I was born In Boston Mass. and for the first few years we rented an apartment in a section of the city called Allston. At the time, it wasn’t considered a nice area. I vividly remember my Mom playing hide and seek with the cockroaches in the ‘pepto bismol’, very pink kitchen. The lights were shut off, the cockroaches would come out, then the lights would be turned back on and my Mom would beat them to death with a broom as they scattered! Between my Dad working 2 and 3 jobs at times, we were able to, with the help of my grandmother, buy a house in a suburb called Dedham Mass. A nice lower middle class suburb where we fit right in economically and socially.
I lived there from 1968 to 1974 until the possibility of busing became too close for comfort for my Dad. In case you are too young to remember or have forgotten what that was about, it was a way of integrating inner city kids into the suburbs and exposing suburban kids to city life. The school was a five minute walk away, the bus ride into Boston was a half an hour each way. The property taxes my parents were paying were going to be used to educate someone else’s child. This didn’t sit well with my parents. They had selected the house we lived in based on affordability and its close location to the grade school since 3 of us were in grade school and my little sister was soon to start there.
My Dad was offered a transfer to the Midwest division of his company which he accepted before anyone else could take it. The company covered the relocation and down payment for the new house. The town where we settled was called Glen Ellyn Illinois and it is a beautiful town, An upper middle class town that we squeaked into. We really couldn’t afford it but we were sure going to try! It reminded my Mom of Camden Maine and since my Dad was taking her away from the east coast, she got to pick where we would be living. My younger siblings adapted well. They were starting 3rd and 5th grade and the school was across the street from our house. They fit right in, making new friends quickly, their bonds to the prior school not as well formed. My sister was starting high school and I was starting junior high school and I had to take a bus across town.
On the 1st day of school I boarded the bus. The bus stop was on the corner of our street. My mother made her coffee with the shade up to watch as I walked to the corner. I got on and went to take a seat. There were several open seats but I was the new kid, the tall girl with the Boston accent and I wasn’t wearing designer clothes like the rest of them. I asked to sit with a few kids but I was told no, that someone else on a future stop would be sitting with them. They had years of going to school together, of friendship. Their families all knew one another and here I was, a wide eyed stranger with an accent not nearly as dressed up as the others. I was ‘fair’ game. I stood until the bus started moving and the bus driver ordered me to sit. I sat down on the inside bus steps.
This went on for a few days. Then one morning when my mother made her coffee, she watched me walk to the bus stop and then she pulled down the shade, I saw her do this and walked the mile and a half to school.
One day later that year, I got my courage up to try again and I boarded the bus. I sat next to a kid who you could see that he didn’t want me to sit with him. But I tried to assert myself and sat down next to him. He threw my books off my lap and started to choke me. The bus driver made him stop and he got a detention when we got to school. Things got a little better in high school. But the damage of those 2 years was already done. I didn’t think much of myself and went from an outgoing happy child to a withdrawn depressed girl.
Why didn’t I tell my parents? There were many reasons that made sense to a 12 year old. If I told my parents they would go to the school and make a big deal out of it. The kids would find this out and instead of making it better, it would just make it worse.
I also didn’t want my parents to feel badly. They moved us across the country and we had to leave friends and family behind. I knew they felt for us and because of that, I felt for them.
I made lots of friends out there. Over time we all figured out that junior high and high school perceptions don’t mean very much in the real world. But it affected me. It made me vulnerable and caused me heartache and tears. I am a firm advocate against bullying. I have always told my 2 kids that if I ever hear of them mocking, teasing, making fun of or bullying ANYONE that they would answer to me.
I am glad that these days bullying gets the attention it always deserved. I am sorry for those who went through it. For the residual damage they have to continually try and shake off. I feel worse for the ones who took their own life because they could not cope. That it was just all too much for them.
Pay attention to your child. If they seem withdrawn, unhappy, their grades dip, they show no interest in things they used to be interested in, ask them what is wrong. Go to the school. Principals and teachers have had training to deal with this type of thing. Don’t let your child suffer at the hands of a bully.