Bullying or Teasing?

My earliest memories of standing up to bullies; 2 boys, a year older than me who teased me relentlessly was successful and began and ended my boxing career, I was 6.  My brothers had taught me how to fight and we arranged a show down in Corry Street, Saturday morning 9 o clock.

My brothers stood on the foot path to oversee proceedings and I waited in the middle of the road, which lucky for us, was pretty quiet.  The first boy stepped up and we squared off, all I remember is my arm swinging out and collecting him pretty hard, he went down. He quickly got to his feet and ran home, one house away, crying.  The second boy stepped up and the same thing happened, I swung hard, down he went and again ran home crying.

My brothers couldn’t have been prouder, they lifted me high on their shoulders and we ran a victory lap of the very quiet and short Corry street before we too went home, but we weren’t crying, we were victorious! But, apart from another hit to a boy in Reception who kissed me when we played kiss chasey (everyone knew the rules…that you don’t actually kiss in kiss chasey) I gave up my method of using violence to solve my problems.

I was on the receiving end of bullying from an older girl in my late primary school years, when I would go roller skating each weekend, she would be there and call me all kinds of names, including a “slut”.  I was 10 years old and had not even had my first kiss, so the names didn’t mean anything to me, but the fear I felt from her intimidation was real.  One day when riding my bike to school, she pulled me off it as she waited to catch her bus to high school and she hit me, in front of her friends and they all laughed.  I had done nothing to this girl, she even asked me one night as we waited in line a skating, “do you know why I hate you?” I answered “No”, she said “neither do I, I just do”

Even then, I knew there was nothing I could do to argue against that because she couldn’t explain what the problem was, what her problem was, but she still left me feeling unsafe, something that was new to me. I had grown up with such a strong sense that I was protected and she changed that.  It took another one of the girls from my neighbourhood to stand up to her for her to stop, no one messed with Trish and she sent a very clear message that it was all to stop or else.  And once again my world was safe, I could go where I wanted relaxed in the knowledge, that someone always has my back.

I learned bullying was not ok, and bullies would always back down when met with someone prepared to stand up to them.

Now teasing, I had always placed in another basket, I grew up with 2 older brothers as one of the youngest in the street so my protectors, were often times, also my teasers. I was a fat kid, not huge, but just overweight enough for me to be conscious of it. I remember going on my first diet in year 6 so I could buy a pair of bright yellow Blueberry overalls to take on school camp, the start of my yo yo dieting which has continued til now. At school I was teased for being big boobed rather than fat, of course there were the other girls who got teased for having no boobs. But at home, my brothers, as I trotted off to my ballet classes, told me I was as “graceful as an elephant”. I laughed it off, and I never classified it as bullying, but it did hurt and my ballet career didn’t go beyond my early teens, not because of the teasing, but because I suspect they were right.

All of us at some time in our lives would have experienced teasing and bullying, are they the same, is one worse than the other?

I was scared and confused by my bully, but her words didn’t mean anything to me because I knew they weren’t true, I could rationalise, it was all her issue and nothing really to do with me, for whatever reason, I was just an easy target.

But when it is something that can’t be so easily dismissed, I was fat, I did have big boobs, I wasn’t the best dancer, those words were much more cutting and left deeper scars, even though that was not the intent.

My late gran had a note on her fridge, the one in the picture that now sits on my fridge (I couldn’t throw it out when she passed away) and I have used it raising my girls.

Is it true-possibly

Is it kind- no

Is it necessary-definitely not…then there is no need for it to be said.

I have never understood mean-ness so rather than focusing on is it bullying or teasing, so should we be worried about it or dismiss it and harmless, lets ask a different question…is it mean?

I don’t believe we should be raising fragile humans who wilt at the first insult or barb that is thrown their way, because, hurt people hurt people and they will always come across someone hurting, who will hurt back.

But if we can raise our children with a strong sense of self, with confidence and some tools for sorting through the fact from the fiction, we can bully proof them to some extent.

If we all aim to raise our children with compassion and empathy, we may just shift the need for hurting each other.

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