Last week was my daughter’s school’s annual anti-bullying rally. Children, their parents/relatives, and school employees all wore blue to show our solidarity with each other against bullying. Our children each carried a blue sign that said, “I take a stand against bullying.” Like many schools, Ari’s elementary school has a “no tolerance for bullying” policy. I’m grateful for schools and individuals who take bullying seriously.
As we formed a large crowd of unity at the back of the school, with the playground in sight, I couldn’t help but think about the bullies I encountered in my young life. I winced as I thought of my monster bully. I was a teenager when the incidents happened.
The bully? An adult. My mom’s best friend. My best friend’s mom. Let’s call her M.
M’s daughter, B, and I had so much in common, it was no wonder we quickly became the best of friends growing up just down the block from each other in New York. Even better, our parents were close friends.
For the first few years of B’s and my friendship, everything was fine. Then when I became a teenager, the bullying started.
B’s mom was jealous of me. I was mature and driven academically, unlike B and her brother. I also started volunteering at a local animal hospital at 16 to get veterinary experience to prepare myself for veterinary school someday. B and M didn’t like the possibility that I might become a veterinarian and “out-do” them. (Becoming a veterinarian was my dream at the time.)
M and her daughter were seething with envy that I might accomplish more than they did. Whenever I was at B’s house, her mom would crush my spirit, telling me I wasn’t smart enough to accomplish my vocational dreams. Eventually B followed suit and picked on me, as well. Each time I had a counterpoint for why I could realize my dreams, the dynamic duo continued trashing me.
I would come home crying regularly after being at their home where the emotional abuse took place. My parents would try to comfort me, but mistakenly still encouraged my friendship with B, as they were still friends with B’s parents and were unwilling to relinquish the friendship. With my emotions so raw and teenage insecurities running so high, I continued being friends with B throughout college. After I switched my major to English, B and her mom gloated that their prediction was right: To them, I couldn’t accomplish that dream of becoming a veterinarian. My career aspirations were no longer a threat to them.
In addition, through high school and college, the venomous pair would made fun of my art, claiming I wasn’t a true artist. Every talent I had that B didn’t, her mother went on a toxic rampage against me. Once I graduated college, I got my head together and pressed the Delete button on my friendship with B without telling her or her mom why. Unfortunately, my parents continued to be friends with M and her husband, who actually was the nice one of the bunch.
Then, a fortunate turn of events. B’s parents retired early and moved to Florida. Finally, I wouldn’t have to hear about B and M anymore or worry about M stopping by when I was in town. There are many miles between New York and Florida, I gratefully surmised.
Until my parents retired and moved to the same area in Florida as B’s parents moved to. They are now minutes away from each other.
And like any parasite, M is trying to worm herself into my and my daughter’s life. M has thankfully never met my daughter, but M wants desperately to meet her so, I suspect, she can compare Ari to her own grandchildren and continue her legacy of bullying to the next generation. And M wants to rekindle B’s and my friendship, so we can pick up where we left off.
M is delusional. Ain’t gonna happen. Ever.
I’m all for letting the past remain in the past.
But what happens when the past invades your present?
Individual kids giving anti-bullying pledges into the microphone stirred me from my thoughts. And my daughter’s hand clutching mine gave me even more hearty resolve to make good on my promise to the universe that I would do my best to keep her safe.
As a mother, I will do my best to protect Ari’s emotional and physical well-being. And I know how sacred a child’s dreams are. Ari has a right to dream, and nobody has the right to take that from her.
Have you ever been bullied or know of someone who has?
If I ever meet M, which could happen despite the unlikelihood, what would you recommend I say?
Tags: bullies, bully, bullying, emotional abuse