“Is the Birthday Party Invite Hit a real story?”, I was asked.
The story, Chapter 30 from the Secret Diary of Agent Spitback – is about how seven year old Ethan was publicly excluded from a birthday party. The invitation cards were handed out in the classroom, just before school started. The Birthday child then informed the whole class about who exactly was on his list and who was not, and in this case, the whole class of 28 children was invited but TWO. All the while, the Parents of the said child stood proudly as their child continued to hand out the invites one by one, to all but the two.
The story, minus some details, is unfortunately, very real.
“Why?” my child asked me in full high definition and surround sound, REAL life but I had no answer.
My heart was racing, my breathing quickened, and adrenaline was coursing through my vein – this was the first of the Mummy Tests I had been training for.
Being a Mum isn’t about how to change a diaper in 45 seconds on 23 types of surfaces, or how to read the same bedtime story for the last 23 nights without falling asleep or yawning, or being able to use the bathroom in front of two other small human beings, with one on your knee.
THIS was what made a Mother but …was I Mommy enough to handle this?
I had the correct physiological response- I wanted to scream, shake, or punch something but I had no real answer.
How could I not have an answer? I felt as helpless as the child cowering at the first punch.
I was a Mother, goddamnit, I went through three hours of labour (don’t hate me) and I squeezed so many children out of an incredible organ that could rival Mr Fantastic, I was
faster than a speeding toddler,
more powerful than a projectile vomit,
Able to leap over Legos in a single bound.
Look! There in the laundry room!
It’s a woman. It’s a man. It’s Super-Mom!
Super-Mom who real all the parenting books, all the expert articles, who googled and face booked but who still had no answer.
It was as if you were watching your child screaming for you during a nightmare and all you want desperately to do is to wake your child up.
You wake your child up, but now you’re both screaming because it is not a story and not a dream.
But this is an incident that repeats itself every day, in all parts of the world.
Did you know that a child is bullied every SEVEN minutes? (National Voices for Equality Education and Enlightenment)
The Birthday Party Invite Hit story is just one out of the 200 MILLION bullying stories that happen every year, according to the 2007 Kandersteg Declaration Against Bullying in Children and Youth.
But it’s just a Birthday Invite? How can that be bullying?
The Birthday Party Invite Hit is just ONE of many forms of Bullying!
Bullying can take many forms, of which we know the more well known versions of “physical” (punching, hitting), “verbal” (name calling) and “cyber bullying” but there is also the less overt form of indirect bullying which is even more difficult to detect as it is done “behind the person’s back”.
Indirect bullying is about exclusion, spreading rumours, and making up terrible stories, which makes up for 18% of all bullying cases. (www.bullyingstatistics.org) Did you know that girls are more likely to gang up and exclude another girl?
Come on, a birthday party invite, it’s such a small thing!
Is it really?
Do YOU remember the last time, a friend whom you thought you were close to, had organized a morning coffee and decided not to invite you? A family birthday party? A wedding? A playdate? A picnic?
Yes, of course, we all do…we have all been excluded at some point or another, that’s the reality of life and that’s fine but now imagine that invitation list is made public through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Big Mouth Matilda, the Town Crier – the person has gone out to make all effort to let you know that YOU are not invited to the Year’s most Amazing Wedding, party, playdate and picnic, and worse, made everyone else in your circle and on the list aware of that fact as well.
It is the same hurt, the same rejection, and the same questions that still burn and eat you up even though you are now 45 years old, can drive a car and can watch MA movies without flinching.
“Why? What’s wrong with me?” you will ask, whether at 7 or 45 years old.
The question all mothers do not want to have to answer.
Bullying damages a child’s ability to see herself in a positive light. (healthychildren.org : Healthy Children Magazine, Back to School 2008)
It acts like a slow eating acid, which erodes the most healthy self-esteem, and when sparked with the right situation, can implode the self esteem. Like the acid that burns, self doubt, sense of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness eats the person alive slowly.
Bullying, in whatever toxic form, is never a small thing.
The Consequences of Bullying : Let the Facts speak for themselves
• “In 2006, Megan Meier hanged herself three weeks before her 14th birthday after receiving cruel messages on MySpace. A mother of one of her friends had created a false MySpace account to send Megan harassing emails. The bullying mother was indicted on the incident but was acquitted.” Rosenthal, Beth. 2008. Bullying. New York, NY: Greenhaven Press.
• “Every day, 160,000 students skip school because they are afraid they will be bullied.” (Bullying Statistics / Cyber Bullying Statistics / School Bullying Statistics.” How to Stop Bullying. 2009. Accessed: May 21, 2011.) (http://facts.randomhistory.com/facts-about-bullying.html)
• “Suicide rates among 10 to 14-year-olds have grown more than 50 percent over the last three decades.” (The American Association of Suicidology, AAS) (http://www.nveee.org/statistics/)
• “In 1999, two students killed 13 people, injured 24 and then committed suicide in what is now known as the “Columbine massacre”. They were described as students who had been bullied.” Rosenthal, Beth. 2008. Bullying. New York, NY: Greenhaven Press.
• Of the 37 school shootings reviewed by the U.S. Secret Service, bullying was involved in 2/3 of the cases. Rosenthal, Beth. 2008. Bullying. New York, NY: Greenhaven Press.
• “Many adults who were bullying victims report that over time, feelings of unhappiness and shame decreased. However, those who remembered bullying as intensely painful continued to show low self-esteem, depression, pathological perfection, and greater neuroticism.” McDougall, Patricia. “What Happens over Time to Those Who Bully and Those Who Are Victimized?” Education.com. 2006-2011. Accessed: May 21, 2011. (http://facts.randomhistory.com/facts-about-bullying.html)
The consequences of bullying, direct or indirect, are real.
Then a cold fear hit me, what if there was no answer? What if having no answer to the “whys” was another consequence of bullying?
I did then what I thought would be best – lots of reassurance, small white lies and small treats but my child and I, we both knew that something had changed from that moment onwards. Something had been cruelly and ruthlessly taken and in its place, a question that had been planted, that was still waiting to be answered.
Mothering is a Social Responsibility
A couple of weeks later, a mysterious sealed white envelope with the childish scrawl of my child’s name on it arrived.
“No more birthday party drama please!” I sighed.
As I helped my child open the sealed envelope, my child whooped with excitement, “Mommy, Martin invited me to his birthday party!”.
A big knowing smile appeared on my face.
You see, this was not just an ordinary birthday invitation.
It was a special invitation from a friend of my older child’s whose Mother had heard what had happened and wanted to help make it up to my child. That little act of intended kindness made my child feel special – my child was valued enough to be invited to a big kid’s party!
My Mummy friend had done what I could not do, she had helped give back my child what my child had lost. She had been Mommy enough for both of us.
The answer I had been searching for, had been delivered right to my door step.
That is the real power we, Mothers have been craving for, the realisation that we have the ability to influence the children connected to your family. How you parent your child would inevitably affect the children in your child’s inner and outer circle. When you become a mother, you become not only responsible for your own child but other children whom you and your child come into contact with.
Any Mother can love their own child but it takes an extra special Mother to love another who is not her own.
The moment you have a little human being in your life (be it through work, adoption, fostering, birth, friendship, family), you will be bestowed with the greatest superpower of all – to extend a little kindness, to influence the next generation, to stop bullying, violence and pain, all possible through…
… the power to show intended love and kindness to a child who is not yours.
This child who may one day, in a time of extreme distress, think of violence as his own only way out. When he picks up the gun and points, he may remember the face of the person who once showed him a small act of kindness, the same person he knows who did not need to but did it anyway because he was worthy enough. When he remembers the contours of your smile, that may be just enough for him to put the gun down.
The answer had been in me all along, but it was meant for another child whom I may or may not have met yet, whose “why” question I have not heard yet, and for another situation when another woman would ask out loud in despair, “Am I Mommy enough?”
Before you go, this is a absolutely beautiful, touching and heart wrenching letter written by Catie : Diary of an Imperfect Mum on why she hates birthday parties, on when a birthday party is not just a birthday party.
When The Mulk tries to be funny, I become Agent Spitback writing life nonsense for my Secret Diary.
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