I've been reading about the new documentary film "Bully" a lot recently. And I've been wondering how a filmmaker could shoot a film like this -- which follows three kids being bullied and two sets of parents whose children committed suicide because of bullying -- without intervening.
Even though I've only been a parent for a short time, I've learned that standing idly by is not a luxury a parent has. Whether it's hovering anxiously while your child takes her first tentative steps or staying that extra second (or 20) in her day care room at dropoff to make sure she's happy, the idea that your child is unhappy or could be hurt (emotionally or physically) is unbearable. You just can't watch.
Now this is not -- in any way -- an indictment of the film's director, Lee Hirsch; on the contrary, his shining a light on bullying is incredibly important. In Massachusetts alone we've seen the positive impact of the Pheobe Prince and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover bullying tragedies, both which spurred schools and lawmakers to take decisive action to end bullying. The "It Gets Better" campaign has been revelatory to many, exposing the harsh truth that -- pop culture notwithstanding -- being gay or "different" as a teen is a lonely and harsh existence for too many of our children. Hirsch's film and the "It Gets Better" campaign will hopefully be important building blocks in the effort to stop bullying in our schools and, maybe, our society.
What "Bully" has done is make me think of what would happen if that were my child. And they were different.
I'm hopeful for so many things for my daughter and my son-to-come (due in June). I want them to be happy. I want them to love and be loved. I want them to be healthy, to laugh, to sing, to dream... to be whatever they want to be.
Maybe they'll be scholars. Or singers. Or athletes.
Or maybe they'll be different. Maybe they like art and they're classmates prefer sports. Maybe they'll love books while others prefer video games. Maybe they'll be short and others tall, fat while others are thin, brunette while others are blonde. Or maybe they'll be gay.
Whatever they are or want to be, it will probably be different from their friends, classmates, neighbors, whatever. When I was a kid, I loved singing and acting whilst almost all the kids in my neighborhood were jocks (including my brothers). I wasn't fast or strong or, really, at all athletic. Sometimes, it didn't matter; but sometimes, it was everything.
For example, when I was in sixth grade, I was still singing soprano in the school chorus; I would have liked to played baseball for the school, but I wasn't good enough (I tried out). Yes, I was teased, even by girls. Not bullied like Pheobe, Carl Joseph or the kids in "Bully" -- not even close -- but I was made to feel different. I was lucky; my "being different" came down to something pretty mild
compared to the pain and suffering of others. But that difference was, to my pre-teen self, everything to
me. And it hurt.
Eventually, I discovered that who I was and what I liked made me different, yes, but also made me unique and special. That made me feel good. It gave me confidence.. That confidence -- reinforced and nurtured by my parents, my brothers, my friends and teachers -- was what I needed to grow and become who I am today.
Someday, my daughter and my son may wake up and find out that they like (or are) something different from their friends and classmates. It might be a something small -- liking a different band or type of clothes -- or it might be something big -- being smart or short or gay -- that could make them a target for their peers.
I hope that they don't get bullied.
I hope that they can accept and celebrate their difference.
And that when I'm not there to protect them that they I have done everything I can to give them the confidence to be who they are. Being different is not bad -- it's what makes us great.