I’m lucky that I have parents who have always loved and supported the special little flower that is me. But having parents who encourage your uniqueness makes it hard to immediately fit in in the public school system.
When I was in kindergarten, I was bullied on the bus by a group of girls who were all friends from preschool. They made fun of me and made me feel terrible. That these girls would go on to be the nicest girls in my graduating class was irrelevant to my five year old self.
Was this the path to a lifetime of victimhood? No. I’m fine. I was a weird little kid and I befriended another weird little kid on the bus and that was the end of it. Having those normal little girls make fun of my big hats and peculiar outfits certainly didn’t cripple me for life; it made me appreciate my individuality.
After kindergarten, I was redistricted to a public arts and foreign language school where I was obviously the shit, so I left those bland six year olds behind to find the footlights of elementary school theater. Throughout my life, there were plenty of kids who made fun of me for one oddity or another. Being teased is part of growing up.
The anti-bullying movement is out of control. It would be great if no kid was ever harassed in school, but how would they know what to do when faced with bullying as an adult? The tyrants become fewer and more subtle, but the world is full of grownups who want to use their power to push around the people beneath them. Growing a little backbone in middle or high school is how we learn to navigate these situations as adults.
There are extreme situations where children are being tormented. It is not fair to compare the girl getting teased for her unibrow to the gay kid getting the shit kicked out of him behind the gym. No one should be afraid for his or her safety anywhere, including at school and online. But we don’t all go to school in single occupancy boxes because interaction is a key ingredient in a well-rounded childhood. Learning how to deal with different personalities and backgrounds makes you a more hirable and interesting adult.
There should be more focus on building self-esteem, rather than validating everyone’s victimhood. In my family, we have a saying based on the movie, Sordid Lives, “Get off the cross, we need the wood.” Victims and martyrs are boring. Teaching kids to be bigger people than the idiosyncrasies they’re teased for is the real end to the bullying epidemic.