I had a lot of friends growing up, nice school memories, no bullying there. But how about the experiences of a mother whose child is bullied?
When I was growing up, if someone said the word “bully” your immediate thoughts were of a boy. You know, a tough-looking boy in some playground demanding, “Give me your lunch money, or else!”
But the meanest bullies today seem to be those wearing skirts from Forever 21. The subculture of “mean girls” has taken on unbelievable dimensions.
My daughter was born profoundly deaf. With the help of cochlear implants and years of therapy and hard work, she has always been completely enveloped in the hearing world. She has never been in a special education class and has attended the same camps, schools and activities as her “typically hearing” peers.
If you called her on her cell phone, you would never know that she is deaf. She is in advanced classes at her middle school and is packing for sleep- away camp.
She doesn’t have a single friend. She has been to one sleepover. She comes home crying more days than not and weeps at being completely isolated and feeling left out. She is not spoken to at the lunch table, not picked for group projects in class, not included in discussions and spends her weekends alone.
Sometimes the bullying is more overt, and the girls say nasty things to her. This may not fit someone else’s traditional description of bullying as no one is physically abusing her, but believe me when I tell you that the emotional toll of feeling unwanted, isolated and undesirable changes how you move through the world.
I don’t fully understand why bullying happens, despite reading and exploring the topic. Sure, my daughter is different than other 13 year olds who don’t have electronics on their ears. She doesn’t have the exact same language skills. But are her challenges or differences that extreme that she deserves to be thrown aside? Does this culture of “competitive parenting,” which emphasizes beauty and sexuality in young girls, (along with ballet lessons, Spanish lessons, soccer skills lessons and piano lessons), not have time for tolerance and kindness lessons? Apparently, there’s no time left on the schedule for that.
The saying goes that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. My heart gets broken every day as I bear witness to my daughter’s struggle to find someone who will see her amazing, kind, funny, smart, giving self.
Miriam Sarafan, North Miami Beach