Saturday, April 3, 2010

Both Sides

“How was your birthday?” I asked her.
“What? After that awesome party we all went to the night before?”
“I got suspended from school…”
Sputter, sputter…
“These two guys kept teasing me, so I beat one of them up. I told two different teachers about what those guys were doing, but they just told me to ignore them. Those guys just kept getting in my face.” She shrugs. She knows it was wrong, yet I am not sensing much remorse, either. She is in Jr High and lives down the street and around the corner with her Dad and two brothers. We all pitch in, knowing it isn’t easy to raise three teenagers as a single parent.

I immediately think about the girl in Massachusetts who took her own life after being bullied for 3 months. The article I read online left me shaking my head. It seems to me there isn’t just one person or one attitude that is to blame. I talked to my mom about it as I washed her hair the next day. Mom had surgery on her hand and can’t get it wet for a month. She spent most of her life gluing teenagers back together if they would let her and she was darn good at it, so she is always a good source to vent with on such subjects. That poor head of hers got a darn good scrubbing that day.

We talked about all the shoulda’s and coulda’s. Obviously, more kids need to learn and follow the advice, “if you don’t have anything nice to day, don’t say anything at all.” Still, the other message I feel is more prevalent amongst us is, “You can say what ever you want to as long as you think you are right.”

On one side, what the teachers said to my young friend was right, “Ignore them. Rise above it. They will wear themselves out and go away eventually.” On the other side, when you are 15, you can’t see farther than 4.3 seconds from now. What she heard was, “It’s no big deal to us, we aren’t helping, you are on your own”. So she did what would remove the threat for her 4.3 seconds of foreseeable future.

Mom agreed with me as my inner protective mother came out and I threatened to just head down to the school, grab some collars and tell them they dropped the ball. Or were those teachers just “saying something nice?” Then, with as much zeal, I am ready to turn on this little 15 year old and tell her...a thousand different reasons that hitting someone was not the best way to handle the situation, that there will always be jerks, and we can’t hit them all, just because we are right. Or can we?

I can see both sides. I stand here with sword in hand, ready to do battle, not sure which battle to join.


  1. Oh that girl needs a mother. Can we all be her mother? I don't know. I find myself hoping that someone else is checking in on her everyday. I feel like we let her down...I let her down.

    Did she tell her dad she was being he too busy putting food on the table to do anything about it?

    Talk about "at risk"... this girl defines the term. What can we do?


  2. A mother would say no different. If she had a bad mother, or a good - either line of advice could come out, no prejudice to one side or the other. I tend to envy her. I wish I knew how to beat somebody up. And I don't blame her. They - they - keep telling us to try diplomacy. When sometimes what is required is a strong word in the language the bully understands. The Nephites were allowed to go to war to defend themselves. Sometimes the bullies don't get tired and go away. Sometimes they end up hurting you. In my case, they got moved to the high school - but not before they had made me sick to my stomach every day before school for an entire year. Not until they had left their mark on my life and my feeling about myself and about the world. I remember being afraid once or twice in my life before that - short moments. This was different. I wish I'd have beaten them up. I am not happy that I didn't.

    Later, years later, I sat next to one of them in geometry. She didn't get the math. I did. She asked for help. As if we had no history between us. And I knew I had a choice - and I chose at that point to be kind. And I explained it to her. I still wonder how she could have asked. After the hell she put me and my sister through. But I had the power then, and I used it well.

    I don't believe in revenge. But I do believe in self-defence.