Last week I wrote a post about the soon-to-be released movie, “Bully,” and why it deserves a PG-13 rating, not the R rating it has been given. Apparently, due to the publicity given this issue, and to the activist teen who has organized a petition to the MPAA to change the rating, the MPAA has agreed to rescreen the movie and discuss its original rating.
All good news. Because I stand by my belief that this is a movie for young people, not only for those 17 and older. A PG-13 rating would open the doors, both in families and in schools, for kids in high school, middle school, and even upper-elementary, to see this film and have an important — perhaps life-changing — dialogue with other kids and adults about the horrors of bullying that exist in our schools and communities.
Then, in a fender-bender of karmic, cosmic, ironic come-back-and-kick-you-in-the-ass-whatever-ness, on the day I read the news story about the possible consideration of changing the ratings, I had a very disturbing bit of news. World-rocking news, to say the least. Suddenly, the issue of who would able to view this gut-wrenching documentary took on a whole new spin.
My child is the target of a bully.
She is bullied.
And I had no idea.
The bully is a boy in her class, one we know well. And it’s somewhat easy to understand, given what he’s gone through, that he might feel powerless and angry and frustrated and jealous of happy families, and needs to take out all those feelings on someone else. I’ve seen him grow from a little boy who liked to help in the garden and build rock walls and offer to help clean up, I’ve seen him grow from that little boy to this hard-shelled kid almost afraid of being nice because nice is what gets you hurt. My heart breaks for him; my backyard lemonade and microwave popcorn during playtime with my kids only goes so far.
All this makes it worse. It would somehow be easier if the bully was a stranger, a child unknown to me. Then I could rant and rave and be furious and not try to understand the bully at all, because who cares about him, just leave my kid alone. I could say that about a stranger. Now I have sympathy thrown into the emotional stew, and it’s hard to swallow.
My child has been silent all along, except for the occasional outbursts when the kids in the backyard don’t get along, which happens sometimes with kids in backyards. I knew nothing about any of this until a meeting with my child’s teacher revealed the daily incidents that had been going on and lead up to this point that official action is being taken. The teacher pointed out that my child is clearly a strong person, shrugging off most of what’s been going on, but we agreed that no matter how strong, she shouldn’t have to do any shrugging, because no matter how much you shrug, when you’re a child, that constant chipping and chipping at your emotions and soul is going to have some kind of effect at some point, possibly turning your once-strong sense of self into a puddle of doubt and despair.
I will do anything I can to prevent that from happening.
In the semi-darkness of the bedroom after the house was quiet, my child and I talked. We do this, often, have whispered discussions in the safe cloak of the nighttime. But that was the first time the topic was bullying. We talked other times, again and again. Things are in motion to try to change the situation, and I hope my child feels supported by the adults who are coming together to help (including the bully’s caregivers).
My heart breaks for both of these kids, though obviously in different ways. And while I don’t think that watching the movie “Bully” would make the pair hold hands and skip together through a field of daisies….it could provide a common ground for them to understand what the other is suffering. But, being well under age 17, neither may get a chance to see if I’m right about that understanding (but I’m pretty sure I’m right about the skipping).
I don’t know. Bullying is pervasive and real, whether big and brutal with hallway attacks and online viciousness, or small and personal, when a one-time friend turns on you and cuts you down repeatedly until you are a ghost of who you were. There is no easy fix, no simple way to stop kids from being mean to each other. But adults and kids alike need all the tools they can get to at least try. “Bully” could be one of those tools.
For now, with communication open and clear among the adults, and a possible truce in play between the bully and my child, given the extra kindness I’ve seen at the bus stop the past few days, I can hope we are on the right path to ending the bullying here.
But I’m still on red alert.