It all started when I learned to walk. Our next-door neighbor had a baby girl, Aimee, who was also my age. Our moms basically did everything together, from grocery shopping, to play-time, we practically lived at each other’s houses. Our big sisters were best friends. It only made sense that Aimee and I were friends as well. From toddler time to elementary school, Aimee and I were inseparable.
Aimee was also a bully. From a very young age, I learned to follow her orders. If she wanted me to do something, and I refused, she’d make me pay by pouting and screaming until I gave in. By the time my family moved, and I was assigned to a new school, I had already been conditioned to take other kids’ orders.
Not until freshman year in high school did I learn to stand up for myself. By this time, I had a new best friend, Heidi, who didn’t take crap from anyone. She was a good friend to have around, not just because we understood each other so well, but because when she was with me, nobody messed with me. Kinda pathetic, relying on someone else to fight my battles.
One day in Spanish class, another student did order me around in front of Heidi. We were working on an art project and a bully rudely told me to give her my pair of scissors. This was one of the tough kids, so rather than risk a confrontation, I handed her my scissors. Heidi snatched them back from her.
Completely ignoring the girl’s look of shock, Heidi said to me, “Don’t give her your scissors. She was being rude. When are you going to learn to stick up for yourself?”
The bully just sat in silence. So did I. She was probably intimidated by Heidi’s attitude. And me, I was embarrassed by Heidi’s attitude. Because Heidi was right. I did need to stick up for myself.
Later on in geography class, I didn’t have Heidi there to defend me when a girl named Dawn demanded I give her my extra pencil. I refused, telling her that since she was always rude to me, I wasn’t about to share. Her jaw dropped and she turned around. Everyone around us laughed at Dawn. I have to admit, it felt pretty awesome watching her turn ten shades of red.
Now that I’m an adult, I see how bullying takes many forms. As we age, we allow college professors, coworkers, and bosses to bully us, too. If kids allow bullies to taunt them in school, it won’t end there. It will just continue on into adulthood.
As a parent, I couldn’t let my kiddo go through the trauma that I suffered. Not every kid gets their own Heidi. They need to be taught how to defend themselves. She’s dealt with a few bullies so far this year, but my husband and I have already prepared her. Thankfully, she knows to stand up for herself. Unfortunately, not every kid is taught these life lessons.
But we as parents, brothers, sisters and friends need to do our part and help kids who are being bullied, not only do we need to teach them how to stand up for themselves, but we need to get school officials involved when necessary.
Heidi was the inspiration for AJ Dawson, one of the characters in my Whispers series. In SOPHIE’S SECRET, she teaches Sophie Sinora how to stand up for herself against a locker bully. In DON’T TELL MOTHER, AJ has to defend herself when her mother refuses to believe she has the power to see the future.
Heidi and I are still friends. She’s got four kids of her own now and teaches school. Her kids are lucky. I’m sure they’ve learned all about standing up for themselves from a great role model.