I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to walk into your child’s bedroom — maybe to call them for dinner, maybe to remind them to take out the trash in the morning — and discover their lifeless body hanging there. I’m wiping away tears just thinking about that kind of anguish and heartbreak. Entirely too many parents are experiencing it.
Within a week, two little girls, both 10-year-old babies, have taken their own lives by hanging themselves. And both reportedly did it because they were being bullied in school.
Jasmine McClain was found last Monday night by her mother, who learned later that her child was being teased in school because of her clothes and shoes. A week earlier, Ashlynn Conner took her own life after asking her mother just the day before to be homeschooled. Fellow students were calling her fat and ugly.
Teasing other kids is as old as kids themselves. There are just some who get kicks from or build their own self-esteem by beating down other children. I got it pretty good myself when I was young. Those folks whose parents raise their children to not have a filter and say exactly what’s on their minds kept me abreast of my physical shortcomings each and every day. They didn’t let anything slip past and gave me a full report about their findings on a regular basis: my big lips, my buck teeth, my dark knees and elbows, my pudginess.
Alas, this was also around the same time that Jamie Foxx introduced his Wanda character on In Living Color, and the comparison between “her” lips and mine went on. And on and on. I can’t even watch reruns of that show. I’m so over it, even like 20 years later. There were times that I was totally disheartened, and I definitely still have emotional baggage from it, even well into my adult years.
But the blessing is that experience also made me more attuned to how cruel kids can really be, so when I had my own child, I was prepared for her to come home with a teary-eyed tale of some couth-less kid in her class making fun of her for something or another. My mother’s tactic was to tell me to ignore them and just focus on school. I, on the other hand, was ready to set it off at the principal’s office if someone was verbally beating down on my daughter or putting their hands on her in any form or fashion.
I didn’t want to turn her into a whiny wimp who became a sobbing, tattling mess every time somebody made fun of her sneakers or called her a nasty name. But I did want to know about repeat offenders and kids who were making it their business to give her hell on a reoccurring basis.
Fortunately, she dodged the kind of heckling and heartache I went through. But my heart goes out to the Jasmines and Ashlynns who are in school, just being innocent kids, and are regularly accosted by other children’s ignorance. They become targets — but I don’t understand why. What is it about one particular kid that earns them the brunt of bullying when others get off free and clear? I’m sure there have been psychological studies on it. But from a parenting perspective, what sparks that kind of lashing out against another child? I, for once, have more questions than comments.
When a 10-year-old’s answer to the hurt they experience from bullying is hanging themselves, it speaks volumes to the depth of their pain. I mean, a young person of any age committing suicide still shocks me, but I expect it more from a college student or an anguished teenager. But a 10-year-old? And two of them at that? Maybe seeing it in the news is giving them the idea — I used to think the same thing about school shootings. It’s just not a natural inclination for a kid to grab a gun and go shoot up a group of people. And it’s also not natural for a fifth grade child to be so full of despair that they hang themselves.
Is there a difference between teasing and bullying? How do you prepare and protect your kids from both?
Image via Christian Cable/Flickr