I was happy, and honestly a bit stunned to see that in the midst of all the worlds Problems (notice the big ‘P’), today’s headlines included a story on Obama’s Anti-Bullying Summit at the White House. After all, with budget battles raging here and middle east battles raging over there, isn’t bullying a bit childish for the leader of the free world to be spending his precious time on? Isn’t bullying just a rite of passage, a normal part of growing up?
No, it’s not. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be.
Since Powerless came out I’ve been struck by the passionate response I’ve gotten from both anti-bullying groups and from kids who’ve had to deal with bullying in their own lives. I knew it was a serious topic when I wrote about it but I wasn’t aware of just how desperate kids were for some kind of escape – even if it was a fantasy book where kids could fly away from the pain.
I endured my fair share of bullying as a kid (ask me to throw from the three-point line and just watch as I perform a clowning routine that would make Barnum and Bailey proud). And I look at my small son, and I wonder what advice I could give him if he ever gets targeted? What will I say?
There’s the old chestnut – “If you get bullied, stand up to him. Fight back once and he’ll leave you alone.” That’s great parent logic and as any kid knows, total junk. The truth is when the small kid faces down the playground bully the bully always wins. Kids are smart.
Now I won’t tell my son to run away. I won’t tell him to let the bully be a bully. But I also won’t put the responsibility all on him. Bullying is not a problem between kids. It’s an adult problem that we have to get involved in. We are our children’s protectors and role models. We have to intervene. As teachers and as parents. Whether our kids are being bullied or doing the bullying, we have to get involved. We have to let them know that they are not alone in it. That It Gets Better.
Obama’s getting involved, because he knows that our kids can’t just fly away.
So that’s one political issue we can all get behind, right? Whether you like the President’s insurance-this or hate his budget-that, we can all salute his effort to help our kids. I certainly do.
Even if I am totally jealous of his mad basketball skillz. The big jerk.