Friday 12 December 2014

Hope for Robustness in Children

Yahoo News presented me with the story of a happy, bubbly 12 year old boy who was allegedly bullied for becoming a cheerleader and allegedly killed himself. I trust there was a full police investigation, for thousands of children are bullied and yet very few of them commit suicide. The numbers are going up, however.

Naturally I despite bullying, and despite the Christian emphasis on forgiveness,  I am not inclined to forgive the adults who didn't take seriously the bullying endemic to my elementary school class. Neither am I inclined to forgive the laywoman teacher who was infamous among my generation for her bullying and hatred of children, although I have long since forgiven Sister W at high school for her rather out-of-date disciplinary methods and I hope that she forgave her last students--who bullied her right back--before her mind collapsed, poor woman. 

My class was 18 or 19 when Sister W walked out of the classroom forever, and although I am relieved to say I was not involved in That Incident, I had developed bullying tendencies myself--albeit only towards those English Lit teachers I thought were stupid. I have been wandering around in the textual remains of my 19 year old mind,and it is not fun. I feel rather sorry for my stupid English Lit teachers and wish I had been nicer.

But I had a lot more fun at 19 than I did at 12, and the day I began all-girls high school was the happiest day of my life so far, for I had escaped the Class of  '85 forever and ever. I was acutely miserable at school from about age 11 to age 14 and to escape I spent 80% of my waking moments daydreaming. 

But it never occurred to me to commit suicide. I must have known about suicide, but.... I haven't the slightest recollection of any mention of suicide until I went to high school. Perhaps I heard the story of Cassandra throwing herself from the walls of Troy, or vaguely worried about the soul of the original Little Mermaid. But suicide was just not something in books for children, or television shows for children, or movies for children. Oh! I must have known about Judas. Judas committed suicide. Not exactly a role model. 

Suicide never occurred to me as a solution to my problems. I knew that the solution to my problems was Father Time.  I firmly believed that once I was in high school, I would no longer be bullied. This turned out not to be true, however, as along with the rest of the girls in her classes, I was bullied by Sister W, and also, as an individual by a physically bigger girl, who became friendlier over time.  

In hindsight, my brothers had a worse time of bullying than I ever did because when we were children adults turned a blind eye to boys beating the hell out of each other. I remember it was particularly bad for my brother Nulli, whose musical and artistic gifts drew jealousy and whose small stature and trusting, open nature made him a target. When Nulli was a child, he didn't have a violent bone in his body; it is all the more astonishing and admirable that he joined the militia the minute he legally could. 

So we coped. Of course it is a shame we were bullied in the first place. And, yes, I would say that the experience had a detrimental effect on our future happiness and attitude towards humanity. But we coped. When I was twelve and volunteered to try out for the school's ice hockey team, I was informed by male classmates that they would beat me to a pulp if I did. So I didn't. And I didn't kill myself either. It would never have occurred to me.

Why does it occur to other poor children?


  1. I think it's possibly the sense of entitlement that parents pass on to their kids these days. So while the parents are likely telling their children that they are the most important gift to the universe (without the context of God), the children/teens despair when their peers do not see them in a similar light and life becomes more fragile and meaningless. And then without a knowledge of their eternal worth, life does seem meaningless without the validation of others.

  2. Hmm... That's an interesting suggestion. Parent tells child he is the most special snowflake ever, and the child discovers that this is not, in fact, true. And I suppose no matter how much the parent tells him after that crisis that he IS a special snowflake, he no longer trusts the parent or feels like he has failed the parents some way. If so, this is terribly sad.

  3. Today's children are much less likely to have numerous brothers, sisters and cousins. That means that the child who is friendless at school won't have peers at home from whom he has a chance to learn social skills and how to compete for attention with other people, perhaps even to accept that others may have greater or lesser abilities than he.

    A corollary is that if a child from a largish family has the misfortune to have bullying siblings, he will have learned something about self-defense before he ever goes to school, and may even find school a relief.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the children who commit suicide in response to bullying have few or no siblings, are fatherless, or are otherwise alone in the world, in ways which are more common today than they used to be.


  4. That is a very good point. I haven't heard yet that the boy cheerleader had any siblings or cousins. Another thing about siblings, at least older ones, is that they can keep an eye on their siblings at school.

    I wonder if that is a good argument for daycare, at least for the only child.


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