I used to live near this woman named Melanie.
Melanie’s girls were 3, 5, 8, and 10. For a while, every time my niece, Nicole, came to my house, she’d play with the 8 year old.
Well, one morning, Nicole went over, hoping for some fun. She was back a minute later. She stared down at her pink Converse high tops.
Less than an hour had passed when we heard a joyful ruckus. From my front window, we could see Melanie’s yard. Half the neighborhood kids were there. They were having a blast. Encouraged, Nicole walked over and asked again. “No. There are too many kids here already,” Melanie told her, and sent her back to me.
That poor child stood on my sidewalk watching ’til I called her in. I’ll never forget the look on her face.
Broke my heart.
“Did you girls have a fight or somethin’?” I asked.
Nicole just shook her head.
I was at a total loss on how to fix it, so we did the next best thing: We made cookies-chocolate chip oatmeal–with coconut. Yum.
As usual, the cookies didn’t fix the problem. (And may I say right here in front of witnesses how wrong I think it is that something –like cookies–can so completely give you a false message of making things better when all they do is edge you up the scale?) Anyhow . . .
After that, Melanie sent Nicole home ’bout every third time she wanted to play.
When I started puttin’ on the pounds ’cause of all that cookie bakin’ I decided it was time to approach the problem like a grown up.
“Has Nicole done somethin’, Melanie?”
“Then why,” I asked, “are you punishin’ her?”
“I’m not.” She looked at me dead on and said, “I treat all the kids in this neighborhood the same way.”
“Well, it hurts Nicole’s feelings.”
“Look,” she said. “In school, I was always picking on somebody. I want to make sure my girls aren’t like the kids I was mean to. I don’t want anyone picking on them. That’s all. ”
That’s all? Hmmm.
So, she was teaching her girls control by ostracism. She was deliberately turning them into emotional bullies. Melanie was still a bully–all grown up.
I tried to tell her what she was doing was hurting, not helping. In the end, I had to walk away.
I was sick when I heard of the cyberbullying of Megan Meier. I was furious that a grown woman–a mother–used her expertise to help her daughter and other teenagers torture Megan.
It had been over ten years since I lived in that old neighborhood, but when Megan’s story hit the news, I thought of Melanie.
I wondered how far her mis-guidance had gone. How many children had suffered emotionally at her hands.
Talk to your kids about acceptance, kindness, the Golden Rule. Do what you can to help them grasp the fact that everyone has feelings just like they do.
We all deserve to be treated with common human decency. Bullying is never okay. No matter how old you are.
Check out the trailers for Cyberbully. Maybe we should all watch it. You know, I think I’ll bake some of those chocolate chip oatmeal coconut cookies for the occasion.
You have a good day now,