I knew it would happen sometime, and this week it did. One of my kids was bullied. The victim: Olivia. It took her a couple of days to tell me about it, and only after a complete meltdown following a fight with her sister. I’m sure she was really more upset about what happened at school than the tif with her sister, but didn’t know how to tell me until she finally blurted it out.
Apparently two boys have been making fun of her for being Jewish and her speech. As the words came spilling out of her mouth, my heart sank. I know kids can be cruel, I’ve experienced it firsthand. Kids have made fun of me for the same things, and I wish more than anything that my kids would escape the same taunts.
I’ve realized that for as much as people talk about putting an end to bullying, it’s nearly impossible to eradicate. Kids are mean. That’s just a fact. Another fact? Mean kids tend to go after kids who are different from them, and there’s no getting around the fact that my kids are different. They are among the very few if only Cambodian Jewish kids who go to a Spanish immersion school. They sure as hell are the only ones at their school.
Up until now, their diversity has never been an issue at their school. In fact, Olivia has worn her religion like a badge of honor, proudly giving presentations to her class about Hanukkah and Passover. For Hanukkah, she broke out the dreidels, and for Passover she told her classmates all about the ten plagues. Nothing like teaching third graders about gambling and being the chosen one.
All kidding aside, I’m proud of Olivia for lots of things, but I’m beyond proud of her for the way she embraces her diversity with such enthusiasm and relishes the opportunity to tell other people about it. For two punk kids to attempt to squelch the love she has of her culture, and worse yet, make her feel bad or embarrassed about who she is, made me beyond mad. I want Olivia to remain proud of her background, and not hide it. I told her as much, but I fear the harsh words of the bullies will stick in her mind longer than my words of love.
So what’s a mom to do? Well, I promptly told her teachers about the bullying. As soon as Olivia calmed down and went to bed, I fired off an email to her teachers. To their credit, they responded almost immediately, and are taking the issue seriously. From what they’ve told me, she’s not their first target, but hopefully she’ll be their last. And while I hope this will be the last time Olivia has to deal with discrimination, I’m realistic enough to know that’s probably not the case. It’s a tough lesson for both mom and daughter.