As most of you know, October is anti-bullying month is America. Bullying has become a BIG problem in our schools and on our playgrounds. Sure, bullying has been around forever, but with TV, magazines, and social media these day, things have gotten out of hand. Things were said to me while I was growing up but at the time I had "thick skin." I didn't let it bother me, never came home crying or hid in my room. Things that were said seem to bother me more now as an adult than they ever did then. Others aren't so lucky. It's more severe in a lot of cases. And in some of those cases, the children don't tell anyone. Don't go to someone for help or just to talk. Some children resort to taking their own lives, or taking other's lives, and in most cases, not the life of the bully, as in Rachel's case.
Rachel Scott wasn't a bully, in fact was just the opposite, but it didn't stop her death in the Columbine Shootings. Yesterday, my daughter and the rest of the 5th grade at McBride Elementary walked to the high school for a program about Rachel's Challenge. "Momma I cried." she said when she got in the car yesterday afternoon. "It was so sad, kids can be so mean." I said, "I know baby, I'm sorry," in a low voice kind of holding my head down, as to not let her know that things can be bad. All the way home she told me everything about the Challenge and every video they watched and even about Rachel's brother, the one that heard the shots that took his sister's life. The school had a program for the parents at 7 o'clock last night, but I just couldn't bring myself to go. Why? You may ask. Well, I have been holding on to something that happened at our last football game on Thursday night.
On our cheerleading squad, we have a girl with autism. Autism is like a rainbow, it has many different "degrees" or shades of colors, with different aspects of autism in each person. This little girl is SO carefree and full of energy and spirit. The girls on our team do a WONDERFUL job of including her in each cheer and helping her, while not calling attention to her, in the cheers that they do as single girls, ie. Gigolo (where they individually sing their part and do a little dance.) I always try to video our half-time dance and introductions to have and this night was no different.
That is until a child that I have known for many years was near me. Now, I have known this child and their parents for a long time and they are great people, I will refer to this child as such and not as a boy/girl or him/her because I do live in a small city. The girls were mid-field doing their dance and this particular cheerleaders moves were not "on beat" or necessarily the "right timing" but she was having a great time with a huge smile on her face. Her parents and grandparents were sitting right over my shoulder having a great time watching her and laughing and saying, "look at her," and things like that. I couldn't have been more happy.
Then it was time to announce the girls and let them do their cartwheel, split, whatever they chose. When the girl's name was called, the child asked very loudly, "is she crazy?" I shot them a look of "wow! Her parents are behind me." And the child responded to my look with, "Just saying." Then I looked back to the field and my heart began to race. I then heard, "Hey, I'm just saying." Which was even louder. At this point I was glad I had my sunglasses on, because I teared up. Do people still think this way? Are people going to say these things about my Alex when he gets older? Do people still think "they shouldn't be allowed out of the house"?
Now, because I know this family, I know the child didn't mean it in a mean way, however, even I took it that way. I know this child isn't taught to see people as different and to talk about people. Rather, it's the fact that they aren't taught NOT to. Maybe we are too busy teaching our kids to say "please" and "thank you" that we totally forgot to teach them what NOT to say. The thing is, it didn't hurt just because of my son, it would have still shocked me.
I grew up not staring at the child in the wheelchair, the guy with a burned face, or the person with a missing arm. They are the same as you and me. They still have a heart, a brain, and they still feel. From the time my daughter was three and could understand I have made sure she treats people the way she wants to be treated. I've asked her if she wanted to be stared at, or if when we take her Pawpaw somewhere in his wheelchair if she would want people to stare at him. I feel that she understands and as far as I can tell, she see's no differences. People are all different in their own way.
As for the video of the dance, I'm having conflicts about posting it. My husband says he can get some software to edit the sound out. But a good friend of mine said I need to post it, that way it is to bring awareness to the situation. Not to the child's family, of course, because you never see the child in it, just hear the comments that are said. I'm conflicted, but I do hope that we can all take it as a lesson that although we may be teaching our children what to say, we need to teach them what NOT to say as well.