Let me elaborate.
Finn had a homework assignment: Ask your parents how they helped someone with bullying or in general when they were his age – so like 11-14 years of age.
Well I had to think.
So did Troy.
Like I thought for almost an hour and came up utterly blank.
As parents we ingrain in our kids so many life affirmations with such strong conviction to be the best version of themselves. We preach:
Be better, do better!
But when was the last time we looked back from when we were their age and how we acted?
At Finn’s age I was bullied all the time so I kept my fucking head down and went about my day. Now, when my kids come home from school and tell me someone was a jerk my first reaction is yup, kids suck, get used to it. Then I sort of come around and tell them to make sure you help out other kids who are bullied or to get involved if you see something not quite right. But when I was a kid, did I do that? Fuck no. I kept my head down, I went to class, I got teased, told I was the ugliest human in the world, my clothes were ridiculed, my obsession with boy bands was pathetic ( I mean, fair ) but my parents never were involved, at least I don’t think so, and nothing in school was EVER done. You ignored it and carried on.
Then Finn asks again: Did I help anyone else out who was bullied? Truth be told I have no idea. I mean, maybe I did but I can’t think of a single instance in which I intervened or remembered someone being bullied in front of me.
Did I do anything essentially good like volunteering? And I’m like uh nope, sorry Finn, turns out I was a piece of shit. I couldn’t think of one selfless thing I did as a kid. I volunteered once for the Canada Games, but only because my friend forced me to. My one act of service was to parade around the mall as the mascot but I was the WORST at it and they made me take the suit off in like 2 minutes. Basically I was fired from volunteer duty.
Troy retold his charitable experience of doing a bottle drive for his soccer team, but under his breath he also told me that the day after he donated the money, him and his friends did an extra bottle drive for a fake chairty to buy beer. So while we laughed hysterically to our piece of shit stories, it rang a bell in me how much we expect our kids to be better, be smarter, be more helpful, be the best version of themselves.
And while I agree with this in theory, I feel like an utter hypocrite. Maybe it was my narcissistic generation but everyone sort of did their own thing and moved on. I transferred schools every 3 years so being bullied was second nature to me. I was either too fat, too ugly, terribly boring, or simply NOT considered. I was exponentially shy but was also not encouraged by my parents or teachers to be better or do more. I was told to get my ass to school, get good grades, do homework and watch tv.
So no fecking wonder our kids are suffering terrible mental health, poor self esteem and the trillion other emotions they get thrown in their faces 24 hours a day. We are giving them the world to pop on their wee shoulders and brave it selflessly, with conviction and also while helping everyone out along the way.
That’s a lot.
I have no real solutions to this issue other than my own self reflection and realization that I was a piece of garbage kid which is fine because a. I can’t do anything about it now and b. I think most of my peers were also pieces of shit.
But I want to sign off with an addendum to Finn’s failed school question… perhaps next time we should weave a heartwarming life experience from our vast knowledge of 80’s movies he will never watch. Maybe next time when asked whether Troy was bullied we will say, YES he was, by a gang of guys called the Cobra Kai, but he never gave up, he befriended an unlikely elderly neighbour who taught him the value of hard work and perseverance and ended up defeating those bullies at the world championship Karate competition.
And me, well, I was so selfless, I once spent my entire vacation slaving away to learn the Mambo with an underprivileged tough guy so that I could fill in for my good friend Penny so she could get an abortion and have a chance in this world. I mean, SELFLESS.