I am mad.
My little six-year-old sweetie, M, is being bullied every day at the local public school she attends with two of her older siblings. Oh, no-one is calling her names or threatening violence. And it isn’t that some big boy is demanding her lunch money. Instead, one cute little five-year-old redhead named Johanna* has claimed M as her ‘best friend’…and is badgering her with warnings of hellfire and damnation.
According to M, and her older sister B who has been subject to attacks from the same quarter, every day Johanna pleads with my girls to become Christians. In fact, she tells them with real fear in her eyes that they ‘have to’. M, a gal who knows her own mind, tells me that on numerous occasions she has pointed out that ‘everyone can make their own choices’ about these things, and that ‘people don’t have to all believe the same way’. This does not wash with young Johanna who just ramps up her pleadings until the bell rings and she droops herself off to class sobbing. I kid you not.
I don’t doubt poor Johanna is sincere – I’ve met her fundamentalist mother, Anne. Wearing different skins, women just like Anne played a starring role in every church I ever attended. Indeed, I could detect the powerful reek Anne’s legalistic zeal across the schoolyard before I ever heard her speak. I imagine she and her husband have impressed upon Johanna that her little school chums are hell-bound – especially, of course, those with divorced, apostate mothers like poor M. Thus, as we know, it is Johanna’s moral responsibility to ‘share Christ’ with my little ‘sinners’ and save them from a frightening fiery fate.
In common with other bullies, Johanna refuses to respect my daughters requests and so the unrelenting hectoring continues. I’ve encouraged my girls to hold their boundaries and use their ‘no’ assertively every single time Johanna plays this game. B, who is 11, feels the pressure on her is easing. But wee M is wearing down under the humiliation of having her requests ignored again and again and again. Now, M tells me she feels she should just give up trying as it is plain Johanna will never listen.
I feel so angry about this. Bullies are everywhere, I know that. M will encounter them again and again in her life: people who won’t take no for an answer, who respect no way but their own, who just keep on battering on her boundaries no matter how many times she insists they should stop. What makes me furious is that Johanna’s tactics are so effective. Bullies play with our heads. They trick us into believing that when a person who is protecting their own boundary has to raise their ‘no’ to an embarrassing volume in an effort to be heard, that it is they who are at fault. And more, that the victim should wear the guilty blame should the bully feel shitty about being shouted at. Horrifyingly, M is actually starting to believe that it is she who is behaving inappropriately. Ugh!
So…my girl has done her best – but it’s time I was lobbing in. I’m going to speak to the teacher and if I can’t get my girl a break, I’m going to the principal and demand this abuse stop. Hmmmm…I suspect this might not end well: our principal is something of a bully too.
Practicing my Immovable Force face.
* names have been changed to protect the dangerous and creepy