week.
I know what you’re thinking (I do! I’m psychic! No, wait – I’m psychotic. I always get those confused) What does camp have to do with bullying? Did she go to a special anti-bullying camp? No. I don’t know if they have anti-bullying camps, but if they do, they should include karate or self-defense classes (please note, WE DON’T HIT!) Was she bullied at camp? No. Did she flip to the dark side and bully kids at camp? Also no. Did she have horrible flashbacks and wake up screaming in the middle of the night? Not that I’m aware of, although when she was little she did have night terrors. Did she run through camp wearing a plastic mask and screaming “Welcome to Camp Crystal Lake – run, bullies run!” While that would have been really, really funny, again, the answer is no.
According to the youth leaders, my daughter epitomized this year’s lesson on forgiveness. She stood up in front of hundreds of young men and women and spoke about the different types of bullying, and the importance of forgiveness. She warned the campers that “If you don’t forgive fully, memories and emotions will pop up when you least expect it.” She told them that she had reached out to the girls who had bullied her to tell them she forgave them and shared their responses.
“I told them ‘I don’t mean to make you feel guilty, but I want to let you know that I forgive you for what you did to me.’” The Meanest girl (the one who wanted to replace Lauren as BFF to the Queen Bee) responded with “You have nothing to apologize for. We are the ones who owe you an apology.” A second girl responded with a lengthy text message, thanking her for reaching out because “I have always felt guilty about what happened, but never knew how to approach you/how to bring this up. I knew it was wrong, but, as an incredibly insecure tween, I didn’t have the strength to stand up to the others to stop it.” Not all the girls have grown up. A third girl responded with “I think you have the wrong number.” Which would be possible except for the fact that my daughter had JUST gotten her phone number from another friend.
I am so proud of my daughter. I think it’s amazing that she was mature enough to handle the situation on her own (although I’m still butthurt she didn’t come to me). I am in awe of the fact that she was willing to share her story with hundreds of strangers, and I think it’s incredible that she was willing to reach out to her bullies to tell them she forgave them. I’m also proud of the girls who showed remorse for their actions. The F-word has allowed all of them to heal.Mostly, I’m impressed that my daughter has a heart that’s willing to forgive, because she comes from a long line of stubborn strong-willed women who hold a grudge. I’ve spoken before about the importance of forgiveness, but the lesson isn’t sticking. Evidently I have a lot to learn, because I still want to punch the little B’s** in the neck.
*The statistic (courtesy of bullyingstatistics.com) on bullying and suicide are alarming:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths/year according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14% of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7% have attempted it
- Bully victims are between 2-9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
- A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides amount young people are related to bullying.
- 10-14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
- According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30% of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 1600,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying
If you are a victim of or witness to bullying, you can report it here.
If you or a friend are fighting thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please call. Someone is always willing to listen.
**Bullies! That’s the B word I meant – could I have meant anything else? 😉
And, lastly, a song that never fails to make me cry