“I really wish you would have come to me instead of going to the administrators,” the bully’s mom said to me as I tried desperately to keep my jaw from flapping open.
Where I come from, the world of decent people in an acceptable reality, that’s not how this works.
When my daughter gets bullied by your daughter, I am not going to come to you and tell you about it and, you know, ask if you’re going to try doing a better job teaching your daughter not to be a little shit, even thought that’s all I really wanted to do.
My daughter, Elise, and I both had a terrible experience over the weekend on the last night of her summer camp’s theatre production when she got bullied repeatedly by a girl who has been giving her a hard time for the last few weeks.
This girl, we’ll call her Kassidy, called my daughter “short and dumb” in a time and place where name calling is completely unacceptable, and I had to step in twice to keep them apart when later in the night Kassidy tried pushing a door closed on Elise so she wouldn’t make it to her scene on time.
By the final scene, which Elise was the last to arrive to because of this door holding incident, Elise was in tears and didn’t even want to finish the show, the last scene of the last production of the last night of a play she’d been working on all summer — ruined by a single bully and her words that stab like knives.
“Kassidy has been bullied this summer, too, and I don’t think the staff has been doing a good enough job keep tabs on what is going on between these kids.”
I stood silently listening to this bully’s mom, who had chased me down in the middle of the auditorium after the show was over, after (I know this) she had been informed of the incident by the staff.
How could you blame this bullying incident on the staff? I asked myself.
The staff could be watching, the staff could be there to step in and tell Kassidy that it was unacceptable inappropriate to call my daughter names and make her feel bad, but that doesn’t have anything to do with what actually happened which was:
YOUR CHILD BULLIED MY CHILD.
When I heard this woman, Kassidy’s mom, calling my name and chasing me down to talk to me, I tried turning the other way and ignoring her, but she was too insistent and caught me before I could head out the door.
“Bullying is a cycle, you know,” she told me. “My daughter got bullied too, so she knows what it feels like, and I know what it feels like to be in your position.”
Really? If that were the case I don’t think you would have chased me down to make excuses for your daughter’s behavior without once offering an apology for it.
Plus, bullying isn’t always a cycle. It stops with child who refuses to bully and be mean back.
What causes children to be bullies, what really causes them, in the moment, to choose to be mean to other kids?
It’s something I’ve never understood and a question I have been trying to answer for myself my entire life — as a person who has been bullied not only in middle school, but in adult life as well — it’s a subject I’ve wanted to explore in more depth as much as I hate the idea of delving into it and bringing up all the pain my daughter and I have gone through in our lives.
This encounter with the mom felt a bit like bullying, like she was getting in my face to try to diffuse the situation and not get her daughter in trouble for bullying mine, even though that is exactly what should have happened.
There’s a lesson here.
The next time my daughter gets bullied, and sadly I’m sure there will be a next time, I will absolutely refuse to speak to the parent directly.
I will talk to the administrators about the incident, I will let them speak to or deal with the bully’s parent in whichever way their policy dictates, and I will stay the hell away from people who try to make excuses for their child’s terrible behavior instead of just saying:
“I’m so sorry your daughter was hurt by my daughter. I’ll do better to try to make sure she doesn’t treat anyone that way again.”
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