I'm so sorry I didn't post yesterday! Usually I do it at night, but I was sitting around a campfire with a friend from work, so the blog was pretty much the last thing on my mind =P I will try my damndest to be more punctual from now on.
My least favorite childhood memory, hands down, was all the bullying I endured. So here goes:
I was a big sister. That was my most important job. With four little sisters to set an example for, I couldn't exactly deny that my behavior was important, nor could I deny that little monster inside me that said, "If anyone hurts them, you hurt back!" They were important to me, my sisters, and I loved them more than I loved myself. I would do just about anything for the little buggers.
It was about 2:30pm on a sunny Monday when I found myself, as usual, in the parking lot of St. Clare Elementary in Lyndhurst, Ohio, where my youngest sister went to school. She was ten years old, in the fifth grade, and doing very well. Well, academically anyways. See, my youngest sister Kyra was a little bit of a worry-wart and, well, a "nerd" as the other kids would say. I had been, too, so I thought it was great that her studies meant so much to her and that she wanted to read books like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but the other little monsters didn't see it that way. They were already watching MTV and listening to "boy bands," whereas Kyra wasn't into that stuff. I was proud of her, really (mostly because if I had to hear one more Justin Beiber song, I was going to shoot myself), but I felt awful, too. She often came home in a bad mood because someone had made fun of her for something.
Today was, unfortunately, one of those days.
Fortunately, however, the bullying was in full view of me as I sat in the parking lot, waiting for the kids to come out at the end of their school day. Kyra was first out of her class to exit, which was unusual, since she was usually last (that way none of the other kids could see her and make fun of her on the way out the door). I knew immediately that something was wrong. Kyra was slumped over with her arms crossed tightly around her belly, and her face was blotchy. She had been crying. Behind her were three kids: a stocky blonde girl, a boy with dark hair, and another boy with lighter, sandy-colored hair. They were laughing hysterically and shouting towards Kyra. Every time they did, my sister would move just a little bit faster.
Rage boiled up inside me. There were teachers everywhere, why weren't they doing something?! Surely they could see what was going on! And where were Kyra's friends? Shouldn't they be protecting her?! Seeing red, I got out of my car and strode through the parking lot towards Kyra. When she saw me, she bolted, running into my arms and breaking down into sobs. I looked over her shoulder at the bullies and glared my best "stay-the-fuck-away-from-my-sister" glare.
I told Kyra it would be okay, that she was beautiful and that those kids had no idea what they were talking about. She sobbed some more, telling me that they were making fun of her for drawing again. I told her to try her best to ignore them. They were just jealous because she had talent and imagination and they had none of that.
The bullies were huddled together against the building, laughing and jeering as they glanced in our direction. Their parents clearly had not yet arrived to pick them up. I could work with that...
"Come here, sis," I said to Kyra. Taking her hand, I led her over to the nearest teacher. I used to go to that same school, so I recognized the woman as the computer teacher, Miss Klear. As we walked over, I kept my eye on the bullies. As they noticed where we were headed, the looks on their faces turned from laughter to nervous grinning to outright fear, and that gave me a pretty big sense of satisfaction. That's right, you little monsters, you can't get away with it for much longer.
"Hey there, Katie!" Miss Klear called happily as I approached. "How are you?"
"I've been better," I said coolly. I was going to get right to the point. "Do you or do you not see that my little sister is being bullied on a regular basis?"
Miss Klear recoiled. Then she saw the look on Kyra's face and realized that she had been crying.
"By who?" she asked.
"By just about everyone, which you guys would have noticed, had you been doing your job," I answered. "But right now, *they're* the problem." I motioned over to the bullies standing against the building. All three went white.
Miss Klear looked over at the bullies. They were no longer laughing. She sighed and shook her head.
"I'll make sure to speak to their parents, okay?"
"Yeah, you do that. I know what it's like to be bullied, as you well remember, and I don't appreciate you or the other teachers allowing it to happen to my sister too. Make sure you tell their parents exactly what they're doing and the importance of accepting other people for who they are. They don't have to like each other, they just have to coexist without being mean. It's really not that hard."
Miss Klear was very clearly offended by my incinuation, but I didn't care at all. As far as I was concerned, she and the other teachers were just as responsible for the bullying as the bullies' parents. Clearly something was getting missed or ignored, and that burned my blood.
I walked away from Miss Klear without another word, with Kyra in tow. She had stopped crying now, and as we walked over to my car, she squeezed my hand. I looked down at my youngest sister, and she was grinning a little through her tears.
"Thanks, Katie," she said. "You didn't have to do that, though."
I sighed. Hindsight was immediately 20/20, and I hoped that I hadn't made things worse for her.
We got into the car and I turned to her.
"You know those kids are just being mean because they don't know how to deal with stuff that they don't understand, right?" I said. "The stuff that you do and that you're interested in is really cool, it's just really unique, and not a lot of kids get it."
"I know..." Kyra answered. "I just wish they would stop."
"I know, honey," I said, laying a hand on her shoulder. "But look at it like this: why does it matter what they think of you? You have friends and family who love you, and who think you're cool already. *I* think you're really cool, and I love you so much. Those kids, they're just mean, and what they think shouldn't matter, okay? If they're not willing to get to know you, then that's their problem, not yours."
Kyra turned her head to one side, as if these thoughts had never occurred to her before. She was a thinker, and most of what happened in her head never made it out, so it didn't surprise me at all when she turned to me and just said: "Okay. I love you too, sis."
"Okay," I responded. I started my car. As Kyra messed with my iPod to find her favorite Disney songs, I looked over at the bullies one last time. The boys were gone, but the blonde girl was now standing next to a blonde woman who could only be her mother. Miss Klear was talking to the blonde woman, and neither adult looked happy. I got another wave of satisfaction as the mother knelt down to her daughter and said something that made her cry and stomp her feet. Then, as "Circle of Life" started blasting out of my speakers, my sister and I pulled away, belting the song at the top of our lungs. She would be okay, regardless of whether or not those bullies kept making fun of her.
Okay, I realize the story is completely idealized and dramatized, but as a girl who was bullied a lot, I wish I had had an older sibling to step up and help me out. My mother was my hero during that time - talking to parents, making sure teachers knew, etc. - but it would have been cool to have someone who wasn't a parent because bullies tend to look at other kids who are close to their parents as "teachers pets" or "Mommy's / Daddy's girls/boys." Siblings are kids, too, and kids look up to the older ones for social cues. That's why I am the older sibling in this story. And yeah, I know the me in the story concentrated too much on putting the bullies in their place rather than lifting up the younger sibling (the younger "me" essentially), but that stems from me wanting to put bullies in their places as a kid.
I can't wait to read the rest of yours. Great topic, Tori!