Bully For You
I've been thinking a lot about bullying. It started when I picked up Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Wonder is the story of a little boy, born with a rare genetic mutation that makes him look misshapen. Auggie is, in all other respects, a regular kid. Except for his appearance and for the fact that the several surgeries he has to go through to be able to function normally, means he has been homeschooled till now. The book traces Auggie's journey through fifth grade in a real school, and all the challenges it poses.
Like, ostracisation, bullying, teasing, name-calling. We all know kids who have been through this. Some of us have been those kids. But because Wonder is told through multiple points-of-view, using even Auggie's bully as a narrator, we see the plight of not just those who are bullied, but also those who suffer from collateral damage. And we're the better for it. It's a truly wonderful book, with some thought-provoking lessons for readers young and old alike.
Very inspirational, really. A great guide to how to approach bullying with empathy and courage.
Except, there is the matter of a little thing I'd like to call the real world.
See, Pookie is now in the third standard and third-graders these days... (I realise as I type this how old that makes me sound) let's just say they are different from what we used to be at eight. For one, they swear. For another, they are fucking sneaky little assholes. Yes, yes, I realise that calling children assholes is not on. But then, the kind of shit these guys try to pull? Also not on. Calling their classmate a bitch? IN HINDI? Not on. Pushing girls down a flight of stairs when the teacher isn't around? Not on. Spreading rumours that their classmates were in the boys' loo together with their clothes off?
NOT. FUCKING. ON.
Now, since I'm a fundamentally empathetic person, my first thought when I hear of these things - usually the very moment I walk into the house after a long, hard day of peddling things to people - is to think "What is making these children behave like this? Do their parents know? Where are they learning this stuff? Is it you, Netflix? Do I have to come at you with a stick now?"
But the past week was exhausting, physically and mentally. So yesterday, when Pookie told me a boy in her class told her she has three fathers (he had pulled some other bullshit previously with her and the teacher's admonishment to him was, I quote, "That's not nice") I just... I gave my empathy the day off. And Rook and me asked her to just... punch the kid in the face.
Was it good parenting? I don't know. Like most parenting decisions, I suppose we'll find out its ramifications, if she needs therapy at some point. All I know is that it needed to be done. As someone who has been the skinny kid with the glasses in primary school, I know how easy it is for bullies to think you're fragile. And bullies love fragile things. Because they are breakable. The only way to get a bully to stop messing with you, is to show them that they are breakable too.
It's not easy and it's not nice. But neither is Life. Not always. And I guess, third grade is as good a time as any to learn that.