This past Thursday, not long after I got home from work, I got a call that shocked me so much I didn't know how to process it. The school counselor where Kieran and Ryker go called me. She said she had gotten a report from one of the other students that my daughter had told her that she wanted to kill herself. This hit me like a ton of bricks. I even wondered if this was the right Kieran. I was speechless and just let her talk. If you know my daughter at all you know that she is very exuberant. No really, her teachers have described her with this very word. She is always cheerful, unless she is in trouble. I have seen no hint of anything at home that something would be amiss. The counselor said she pulled her and asked her about it. Kieran broke down and told her there were a few boys that were being mean to her, but that she didn't mean it when she said that. The counselor also asked her about cutting because she said something to her friend about that. Again, this totally shocked me. As a therapist I asked myself if there was something I missed. Kieran again said she didn't mean it. The counselor couldn't get names from her but told me if I did to let her know. Oh, I would be.
I immediately called Steven since he picks them up right after he gets off work. I told him I was on my way to get Kieran and told him why. He was pretty upset but said we would get to the bottom of it. He knows Bentonville's bullying policy well since he teaches at the high school. He got Gage and Ryker and I picked Kieran up after her Choir practice. She got in the car and immediately started talking about TREC (Gifted and Talented) stuff. I let her finish and then asked her if she knew why I was there. She said she did as the counselor told her she would be calling me. I told her she wasn't in trouble, but I was definitely heart broken to hear that she had felt the way she was. I asked her why she would ever want to think something like that when she has so much going for her. Kieran immediately told me there were boys at her school that have been calling her ugly for months. She said they would tell her not to look at a window or mirror and make symbols with their hands that the window would explode. Now part of the confusion I felt was Kieran is far from ugly. I am not just saying this because I am her mother. She is absolutely beautiful.
This is the most recent school pics she has had.
I told her that she was beautiful and had so many talents, including intelligence. I told her that she had a future that is whatever she makes it. I told her that I was bullied. Many are, but that it gets better. I told her I was bullied by both girls and boys. Kids can be so cruel. I told her that even if she didn't mean it, suicide was a permanent solution to this very temporary problem. I told her about my own thoughts when I was much older than her. If you knew me around that time you would understand my reference. But that is another blog another time. I asked her about the cutting stuff. She couldn't tell me where she heard it from. I told her the difference between positive and negative coping mechanisms and how it is a very bad negative coping mechanism. I gave her various options of positive ones. She said she never had done it and had no plans to. I think she heard this from someone, which is usually how it spreads. I never heard of cutting when I grew up but in the past 10 years it has grown and I have worked with so many cutters, many of which learned it from other cutters. The reasons they do it are different.
The point is my daughter is not depressed. She is generally happy 95% of the time. Even at school she loves it. She is very active in lots of things. But it takes a split second for one of these boys to bring her down. After telling her what bullying is and how it is taken serious in the district, she did tell me 3 names of boys in her class. She said it was just them and that she has had no issues with anyone else. She said it has been happening for MONTHS!!! This is crazy! For months these boys have repeatedly tore my beautiful daughter down, and had her question life. For months, these young boys made her feel unworthy and ugly. All of these things to which she is not. Words do hurt. They can break far worse than bones. I told her how devastated I would be if she ever did anything like what she had told her friend. So much that I can't even bring myself to say those words or type them.
I did call the counselor back when we got home and gave her those 3 names. I made it a point to say another 4th boys name that hung around these boys, but clarified that Kieran said he never says anything mean to her. Why did I do this? Because you don't have to bully. I am sure there was a ring leader in this group. I am sure the other 2 followed suit. But this one boy in this group stood alone and didn't follow their lead. I wish I could shake this boys parents hand. This school district takes bullying seriously. Basically if a complaint is made, they give a warning. If it continues afterwards the punishments are severe. Possibly suspension or even expulsion. Do I want this to happen to these young boys? No. I want them to be told how serious this is and to realize it's not a joke. However, if they do continue after that they do deserve a severe punishment. Kieran knows to tell us anything that happens now. I admit I feel like I failed her in some way by not seeing this sooner, but really the signs at home were not there. No typical signs anyways. I should have asked though, been specific. That I feel guilt over.
I still don't understand bullying. I have been there though. By even those who were supposedly my friends at the time. I have been called fat at 80 pounds, flat chested... in the 7th and 8th grade, ugly, stupid, and the B word. It has been done out of spite, jealousy, or just out right meanness. My daughter isn't ugly, but the damage these boys did over time made her question that. Whatever their reasoning was, it was not justified, and nor is it ever.I highly recommend people to watch the movie 'Bully'. It's heart breaking and eye opening. Bullying can happen to anyone and probably at some point happens to everyone. We need to specifically ask our kids about whether if anyone is saying or doing mean things to them. And we need to bring it to school officials to address. Unfortunately some schools have not jumped on the No Bullying policy. But if we keep pushing they will. We need a no tolerance policy. It's not just something kids do. Kids do it so long as they get away with it. So basically they need to not get away with it.
This can change. We just need to change it. I will not lose a child over this. And no parent should!