I remember it like it was yesterday. I pulled into the parking lot of the school where the after care kids were playing to pick up my oldest child, who was in 4th grade at the time. Before I could even get his car door open, he began to sob uncontrollably. My kids all have different cries. Hungry cries, “I got caught” cries, tired cries, and “I didn’t get my way” cries. This cry, though, was different. It came from deep within his gut – a brokenness that I’d never heard from my baby before. I don’t remember the specific details about the incident, but the root of his pain was something we’d dealt with before. However, this time it was on a much larger scale. My son was the victim of bullying.
There are no words to adequately express how heartbreaking it is to know that your child is being bullied. Any of the moms reading this post can attest that very few things anger us more than when someone threatens your child.
Jackson is different – there’s no question about it. To me, it makes him beautiful. God created him uniquely, with gifts and talents that make him special. But to his peers, it makes him an easy target. He takes after his momma in many ways – he’s smaller than the rest of the kids his age, started wearing glasses in the third grade, and loves to read – he’s always got a book (or three) tucked under his arm. He doesn’t concern himself much with brand names, or much to my chagrin, whether his clothes even match! While he appreciates and notices pretty girls, he’s not even remotely interested in being distracted by them. He is also in the school band. He’s a gifted trumpet player and is passionate about music of all kinds. On any given day, you can find him listening to anything from Macklemore or Lacrae to The Glen Miller Band and Kenny Loggins. Needless to say, his taste in music is diverse. 😉 Jackson loves Jesus and he’s not afraid to say it. He’s not obsessed with material things (he asked for one thing for Christmas this year – a nice leather coat). He knows that as one of five children, our budget for Christmas isn’t huge, and he’s okay with that. He’d much rather us take him out to a nice steak dinner anyway.
My point is this – he’s not your average teenager. On most days, he’s confident enough that even though some jerk doesn’t think his jacket is the right color, or his glasses are nerdy, or his taste in books is lame – it doesn’t bother him. But day after day after day of being made fun of can wear you down. He’s been the butt of someone’s joke for the majority of his school life, and for the most part, he has a great attitude about it. I’m his mom, though. I feel his pain even when he refuses to admit that it still hurts. I’m not satisfied with how the public school system has handled this incredibly serious issue, so we are exploring our options in that regard. I will NOT stand idly by and allow someone – ANYONE – to tell my son that he’s nothing less than amazing. I know what I see, and I know what the word of God says about him.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. -Ephesians 2:10
God’s masterpiece. You know what that means? God doesn’t make junk! According to Jeremiah 29:11, God has fashioned a future for Jackson – one that is full of hope! As his mom, I am committed to doing everything that I can to see that God’s plan for Jackson’s life is fulfilled.
The reason I am writing about this is that I want the parents who are reading to know that the issue of bullying is a very real, and very painful one. Kids are committing suicide on a daily basis because the pressure of bullying at school has grown to be more than they can handle. It’s one of the reasons I don’t allow my kids to access social media. No Instagram, no Facebook. There is a competition among teenagers today to be bigger, better, faster, or more popular and it’s almost impossible to live up to the standards of their peers. There’s only one standard that I’m concerned about my kids living up to, and that’s the Word of God. Kids expect perfection, but Jesus just wants our devotion. He offers grace in return. Until SnapChat can offer grace, my impressionable child will not be using it.
Many schools have protocol for bullying incidents, but unless it’s physical in nature, it often goes unpunished. Here’s what you can do to help:
- Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. The adult can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly. Encourage the child to report bullying if it happens.
- Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.
- Urge them to help kids who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.
For more information on bullying and it’s prevention, please visit stopbullying.gov.