Warning : Long post ahead
I hate newspapers.
Gone are the days when everyone at home used to fight over the morning paper with Dad usually winning the game! None of us at home liked to read a paper in parts, it had to be the entire bunch or none at all. No sharing of pages was preferred. But then, news those days was worth reading. Was worth starting the day with.
With the papers today, it is gloom piled on gloom. The more sadder, morose, heart-wrenching the tale, the more prominently is it displayed . I really have no appetite for 4-5 rape cases reported on the front page anymore. Either the men in the country are really desperate and are on an active raping spree, or maybe the awareness created these days allows more people to come up and register complaints. Whatever the case, it’s a terrible way to start a day when all you read about is how minors are brutally assaulted. My kids are of the age that gets reported in the papers and even the whisper of the thought, of something terrible like this befalling the kids, is enough to make me bristle with fear and anger.
But this post isn’t about the newspapers. Or about depraved men breaking havoc on innocence.
This is about the other kind of fear I’m facing these days.
The twins are a riotous pair. They scream and yell at each other all day long and only when very highly provoked, do they get physical. Even then, the blows are much milder and more often than not, there is intervention by the adults and peace is restored.
Once outside the confines of home, they become different people. My kids, specially Lui, gets bullied a lot. At school, in the van, at the day care and sometimes, even with kids of relatives. Shobby gets bullied too, but I think he has some of that survival instinct that only boys have and he mostly stays away from situations which may end up with him getting bullied (that’s the diplomatic in him). Lui, on the other hand, doesn’t bow down if she feels that the other person is wrong. She points it out to other kids when they do anything wrongful and like most kids who get a lot of flak at home and at school, Lui’s unwarranted words of wisdom are nothing but an irritant. They despise her for being upright , for speaking up. Even in the school van, lots of kids start chanting mean things whenever she gets in. I try my best and be firm with the kids but it’s not them or their chants that I’m worried about.
Its my daughter.
Slowly and steadily, she’s turning into a victim. Somewhere along the line, I have myself to blame. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always told the twins that it’s a crime to fight with other children or to hit them. I’ve always preached about talking politely and never saying anything derogatory to anyone. Now that Lui is at the receiving end of those very derogatory things, she is unable to lash back with a few choice words of her own. Heartbroken, she usually breaks down. This is the cue for everyone else to taunt her as a cry-baby. I wouldn’t have taken it seriously if I hadn’t seen the terrible changes coming over her recently. If you go by my previous posts, Lui was always the confident one, the only one who used to mix with all the students in her class, the only one who chatted up with and helped other kids who were ignored by the rest of the class. Recently though, she is apprehensive of going to school or going to the day-care and surprisingly, of even meeting relatives 😐
It is rather worrying. She isn’t as free as before. There is hesitation in what she says and does and recently, even the smallest rebuke from us sends her into a volley of silent tears. Its heart-wrenching, because this is not how my child used to be. I was always proud of my daughter being the boisterous one. Nowadays, kids younger than her taunt her everyday in her school van. I’ve been begging the drivers to let me know why this is happening. But like most drivers who are more worried about just getting to the schools on time, even this one doesn’t have the time to analyze what the kids are doing behind him. The other attendant only intervenes when the little boys get physical. Verbal abuse by the kids is largely ignored. When children chant “Lui is a monkey” or repeatedly call her “ugly”, the attendant doesn’t intervene. For him, its just harmless fun.
But the effect it has on Lui is terrible. Many times, when I ask her why she cries (and further allows the bullies to rag her) when others are making fun of her, she says that she feels “very bad” and somewhere inside her, “it hurts”. 😦
Ragging and bullying starts at a very young age. It’s usually one against many, as mob mentality begins from a very young age. Children learn very early that they can’t be accused of any wrong-doing if they do it in a large group. No one person will be held accountable and usually, the punishments meted out to a group are not as severe as the ones doled out to individuals. News items like the ones where a 10-year-old died of severe trauma after being locked in a school bathroom or a 12-year-old committing suicide after her ‘friends’ posted hate messages on her Facebook page are unnerving. I’m terrified of news reports that mention mental trauma in kids. Isn’t childhood the time when one is careless and free? Since when did little kids start going into depression and the abyss of self-loathing? All because of a few words/actions of other kids?
Peer pressure is a terrible thing. I don’t think Lui ever reacted in the same manner when anyone at home scolded her or made fun of her. But when kids of her age do it, she is unable to ignore it .
For a long time, I kept wondering if there was something wrong with my daughter. She is a little sensitive, I agree, but since when did being sensitive become a crime?! She is always considerate of other kids, always willing to help, always the generous one, giving out everything dear to her if someone only asks for it. Sharing comes naturally to her. I must have scolded her a zillion times for losing her pencils and her crayons at school every other day. But later I found out that she used to hand over her pencils and crayons to other kids who forgot to get theirs. It’s a different matter that the other kids never bothered to return her stuff. Not that she would ever mind!
It seriously worries me then when my kid gets ragged and bullied. Whenever she is in a good mood, I bring up the topic and I do my best to let he know that just because other kids call her ugly does not mean that she indeed is ugly. That she doesn’t have to take the words of other children as the law. That in spite of all that the others say, she is still our beautiful child and we all love her deeply. Sometimes, Shobby chips in and claims loudly that Lui is the prettiest girl in his class. He says it in a matter-of-fact way which usually brings a smile to our faces, but Lui’s brow remains furrowed. When I’m really upset at her being upset and threaten to come to her school and complain to her teacher about the other kids, Lui does a turnabout and says, “Mumma, aisa mat karo. Teacher will scold them. Phir unke mummy bhi scold karenge. Phir woh bachche royenge. Woh log chhote hain na, issliye unhein samajh nahin aata ki aisa karna galat hai”(Mumma, please don’t do that. Teacher will scold them. Their their mummies will also scold them. Then those kids will cry. They are small kids. They don’t understand that it is wrong to do such things).
Really now!! How can I help my daughter when she suffers from the Stockholm Syndrome?
There’s a huge learning curve ahead of us. I have to learn to teach her how NOT to accept bullying and she needs to learn how not to react to bullying. She can take a tip or two from Shobby. He plays the safety card well. He himself never bullies anyone (he just cannot!! He’s too tiny to do that!). Unfortunately, he isn’t able to defend Lui either. This is something that she alone will have to learn to face and fight.
So many things to protect a child from! Seriously, our parents had it much easier. I don’t think we ever heard of words like ‘depression’ or ‘peer-pressure’ or even ‘trauma’. When parents used to send us to school, they were confident of wisely investing those 6 hours in us. When I now send my kids to school, there are a hundred different worries running in my mind. Will the driver drive safely? Will Lui be spared the ragging today? Will she have a good day in class? Will she come home without tears? Will someone tease her inappropriately?
Once again, parenting isn’t easy. Its tough, demanding and mind/heart-wrenching! Its has its benefits though and that alone are enough to help us get through each day.
Anyhow, if anyone has faced similar situations where their children have been ragged or are the centre of attraction to bullies, please chip in with your comments on how you’ve handled it. I’ll be much obliged !