I usually don’t blog about something everyone else is blogging about, at least not at the same time. Just because, you know, I don’t see the point. Maybe people come to the conclusion I don’t care enough about banned books week, or breast cancer, or John Lennon’s birthday, but I assume rather that nobody notices my non-contribution or concludes anything from it.
But I do want to finally come round on the myriad discussions about bullying, gay kids, and suicide. I don’t have much to add to the very powerful stories that survivors of such bullying have made available. “It gets better,” they promise gay kids now. I have nothing to add to that; I feel like they are all doing the right thing, which is showing concern about the victims and giving them hope and showing a staunch resolve to make it better.
I’ve seen stories about bullies and victims before, but now, as a parent, it’s different. I used to think about my own days as a kid who was frequently teased and harassed, and also about the sad fact that I was an occasional bully. As I’ve posted here before, I was small, at times wore the wrong clothes, was too smart “for my own good” (as people always put it), wore glasses, and otherwise was a target for a bullying sort, but at the same time I know that I was a casual target. The bullying was rarely physical, and with one or two memorable exceptions, I would kind of end up forging soft friendships with the same tough kids.
I was white, straight, and Christian, able-bodied and able-minded, and thus spared the absolute cruelty that some kids face. I got off easy. I knew that even then, knowing that others were true outcasts, and — to my shame — distancing myself from them so I wouldn’t be any more tainted.
And now I consider those stories as a parent. Who knows who my son will be or what he will face? I don’t really know him yet. Robust and athletic or small and bookish, straight or gay, charismatic or awkward: a lot of that is in his blueprint now, genetic destiny. We just can’t see it y et.
However he turns out, I love him completely. But how much can I help him through the painful days of adolescence, when boys are basically wolves, organizing themselves into packs and casting out the weakest among them? I imagine myself trying to coax answers out of a silent and moody Byron. I know how hard it is to tell adults what’s happened to you. What happens among kids often stays among kids. They have their own secret world, you know. I imagine myself blowing my top, storming to the school to set things right… and knowing I can’t. Byron, like all children, will be cast upon the breakers every day he leaves the house.
All I can do is promise him that at home, at least, he will always be loved and feel safe and know he can tell us anything. And of course I have to make a promise to myself: that if Byron should be one of those lucky kids at the center of the wolf pack, he’ll be the one welcoming the offbeat and misunderstood into the fold.