Mama Madison: Stand up to bullies in October

National Bullying Prevention Month can really do some good

I often have no idea what day of the week it is. So please forgive me if I'm even less inclined to know which "awareness" month we are in. I guess, with the world bedecked in pink ribbons, it's kind of hard to miss that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But I had no idea it's also Auto Battery Safety Month and Talk About Prescriptions Month.

With all due respect to both issues though, I'm probably not racing out in search of the appropriate rubber, color-coded bracelet to honor either cause.

October, I just discovered, is also National Bullying Prevention Month. And I feel compelled to take notice. Because according to PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, a leading nonprofit dedicated to the eradication of bullying, more than 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school each day out of fear of being picked on. That's a lot of kids. Kids who don't deserve to wake up each day with knots in their stomach caused by the dread of whom they are going to encounter in the halls between third and fourth period. That's a lot of kids being relentlessly gossiped about at lunchroom tables and on Facebook and Twitter. It's kids who have developed crippling cases of anxiety or depression because of the cruelty of other kids.

I've been a part of the problem. I'm guessing many of us have. Because while I can't remember the names of many of the kids I went to elementary school with, I can vividly remember those of two--one boy in my grade and another girl on the bus--who were mercilessly teased by classmates. Neither did anything at all to invite the torment. They became victims because they were quiet and wore what the third grade establishment had deemed "nerdy" clothing--"flood" pants and horn-rimmed glasses. As if the rest of us in our Toughskins and Marcia Brady mini-dresses were that much cooler.

No, I was never the one to call him "Buger Jeffrey" or move to a new seat when the girl, two years younger, sat down near me on the ride to school. But I regret never once saying anything, not even to my own parents, about the other kids who were outwardly acting like jerks. I guess I was inwardly acting like a jerk. I didn't want to jeopardize my own social standing, even if it meant turning a deaf ear to the name-calling and ridiculing.

The overt verbal teasing of elementary school was replaced by subtler stuff in middle school. Gossip and cliquishness replaced the taunts. But it was still about jockeying for power and perceived popularity. Reputations were tarnished and social hierarchies established. And someone always felt shunned. Who were the bullies and who were the victims changed places on a daily basis. It was a constant battle. And no one won.

There is no question my kids' schools today are far more sophisticated and in tune with how they approach bullying than any of my schools ever were. At the elementary level my daughter took part in her school's Unity Day last month, which focused on the importance of kindness and compassion. And in my son's middle school, just about every kid has signed a pledge to stand up to bullying and harassment. The pledge is displayed banner-style over the school's main staircase--a constant reminder that students there can do better.

Probably out of guilt for never having interceded, I just did a brief search for both of my bullied classmates online. I can't find the boy, probably because I never bothered to learn to spell his last name. But that "nerdy" girl who sat quietly at the back of the bus every day now holds three patents, has testified before Congress, is a world-renowned expert on cyber security, and is absolutely gorgeous.

I'm glad she turned out okay -- and then some. But it's not such a happy ending for so many victims of bullying.

So in her honor, and in honor of Jeffrey, I will wear orange on Wednesday, October 10, PACER's national Unity Day. Because just being aware of the need for a little more awareness--whether one day or the whole month -- might go a long way in making a whole year's worth of schooling easier for over 160,000 kids.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Talking about race with Families for Justice

Like many parents, I look at the wide world around my kids and do my best to prepare them for life. We talk about working hard, being kind and responsible, Internet safety, stranger danger, and the (gulp) birds and the bees. But what about a topic such as race?

Mama Madison: Checking it twice

If you're like me, looking around your house in the weeks before Christmas will probably have you convinced that the last thing your kids need to find underneath the tree is a pile of new toys.

Mama Madison: Managing holiday lists

I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about how lucky we are to have what we have. Though our house is tiny and our van is unequipped with automatic doors, we have all we could ever need, and a lot of what we want.

Girls on the Run of Dane County marks a decade of changing young lives

On the evening of Nov. 6, a throng of people gathered at Monona Terrace. They were there to attend an impressive anniversary shindig, but the real buzz of excitement centered on the event's guest of honor.

Mama Madison: Mom dates are hard

You may call them "play dates," but I like the term "mom dates," especially since my kids are still too young to really care that there's another small person to squabble over toys with.

Mama Madison: No judgments with No Excuse Mom

If there is an excuse for not working out and eating healthy, I have used it: I don't have time. I'm too tired. I'll start tomorrow. I'm no good at this, I give up. I don't know where to start. Yes, I have used all of these and more.

Mama Madison: Introducing kids to your CSA box

At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action).

Mama Madison: Changing tables, changing times

My family recently went through something that we have not experienced in over eight years. We have become a household that no longer harbors a crib or a changing table.

From museum to school with MMoCA

"There really is no wrong way to do it." That's how Madeline, age 13, describes creating artwork. She and her classmates at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie are honing their artistic skills by participating in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art on Tour program.

Mama Madison: Coping with toddlers in a Wisconsin winter

I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.

Mama Madison: Melissa Wardy pushes positive messages

I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.

Mama Madison: Three cheers for reading at the Wisconsin Book Festival

Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.

Mama Madison: What's in a name?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.

Mama Madison: Eugster's is more than just a visit to the farm

At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.

Help for home-schoolers at the Madison Mentor Center

Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"

Mama Madison: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.