I created a Top 10 Tips list for an “Anti-Bullying Week” movement that happened in November, two years ago. This list was intended for those being bullied, or needing some tips to provide to someone being bullied. I’m not an expert in the subject matter, but I was bullied for enough school years that I developed my own plan of action whenever I got into a situation.
Today, I was waiting at the bus stop to catch my bus home right around the time schools let out here.
I didn’t have little Noah with me, because I’d visited my dentist and needed to run some errands. I’m glad Noah wasn’t with me because there was chaos at my bus stop once the bells rang at a grade school across the street. Children filed out two-by-two and then went their separate ways to their awaiting parents or bicycles, and some to the bus stop I was waiting at.
It was loud and I felt old for thinking it was loud. Kids were running around and pouncing on each other, and then I heard screaming “Stop! Stop!”
In Dutch, the “o” is pronounced a little differently than it is in English but I knew I was hearing a cry for help. I turned and saw a young girl being taunted by a group of young boys, from the other side of the glass partition at the bus stop. They were all around the same age but the girl was clearly outnumbered and out-powered and crying. It wasn’t a one-on-one situation of “kids will be kids” but obvious bullying. The little girl cowered like it was nothing new, and she was clutching a pink cell phone. The boys were pounding and kicking on the glass partition screaming at her, and she was trying to ignore them through welling tears and occasionally yelling back at them.
I watched dumbfounded and just as I was about to pound on the glass to make the group leave, they came around the partition and surrounded the little girl. My tongue became twisted and all my learned Dutch failed me when I needed it the most.
“Wat’s jouw probleem?!” I yelled at the boys.
What’s your problem was all I could come up with after living here more than two years. It didn’t matter because I scared the shit out of those boys and they scattered. There’s a part of me that knows it was probably my crooked-numb novocaine mouth that really scared them. I hate numb mouth.
The boys didn’t return because they clearly didn’t need to take the bus in the first place. They probably lived close enough by the school, to torment children at the bus stops every day at 3:30pm. Immediately I thought maybe I’d made things worse for the little girl, and the boys would get back at her anyway, but I knew I’d done the right thing when she leaned on my hip. I pat her head and put my arm around her and she cried. I cried too, and I couldn’t even stop myself anyway because of course I’m PMSing. The whole thing was pretty emotional for both of us, but I still can’t get over how truly bad I felt for her.
I realized it’s the first time I’ve actually stopped little bullies, mini-bullies really, who could grow up to be a bigger bully later and so on. They’re just kids right now, and kids can be stopped. Looking back when I was younger, and bullied, I didn’t always need an adult to step in and help. Sometimes I learned how to better deal with the bully the next time, or how to avoid them better. Most of my bullies insisted I was Chinese, and because of my small frame I was an easy target. Sometimes I learned nothing except pain and the reality that nobody cared if I was Korean except me and my parents.
I will say though that sometimes I could have used an adult to step in when I was outnumbered. One time I was outnumbered by bullies, with adults around, I ended up being knocked so hard in the eye that I blacked out and fell backwards onto icy concrete. Adults are pretty much on their own when it comes to bullies, in life or online. Children shouldn’t be on their own so much anymore. They shouldn’t.
There were six other adults at the bus stop with me today, and three of them had their children straight from the same school these bullies shared. Nobody did a thing and I get it, but I don’t get it. I wrote those 10 tips above and I stick by them, but here’s one last tip…
If you see a child being bullied, then stop the bully and assess the situation.
Please and thank you.