Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Very Personal Experience With Childhood Bullying

It's a beautiful October morning in the canyon. I was reading about the teen suicides in Time Magazine this morning and the name of our little town jumped out at me. I have never seen it mentioned in a national magazine before. As it turns out, one of the boys who committed suicide because he was being bullied lived here. He was 13 years old. 


I took my camera and went outside with tears in my eyes. I looked around, took some pictures, and thought that he will never see this. I thought about all the things this 13-year old boy will never see, hear, read or experience and I felt so very, very sad. 


When I was nine – ten years old, I was seriously bullied in school. Why, because I was about a head taller than all the little boys and there were some little bullies-in-training among them. They used to gang up and wait for me after school. They would beat me up; throw things at me, snowballs, and other stuff. They used to mash my head in the snow in the winter ….. 


A couple of things stand out in my memory, these many years later. My two girlfriends, Barbro and Ingrid, lived near me, and they walked with me and helped defuse many a situation. Even at that young age, I remember that Ingrid was popular with the boys and her presence helped. I remember a couple of brave little boys who helped me fight off these miniature gangsters. One time in particular, I remember one, named Olle, picking up a metal trash can lid and like Ivanhoe or some other knight in shining armor, slam it down on one of these bullies. I remember how I loved that moment and how Olle became my hero from then on.  


I myself was for the most part no sissy. I learned to fight too. But I will never forget the fear of not knowing if I would be able to walk home from school in peace or if there was someone out there, waiting to jump me. I also remember how one day I had enough and climbed the wrought-iron fence (how can I remember) that surrounded the school-yard and ran away. I ran into the woods on one side of the school and stayed away all day. I remember how I cried and cried. The school called my parents and when it was all over, of course, I was the one to get reprimanded by the school.

I have no memory of ever telling my mom or any school official about the bullying. I was a good student and generally well liked by teachers and classmates, but I never said a word about those boys to anyone. I always told my mother everything, but I don't think I ever told her about the bullying. 


I understand, on such a deep level, what these young boys went through. On TV and in magazines, the kids are told to seek help, to tell an adult, but it is for some reason so difficult to talk about this with adults. Thinking back, I believe I felt guilty for being bullied and that's why I didn't say anything. Parents, teachers and adults have to address this. Parents -- you have to find out if this is going on in your child's life. Bullying goes on all the time and kids need to know you are there for them. And that it isn't their fault. With all the adult bullies, setting examples, I may be dreaming, but I have to believe in the goodness of people -- of most people.

My story had a happy ending. I transferred to an all girl's school for junior high and high school. While being almost six feet tall at 12 was horrible, it became an asset in later years. Fortunately, I was never much impressed by the superficial attention I got because I was six feet tall and blond. My values lay elsewhere and for that I am so glad. My point here is that everything will change and the boys who died will never know. And when you are 13, you don't believe it will. But it really, really will change.


When I stood out there and looked at the beauty of the morning, I felt so sad that this young boy from Tehachapi would never stand like this as an old man, looking at the sun rising over the mountains, shivering in the cool autumn air, and reminiscing with himself, as I just did, about the trials of youth that we all eventually will overcome.

He will never know. And that is such an unimaginable waste of a human life. 

This post is in his memory…his name was Seth.

29 comments:

  1. A very good post, Inger. Sorry you were bullied as a child, I know a lot of children simply won't tell their parents - they are either told to "take it like a man" or "don't be such a wimp" and if your parents get into it, then the bullying gets worse "Mom-my's ba-by" etc. It's a bad thing all around, I feel so sorry for Seth, it had to be pretty bad. Are they looking into just who did the bullying? Sometimes the world can be a very harsh place.....

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  2. God bless Seth's family. I can't imagine their grief.

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  3. Oh Inger, so sorry to hear your story, nobody should be bullied like that. Kids don't know what permanent damage they can do to other kids while being bullies. It makes me so sad. I was bullied too, not physically like you, more verbally and mentally. But either way, it shouldn't be and there is no need for it. I know now why bullies bully and I can only pity for them, because really one is a sad soul if one has to put others down to make oneself feel better. And then there are always the followers too, that just have a big mouth and are all action because they are in a group, probably nice as can be on their own, but to fit in again, they do the things they do. Sad sad world.
    LIke you said we will eventually all overcome these trials, but nevertheless they leave some very ugly 'scars', I sure have my own share of them.
    Great entry. And yes way too sad and such a waste.

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  4. Inger I can only stand here and applaud. What a moving eulogy you have just shared for Seth and others like him. You have honoured his existence with this loving and very thoughtful tribute. I am so proud that you shared it with us.
    Jim

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  5. Nice post Inger... sad, but true...

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  6. thank you Inger

    You are a woman of great strength and compassion.

    I suspect this young man will forever be in your mind as you walk through your lovely hills.

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  7. Sharon: Good points -- I will pick up the local paper when I go to town on Monday to see what it says, if anything.

    texwisgirl: I can't imagine these poor mothers who find their kids. So sad.

    Tina: I'm sorry you were bullied too. I got a lot of verbal abuse too and I've tried to remember what they used to call me, but right now I can't. All related to being tall and thin. Isn't that funny -- tall and thin -- just what everyone wants to be when they grow up.

    Jim: Thank you. I appreciated your feedback on my comment, but didn't know I was going to write about it until this morning. I'm so glad I managed to convey my feelings about Seth and all others like him.

    Judy: Thank you so much.

    Upupaepops: I just feel so sad when a young person dies. And these suicides are so awful -- and I am so sure they will not change a thing for the better. I was bullied 60 years ago, after all. I felt honored to read about how you see me. Thank you.

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  8. Inger, I'm so sorry that happened to you.
    It is terrible when people get bullied, and so terrible that those children killed themselves to escape.
    I never endured what you did, but I remember the childhood culture of don't tell.

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  9. I feel sad with you Inger, I can only thank the Lord that my children didn't have to go through that.
    Love
    Liesl
    xoxo

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  10. I'm so sorry to hear that you have been bullied when you where younger. Good to hear that life did turn out well after all.
    Thanks for writing about it.

    Have a nice day Ingrid.

    Berit.

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  11. Terry: Maybe because this happened when I was so young, I got over it pretty fast when I got away from those boys. I think it becomes much harder as you get into your teens, like the young boy here.

    Liesl: I'm glad your kids didn't experience bullying.

    Berit: I remember all along thinking those boys were really dumb! It still hurt of course, but underneath it all I was strong, even at nine years old.

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  12. Applauding your courage for sharing and for such a moving memorial for Seth.
    You're six feet tall? I did not know that.
    Hugs to you.

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  13. Thank you for sharing your experience with bullying, Inger. I was also the victim of bullying when growing up simply because I was the ONLY kid on my school bus who had red hair and as a result, was teased and picked on mercilessly. It was awful and so hurtful. You are SO right tho that as you get older, things do change. I, too, share your sorrow about Seth and the others. This was so unnecessary and it just crushes me that such evil people exist in the world to make someone feel like they have to end their life. Awful.

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  14. What a tragedy. You are right: at 13 you can't imagine life changing for the better if you are in a bad place. It is tremendously sad that Seth won't celebrate the sweet 16, he won't learn to drive, he won't go on dates. I wonder: will those bullies be punished? Will they accept responsibility, even if only silently? I was never actually bullied but I was teased for my height in the first grade, my weight in the second, my breasts in the 4th... It was hard but it also made me who I am today.

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  15. What a beautifully written and heartfelt post, Inger - thank you for sharing those painful memories with us, and may Seth & all the others, rest in peace.

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  16. AJ-Oaks: Thank you, Cindy. By now, I may have shrunk to 5 ft. 11 inches!!

    Kent Island Red: I can imagine that red hair is like being too tall --irresistable to bullies. If we suffered, add discovering you are gay to that.

    Sandra: You are right, it is so hard when you are young, but it can also make you tough. One good thing for me is that I have never cared what anyone thought about me since then. Never cared to be popular or anything like that.

    Lynda: Thank you so much. I had not intended to write about these tragedies, but when I read about them and when the morning was so beautiful, it touched my heart and I had to.

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  17. Inger, this is my first reading of your blog and you've touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I have been saddened greatly by this group of suicides due to bullies in our country and there are so many out there in the same boat. My husband was bullied in school and his stories make me cry too. It is so heartless and as a child you don't believe things will change...we must reach them somehow and we have to deal with the bullies too. I am so sorry for your bullying years. Kids can be so cruel at times. Thank you for a truly touching post!
    Amy

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  18. Bullies seem to be on the increase in recent years. It's my personal opinion that TV and video games are not helping.

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  19. I can't stand bullies and I know the problem goes on with them, always more bullies are born. What a terrible thing you were bullied so as a child and probably were very ashamed and embarrassed about it so kept quiet.
    You asked about my Weimaraner's and do they wear coats. Yes they sure do when the temps drop down in the low 20's or we have a wind chill. Pan took to the cold really well so I figure Kalen will too. When temps are sub zero their feet can be burned and they need booties. Yes your dog is made for the cold and could live outside up here. I like Tracy Kidder's books and have read most of them but didn't know about this one you gave a review on.
    Nan

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  20. Amy: I think these young people who commit suicide because of bullying touch all our hearts. It is a terrible situation. Thank you for visiting my blog.

    The Old Geezer: Since my bullying experience took place 60 years ago, I'm not sure it has increased. I think it has gotten more vicious with the internet and the social networks. It is there for all to see so to speak.

    Nan: Oh, I can imagine, sub zero will require booties. And yes, bullying is terrible. I hope that something can be done in the aftermath of the recent suicides, but I have no idea what.

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  21. Thought provoking post.
    So very sad.
    Thank you for your insight on the bullying issue....so glad you came out stronger in the end because of it!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    I am so very glad you did!

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  22. Dawn: It is so sad. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I'm so glad I found yours.

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  23. Well done, Inger...

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  24. I'm very sorry for the bullying you and others, especially those who took their own lives had to go through. I had some bullying experience myself but nothing on a grand scale, thank goodness...just what I would call the neighbourhood goons trying to pick fights now and then. A most horrific experience though was walking home from school on a beautiful spring afternoon to find my little tiny brother awash in blood in the snow. He was only in grade one and apparently a gang of boys in high school picked on him and punched him out and left him lying in the snow. I came upon him and cried and was so hopping mad that I attempted to find those boys. My grade four year old self was ready to take them on in defence of my little brother. I never found them, lucky for me probably but oh the inhumanity and injustice of it all never did leave me. I think how fortunate we were though that that appeared to be the end of it. Not so for many other children/teens. May those who have gone too early rest in peace and those of us left behind try to do something to stop it all.

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  25. this is a very moving post - very sad, but at the same time inspiring. i wish kids could read it. thank you for sharing your story. it's sad how some kids get bullied so hard. it's sad the regular day to day normal kid stuff has to get taken to levels so extreme. i appreciate your thoughtfulness and for writing.

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  26. I wish Bullying could be stopped ~ your post has made it so vivid ~ isn't it amazing the things we try to hide from our parents ~ I can honestly say I was never bullied at school maybe because it was a very small school 3 classrooms and Catholic I wonder if this made a difference ???? ~ Ally x

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  27. What a nice post and beautiful photos and tribute to Seth.

    I found your blog through One Stoned Crow's blog. This was so sad about that young man. One of my sons is named Seth. My God bring comfort to the family.

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  28. Rachael: Thanks, my friend.

    Joyful: I can only imagine how awful that must have been for both you and your brother and family.

    Hopeful: Thank you so much.

    Ally: I am so glad I was able to reach out and touch some people with this. I wish I could touch both the bullies and the victims as well. I'll have to think about it.

    Sandy: Thank you. I didn't know him, but I know this town and can imagine how he didn't fit in. I love OneStonedCrow's blog. It is so much fun to read about Africa.

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  29. A beautiful tribute to such a sad young boy. Suicide is never the answer. It leaves behind so much pain and only takes the pain away from the one who leaves this earth. I am sorry for all of the bullying you received. I am tall also and was told to 'stand tall and carry myself like a Queen"...good advice but hard to believe when you are so young and the tallest kid in the school

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Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger

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