The news that Lady Gaga was bullied when she was a teenager is sad, but hardly surprising. Surveys have shown that as many as 77 percent of American school kids have been bullied at some point. The odds are stacked against them all. No, what is shocking American parents is how Gaga responded to being shoved in a trash can in front of all the girls from her school.
She went home and did ... nothing. She told no one. Said Gaga in an interview with MTV:
I remember I didn't want to tell my parents because it was too embarrassing.
That's the thing, isn't it? We get so excited when our kids are finally able to converse with us, finally able to tell us what's wrong instead of letting out ear-piercing shrieks that we try to quiet with boobies, bottles, diaper changes, and pacifiers. Now, we think, now we will know what's wrong, because they can TELL us.
It's no wonder I hear that overbearing nag in the grocery store berating a mother for saying her kid doesn't talk to her, hear them saying, "We-ell" (you know how they say it, like it's two syllables instead of one) "I know EVERYTHING about my Johnny's life; my Johnny doesn't keep anything from me." She always has a Brooklyn accent in my mind, although rarely in real life (not surprising, as we live in upstate New York). And I want to walk up to her and shake her.
You don't know EVERYTHING, honey. You don't know the half of it! Because kids, even the most honest kids with a great relationship with their parents, they don't always know that they're in trouble. They don't always know to tell someone. It's not that they're hiding something from you to be disrespectful really. It's in a kids' make-up.
Child psychologists will tell you that children are narcissistic by their very nature. It lessens as they age and are socialized, but even in the teen years when something bad happens to them, they often look at it from the "why me?" perspective rather than "why is that person abusing me acting that way?" To borrow a word from the Gaga vernacular, they turn themselves into the monsters instead of recognizing the real evil.
Like Gaga, they blame themselves, and they stop seeing their parents as a safe place to turn. Like Gaga, they look at their shame as something that will upset their parents. Here, she explains it better:
This really stands out:
It didn't sink in with me how bullying affected me until later in my life. I knew that it affected me deeply but it wasn't until a little bit later that I realized how much it affect me and how much it was still very present.
Kids don't have that sort of vision until later. Time really does make the difference. Age does too.
Gaga has given us parents a powerful reminder that we can't just wait for our kids to tell us about their day, that setting up a trusting atmosphere isn't enough. We have to ASK our kids, actively pull the details out of them, and let kids know that victim-blaming is never OK. We have to teach our kids that these "monsters" are in the wrong, that they can't internalize something that has nothing to do with them in the first place.
Do you have a tough time getting information out of your kids? Did Gaga's story bring back painful memories?
Image via MTV