Growing up as a middle child in a family of 13 can sometimes be hard. More often than not, I was overlooked as parental attention was focused on the needs of the oldest and youngest of the brood. Older children were bossy in their attempts at discipline, while younger siblings were needy in their insatiable quest for attention. I, on the other hand, while used to being bossed around and ignored became introverted. You could always find me in a little corner with a book. Reading was my escape from my world — a world where darkness hid night creatures that wanted to harm little girlsLittle did I know that this behavior was often a target for the bullies that slowly invaded a once peaceful existence.
I did well in school because I received temporary and intermittent attention, acceptance, and recognition from parents and teachers. But it also made me a target for attention I didn’t want; bullying. I quickly learned that cliques are made up of children that need constant attention. Since I eschewed the attention of peers, I never became part of a clique. Besides, most of the clique girls were mean anyway.
And then it started; the snide remarks, the mean looks, the “accidental nudging.” At first, I tried to ignore it in hopes it would subside or go away. Unfortunately, it seemed to fuel the adolescent fires and the bullying escalated. More and more people joined in the bullying but no one was brave enough to say, “enough!” I tried everything from making myself small and insignificant, to being late so the teacher would already be in the classroom. Nothing seemed to help. My two friends weren’t brave enough to stand up for me and I didn’t think I could do it alone. So, I endured the constant name calling, tripping, laughing, pointing, staring, getting paper bombed, and so many other atrocious childhood pranks.
Why had it started? I was clueless to know why I was chosen to be the target of a bevy of different bullies. What was it about my demeanor or behavior made me the perfect candidate for the endless tirades, pranks, and harsh language. As I entered puberty, I expected my classmates to become bored of their silliness and leave me alone. Unfortunately for me, the craziness escalated. I knew telling wouldn’t solve anything so I decided to talk back when they hazed me. This rough talk got the attention of the teacher who promptly chided me for speaking rudely to my classmates. Why didn’t the teacher hear or see what had been said/done to me? Why was she only paying attention when I chose to fight back? My parents subscribed to the adage that “sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” These words hurt, they stung like a whole hive of honeybees protecting their queen. My strategy became one of stealthiness. I chose my opportunities for retribution wisely. I only retorted when out of range of teachers or other adults in supervision. I let my abusers know that I was not afraid of them, I was nonviolent by choice. Since my parents were already aware of the constant bullying, they were not surprised when the principal called to tell them I had been suspended for fighting. My parents attempted to explain that my actions were the result of pent-up frustration at the relentless onslaught of vile behavior by my peers. Even my best friends tried to come to my defense, but the principal didn’t seem to want to hear anything bad about my so-called peers. The principal only recognized that one of the “sweet and pretty girls” had been hit by me. I took my three days at home as a refuge from the inhospitable environment I knew I’d have to endure after my relaxing weekend.
I came back to school refreshed and ready to tackle my problems head-on. From my books, I’d discovered that when no one else seems to be able to help with problems, turn to faith to work it out. I’d prayed for a solution and was quite surprised when one presented itself as if “out of thin air!” We took placement tests in math and English. To my surprise, my scores were the highest in my grade level. My peers were both envious and amazed at my academic prowess. They began to come to me for help with their class assignments. My first thoughts were to help them so that I would be accepted by them. But, then I remembered that if people only associate with you for the things you can do for them, they are not your true friends. I chose to let them suffer through their studies and let the chips fall where they may. I helped my two friends by working with them in study group but, I let everyone else learn on their own. Pretty soon, they began to forget I was a target and most days, I was left alone.