I believe it was last week when I read about Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover. He was an 11-year-old boy who committed suicide after being bullied and harassed.
I remember when I was in elementary school, some kids made fun of me. I was kind of prim and proper, not at all like I am as an adult today. It was rare that a hair was out of place or I was mussed up. And some kids did make fun of me. But what they didn’t realize is I had the biggest bully at home. Ok, she is not really a bully but I was afraid of her. Even at 42 years of age, I watch what I say around her. You see, the quasi-bully I was afraid of was my mom.
No, my mom is not a bully. But she is a tough mother. She had guidelines for me and my sister that we had to follow. So when I didn’t get my hair messed up or always pulled up my socks it was because I didn’t want to face the consequences at home. For me the question was “who was I more afraid of–the kids at school or my mom? Easy choice. Especially when you know what side of the bread is buttered and you want the new Barbie.
It was also a different time. Bullies have always been around but at my elementary school, everyone knew everyone. It was a community within a community. The parents didn’t need a phone tree, parents were involved at the school and in school events, and parents and teachers “hung out.” I know for sure that three of my teachers knew my mom’s number at work. Hell, they played cards together. And yes, my mom worked. So she was an involved parent at the school and worked? Yes.
With this type of community it’s hard to have bullies. If I even mentioned something that wasn’t just right with another kid, you know what she would do? She would go to her notebook (no true organizers in those days) and call the kid’s parent, mom or dad. Yes, many dad’s were in the picture too. Even if the parents were divorced, the community back then knew the dads because they would be involved with school carnivals or athletic events too. I said it was a community.
As for as the “haves” and the “have nots” no one cared. Yes, there were some kids in my class that lived in big houses, had more stuff, and in general, their families had more money. In my class we had the doctor’s kid, the pharmacist’s kid and the successful business owners’ kids. It was just the way it was. But they were in the same school with the teacher’s kid, bank employee’s kid, and me, the kid of a post office worker and reservation sales agent. The parents had something in common. They all wanted the best for their children and thought it was this particular school.
What would it take to get our communities back or build new ones like the one in which I grew up? Until then, how can we teach people one of my favorite phrases from SNL’s Joy Behar…So what? Who cares?
In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost their children to suicide due to bullying and harassment.