I write this post with a heavy heart. Scrolling through Facebook today, I came across ANOTHER article regarding a young child’s suicide. This time we’re talking about a 10 year old boy who was bullied due to a medical condition beyond his control. I vowed to Maddie’s mom that I would keep spreading the Stick With Kindness word and now I am making that same vow to Seven’s mom.
The fact that bullying in elementary school is even a thing makes me want to throw up. Don’t get me wrong, bullying at any age is wrong, but elementary school-aged children are BABIES. They are supposed to be at school having fun, learning, and feeling safe. They are supposed to be young, naive, and in the dark about the cruel outside world. Not only should a 10 year old boy not know about bullying, he damn sure shouldn’t know about suicide. As much as the bullying makes me sick, the fact that BABIES know about suicide makes me want to run to QMonster’s school, scoop him up, and lock him away from the outside world until he is 18. I think about when I was 10 years old and I didn’t know much about bullying and I definitely didn’t know about suicide. What in the hell has happened in the last 21 years?
As a mom of a child who is perceived as different, these kinds of stories make me feel so defeated. I have spent so many hours fighting for QMonster to be included at school. I have fought to pull him out of a special education room and into a general education room but what if inclusion in gen ed has actually subjected him to bullying rather than an equal education? When I am sitting in an IEP meeting, I never think about the fact that other kids are mean, I think about the fact that my child deserves to go to school the same way every other child does. What if I have been so focused on “normal” that I have neglected to think about the reality? These stories of children committing suicide really get my wheels spinning and the what-ifs and the guilt start to surface.
These stories of children who are “different” committing suicide are a wake-up call for moms like myself. We are slapped in the face with the fears that we so often push aside. As a special needs mom, I know the truth. I know that kids are mean and that my kid is an easy target. It is a reality that brings out so many emotions in me from anger to sadness to fear. While I know these fears are ever present in a special needs momma, I can almost bet that you “typical” mommas have a similar fear. I think all of us want our kids to be accepted by their peers.
If we want our children to be accepted then we need to teach them acceptance. For example, you and your child see someone who physically looks different in the grocery store. Your child says “Mom what is wrong with his face?” while pointing. I know your natural reaction is to shush your child and move along and whisper “Stop. That’s not nice.” I know you are embarrassed. I know this is a totally uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. However, instead of walking away with embarrassment, I encourage you to use this moment as an opportunity to teach acceptance. I don’t mean teach them as you are ushering them away. No, I mean, teach them right then and there. Introduce your child, find commonalities, talk about the difference and explain the whats and whys. By shushing our children and walking away, we are teaching them that differences are not to be talked about and something to be embarrassed about. That is far from the truth. Our differences are what make us unique. Let’s talk about them! Let’s teach our kids that differences are cool, normal, & acceptable. Let’s teach acceptance!
I can’t imagine the hurt that Seven’s mom feels right now. The grief that she is feeling all the way to her bones. I hope that my worst fears never come true and my reality never matches her current situation. Since I can’t lock Q away until he is 18, I am left preaching and teaching in hopes that the messages of kindness and self-worth are ingrained in his head. Will you please join me in spreading the Stick With Kindness message for Maddie, for Seven, for my child, & for your child?
Today, when you see your kiddo after school, hug them tight. Spend 5 more minutes talking to them about their day. Find out about their friends. Ask them hard questions. If they mention someone being mean to them, don’t brush it off, pry deeper, ask about the bully, talk about why the bully is wrong, & talk about kindness. If they mention the “weird” kid in class, don’t tell them that’s not nice and move on, ask questions, find out why the kid is “weird”, talk about differences, and talk about kindness.
Stick With Kindness! That is my challenge for you. Today. Tomorrow. This week. This Month. This Year.