Bullying is alive and doing well; parents, are we complicit?
As I sat and read a recent article in the dailies where Gladys Louis (mother of murdered teen Perry Rolle) lamented the fact that she was not there for her son when he needed her most, tears welled in my eyes as I remembered a recent experience of my own.
Last week Sunday, I went grocery shopping in a local food store near Elizabeth Estates with my daughter Vashni, who is a young adult living with Down syndrome. We were in the store for approximately 15 minutes when my attention was drawn to two little boys who were laughing uncontrollably, pointing and staring in our direction. They looked to be between the ages of 9 and 11 years old and they were accompanied by a female adult, whom I presumed to be their mother. Out of curiosity I drew closer to them, and it was then that I noticed that she too was joining in the laughter and making unkind comments. I approached the little boys and inquired of them what they found to be so amusing. The female, who had by that time deduced that I was in some way connected to Vashni, sought to distance herself from the boys but remained within earshot. One of the little boys responded, ‘We just don’t understand why people look like that.’ I asked him if he felt that it was ok to laugh at people who looked different and he responded, ‘We weren’t laughing at her, we were laughing because of how she looks.’ What was particularly bothersome was the fact that not once during this entire exchange did mother dearest utter a word. The boys confirmed that they had attended church that morning, but paused when I asked them whether they felt that Jesus would be proud of their behavior.
Before leaving them, I gave them a short lesson on kindness, acceptance and respect. I said nothing to the adult, but I know that she heard every word I said. Through it all, my daughter stood there, just feet away. I was there that time, but I am not ignorant to the fact that encountering various forms of bullying is a reality for her, and many others with special needs like her, on a daily basis. Bullying in any form is wrong, and many times as parents we have the opportunity to stop it but we turn a blind eye to it. Only cowards bully. Cowards look for the weak and defenseless among us and prey on them. Cowards allow their children to bully others. Words do hurt. The old adage ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words cannot harm’ is a fallacy. Anything that results in emotional and/or physical hurt that is directed towards someone who is perceived as being vulnerable is bullying.
Parents, before we condemn others and wonder what type of household raises a child who would take the life of another child, let us all take a good, long look in the mirror to see how many of us also have children in our homes who are stabbing others. Some of our children stab with their words and their actions daily. They kill with their taunts and stares. I encourage all persons, parents especially and those who warm the church pews each Sunday, to make a special effort to practice the golden rule and to teach your children to do the same. It is not enough to simply lift up holy hands in the sanctuary and then ignore wrong when it is staring us in the face.
Ask yourself the question: As a parent, am I complicit?
– Alicia Bain-Thompson (Vashni’s mommy)