So many people think back to when they were kids and they say “oh it was better than we didn’t have-*insert everything here*”. Well the following is going to be my rant about those kinds of statements–specifically as it relates to bullying. It’s most likely going to be rambling and incoherent at times (as happens when I get ‘all fired up’).

I hear so often, in regards to bullying, oh they just need to toughen up. Or they didn’t mean it. Or the worst in my opinion “kids will be kids”. When I was a child, most especially in middle school, I was picked on and bullied. I can look back now, years later, and see that the kids (mostly boys) who picked on me where just as insecure as I was but at the time I couldn’t understand how people could be so hurtful.

I was a nose in my book, quiet almost shy kid. If I was with my friends and family however I was a talk-a-mile-a-minute and bouncing off the walls ball of energy–because I was comfortable. But in gym class–the horrors of gym class. I was small, skinny and a total klutz to boot. I tripped over air and had absolutely no hand/eye coordination. And to make matters worse, when I got flustered, upset or in any way emotional I turned BRIGHT red and cried.

The moment I remember the most was during basketball one day in gym. We’d been forced to split into teams, and luckily the teachers chose the teams so there was no “last person picked” humiliation. Well, while playing I tripped, got turned around and then proceeded to shoot the ball into the other teams basket. My entire team, which included one boy who was particularly nasty to me, laughed themselves silly. The one boy who was in my young mind my arch nemesis, proceeded to berate me. He was in my face yelling and pointing at our basket and asking why if I was so smart, I couldn’t figure out which way to shoot. I of course was red from embarrassment, that quickly turned into tears. I looked up at my teachers. They all had that little smirk on their face as if they were trying not to laugh.

I can laugh at the incident now, because of course, shooting the ball into the wrong hoop is funny. At the time however I couldn’t see anything funny in the situation. I wanted the teachers to come and make the boy stop yelling at me. He continued for the rest of the day (after gym, in our other classes and in the halls) to point and laugh, making fun of me. I firmly believe that incident would not be so ingrained in my memory if it weren’t for the bullying I received at the hands of the boy and how the teachers did nothing.  If the teachers had simply told the boy it was a simple mistake and of no matter that would have at least given me the courage to ignore his laughter. Or at least made me see that someone in authority did care about my well-being.

Luckily for me the bullying wasn’t ‘bad’. I wasn’t kicked, punched or physically hurt. I wasn’t mercilessly teased each and every day about the way I dressed, my after school activity, my sexual orientation (or my perceived sexual orientation), who my parents were, or how much money I didn’t have. Mine was regular teasing that just got out of hand because it was just seen as “kids will be kids”. The problem today is now bullies have the anonymity of the internet to hide behind. They can be more cruel and more inventive because there are even less repercussions when no one knows who said it. Adults like to hide behind the “it was better in my day”, or “kids will be kids” and “MY kid would NEVER”.

You kid would never? Seriously? That’s the excuse you’re going with? Even I–one who knew the humiliation of being bullied–teased and made fun of kids. When I got in the phase of doing anything that would make the popular kids like me and want to be my friend I would make fun of people who were once my friends, merely because the popular kids had decided these people were “uncool”. I could see the same embarrassment on my friends faces that I had once felt and yet the words kept coming out of my mouth.  So to say your kid would NEVER do that is just not being realistic.

I don’t have kids yet. But I was once a kid on both sides of the bullying issue–and neither side was in any way rewarding to me. So I will teach my children that bullying is never right. It’s never right to put someone down for any difference (real or perceived) between you and them. We are all humans, we are all different, and it is way past time we started treating everyone with equality. And learning the difference between friendly teasing and bullying is a large part of that.

So today, I wear purple for Spirit Day. To stand up against bullying. Not that I’m only against it on this day, because I’m against it on all days, but because today is a day for awareness. A day to focus on what bullying truly is and what we can do to stop it.