Real Men Wear Pink

Posted by Ben Stevens on

Almost anyone you ask from my childhood would tell you I was a pretty good kid that didn't get in a lot of trouble, was polite, respectful and so on.  The truth is, like most of us, I did some things I absolutely regret.  Today on Pink Shirt Day, where we stand against bullying I reflect on both my childhood being bullied and in turn bullying.  I think sometimes we let bullying slide because it's viewed as normal to the situation.  "Kids will be kids", "That's what siblings do", and similar lines justifying a harmful reality.  

I say this knowing full well that my children bully one another.  We do our best to teach them to be kind and loving to their siblings but the reality is they have almost in a cascading effect gone down the line.  Andy was bullied at school and in turn bullied Deus who in turn bullied his younger siblings and on and on it went down the line.  In an imperfect world we will never eliminate bullying completely but we can do our best to minimize and help both the bully and the bullied, which are often synonymous.  

As a kid I was bullied at school by the popular kids but had it nowhere as bad as some kids.  I also dealt with my fair share at home being the youngest.  As an adult I laugh about some of the stories from my younger years.  My brother and his friend duct taping me outside on the front lawn during a rain storm.  My siblings, while babysitting, convinced me I was older than both of them but had an intellectual disability (not the words they used).  So when my parents came home I ran to them in tears saying "Why didn't you tell me?".  But before you judge them too harshly I admit I was a bratty little brother asking my mother if she wanted me to get the wooden spoon anytime either of my siblings misbehaved.  Yep I'm that old, spanks on the bottom were still a thing.  

I can't tell you specifically the reason why I bullied a few kids when I was young.  Part of it may have been being in the middle of the social pecking order thinking it would elevate me to a higher standing.  It may have been subconscious frustration with the moderate bullying I received.  I really don't know, but regardless of the reason what I did was not right at all.  And I know some of you will think it wasn't that bad because I didn't beat up any kids.  I didn't even verbally assault my schoolmates.  

My bullying came in the form of getting a laugh.  Yanking the chair out from someone about to sit down.  Pantsing people in gym class, the hall or playground. Unscrewing the top of water bottle so it came off when they drank.  This type of thing which I will say wouldn't be a big deal if it was my friends I was doing it too but I did it to the students that already had the toughest go in school.

My absolute most regrettable bullying was a classmate who had a tiny lock and key on his backpack.  Most likely from other students bullying him and taking his stuff.  What I did he never knew until adulthood that it was me who did it.  I took a paper clip and unbent it sticking the pointy end into the lock and then snapped it off.  Shortly after when he went to get his stuff out of his backpack he couldn't because the key would not fit into the hole filled with a broken paper clip.  He ended up in tears.  And this was middle school not elementary.  

A few decades later, as an adult, my path crossed with my classmate and I knew what I had to do.  I went over and started a conversation which was easy and great as we were both adults now.  The next part of bringing up our past and apologizing was not so easy but so very necessary.  

I think the other thing that's important about talking about bullying is that we often think of kids when it comes to bullying but our world is full of adults bullying and being bullied by other adults.  So today on Pink Shirt Day I encourage you to consider your past and present, asking what conversations you may need to have. If you have kids don't hesitate to ask them if they experience being bullied or if they are bullies.  Never too early to learn kindness and love but it's arguably possible that it can be too late.        

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