Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Sticks and stones

I had already planned to write on bullying sometime during November, tonight I realised I missed the SBS program on Bullying. It's been on my mind.

Tonight at Little athletics a 4 yr kid was calling Sam, who wears glasses , glasses boy ! I didn't worry too much and Sam didn't even notice, but I did ! I wanted to cry for him. It's starting. I can't bear the thought that he will be a victim of bullying ...not just because of his glasses.

As a consequence of having NF1 (neurofibromatosis) though I didn't know it was called NF then , I 'suffered' bullying all through my school life.

I learned to live and deal with it. I can't even tell you the names they called me, oh I remember a few of them, I just don't want to tell you.

The birthmarks known as Cafe au lait are flat milky coffee irregular shaped 'spots'.They were the main reason. I had a large one down my left arm and numerous other ones large than 50 c piece and spotty freckling.

In primary school it was mainly name calling and sometimes a little physical abuse, hair pulling, chasing (fearful not playful) and spitting and like Rudolph they never let me play their games. Exclusion from play didn't hurt me but it scarred me emotionally. I was smart and I relished working hard to gain the academic awards to soothe my self esteem.

When I was 10, I had to wear glasses and this gave them another reason to taunt me. I also had a turn in my eye, I was 'cross eyed'.

This was due to an accident at school when I was 8. I suffered a head injury , and a black eye when a bigger child knocked me over. This was an accident I remember it. Part of my retina detached and it wasn't detected.I am technically blind in my right eye with very slight peripheral vision. My eye still has a noticeable turn despite surgery to cosmetically 'straighten' it at 16 & 21.

I had a few friends over my primary years, the one main one lived across the road from school and she went home for lunch every day. We lost touch when we went to different high schools. We were both quite intelligent too.She had the additional trait of being 'bossy' so she had her own dramas with other kids. It wasn't an easy friendship ;).

I was always in the last couple of kids when it came to picking teams and I was just glad I had an excuse not to do school swimming...thank God for ear infections. Crazy but true!

In high school most of the same bullies went there too. The girls were bitches and merciless.So were the boys. I just had a thick 'ugly' skin.Thankfully, by the middle of yr7 I found a group of friends. There were 5 of us in our posse. I am still very good friends with 2 of them today; 30 years of wonderful friendship.

I still decided not to attend my yr 10 formal and my yr12.

My posse of friends all left school in yr10. We were all around 16yrs. It was a very lonely 2 yrs as I finished my HSC (higher school certificate). I was once again excluded and alone. I was laughed at behind my back, and I could tell they didn't like me in their 'group' projects etc. but it wasn't physical by my mid teens. I ignored it.

What else could I do, I was always on the fringes. I went home for lunch, often, though it took me 10 mins to run home, 5 mins to make & scoff a sandwich and then 10 mins to run back. Rather this, than be alone and seen to be alone.

I lived for the weekends when I had my old 'school' friends again and a new friend I made, L. I met L when we were both on our family holidays. We were both 16, she was turning 17 in 2 wks and got her drivers licence. She invited me to try a new church , I became a Christian and I saw things in a new light. I didn't feel so damaged. I made new friends outside school. So school , for me , was a place just for education.

L was my transport everywhere, youth groups, church and social outings. L is still a good friend but sadly she lives 2-3 hrs away and busy with her young family. Once we were housemates for a year and she was my bridesmaid.

L, K & W looked beyond my imperfections and I am so thankful for all my friends they saved from from despair. Still I wasn't diagnosed with neurofibromatosis till I was 22 . I just thought I had terrible excess of birthmarks.

I worry now for Sam and his cafe au lait spots. Will they both get taunted because of me and the way I look ? I have more bumps and lumps coming up everywhere. I hate it. I have always worked harder to fit into groups I still feel the stares.

I worry will Sam be strong enough to deal and cope with bullies ?

I am so thankful his twin will at least be by his side, so he won't be lonely in the playground, so he will have someone to back him up, maybe help him protect himself and to pick him for his team. They have each other. Already I can see Joel has a protective nature and is looking after Sam. I can only hope...

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Jayne said...

(((hugs))) I've found that when you're open and explain to other kids' parents most are really good and pass on their good manners to their kids.
Always remember - those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind ;)

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Anonymous said...

sigh......life can be so hard eh??

lots of gentle hugs

Super Sarah said...

Your boys will have a special bond that will see them through all sorts of tough situations. What a blessing. I remember how hard it was for me to adjust to a new country, people, school when I was a child, I was bullied for looking and sounding different so I tried to adapt and conform. I hope I can teach my girls to stand up strong and be themselves.

Mum-me said...

It won't matter what kind of birthmark they have, or if they have none at all, some mean/confused/insecure child will find something to tease them about. There was a group of boys at my school who would look hard at every person in the class and try to see what they could tease them about. With me, they decided my chin stuck out too far and with my friend they thought her forehead was to wide. Becasue these were the 'popular' boys all the other 'sheep' followed their lead. My friend had her hair cut to cover her forehead. I just told them they weren't perfect either.

Anyway, if your boys have strong family and friendship ties they will survive (as you did) because they are confident within themselves. It sure hurts watching them discover that inner confidence, though, if/when they are getting teased or bullied at school.

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

Thank you for sharing, this is a message which needs to be shared. Parents need to talk to their children about accepting similarities and differences from a young age. If we keep drumming this message into our children, maybe we will make a difference over time.

tiff(threeringcircus) said...

hugs Trish. I so very much understand this.

Sandra said...

A big hug to you.
Loving your little men like you do, I'm sure they will realise how loved they are and that will give them the confidence to deal with these situations.
I am also so glad to hear that you have found such good friends who value you for who you are. How blessed are you!
My younger boy has a cafe au lait birthmark at the base of his neck. He is very proud of it and says that is how you know it is him!

Cathy said...

thankyou for this post - i can relate from a child's perspective, a mother's perspective and even a teacher's perspective xox

MissyBoo said...

I am so glad your boys have each other. I am even happier that school's now have bullying policies and teach about how to deal with bullies. There is much more hope that our children won't suffer as much as some children have in the past. Hugs xxx

Dina said...

I agree with Mum-me. If a disturbed person wants to bully someone, they'll FIND a reason. It could be a birthmark, your religion, your opinion, the color of your skin, an accent, a hearing aid, glasses, who you've chosen to be friends with, the clothes you wear, etc.

Anonymous said...

Trish, I often feel like commenting on your posts but for some reason, the system won't accept the comments. Maybe I keep picking the wrong ID!

I was bullied too and for reasons that couldn't really be seen (apart from the fact that I was too tall and no good at sports). I agree with Mum-me and others who have said that there are just some people who go out of their way to bully and belittle others. They derive their power from seeing how much they can upset the one they are bullying.

I have worries too about William but have been reassured recently when I watched him in action with a bully at the local play centre. I was so proud of him - he just looked at the kid, laughed and walked off. I made sure I told him how well he'd dealt with things. I hope he remembers this for the future.

The best defence is self esteem and I know that is easier said than acquired but I'm sure that you are an ace at building that up in your boys.

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