5 Feb 2020

When Do You Call It Bullying?

I've thought long and hard before I wrote this post and it's something that has been going on for a while. I really don't want to cause any shade for any other parents involved and I know children are just still so little and I'm not playing the blame game. However I felt I needed to write incase another mother was feeling like I am now. It's a story of how my beautiful Bubba was bullied by her best friend at school

It Started Innocently...

My gorgeous Bubba is now 8 years old and most days I can't understand how that happened so fast. She's smart, funny and has the biggest heart possible. She thinks of others before herself and always has a nice thing to say about people (well maybe not her little brother always but that's sibling love isn't it!).

She has had a couple of friends over the years who she has grown with. There has always been the small disagreements and often Bubba bends first in the face of a grumble and that's how we've got to this point. For the last few years the relationship power struggle has intensified and Bubba has been slowly bullied into submission.

It started innocently enough with a 'you can't play with her' and lots of 'play my game or I'm telling the teacher on you'. I can't really remember an evening where Bub didn't walk home with me, clutching onto my hand and her little face touched by a frown. Telling me of the latest situation, I would tell her to ignore it, tell her that she needed to remove herself from the situation and generally rolling my eyes.

Never for one minute did I realise how much of her little soul this was eating into. She started to believe that she couldn't play with other children because it would anger her 'friend' and mostly because she was told no one liked her.

A Little More Than Just Drama...

What I thought was just playground drama was sucking all the life very slowly from my child. On being told that her school photo was ugly and that her parents were lying when they said they liked it (we did, it was a beautiful smiling child looking back at us). She became critical of her looks, refused to wear certain clothes and hated wearing her glasses.

Still I didn't identify it as gas lighting or real bullying, because that was premeditated and this was her best friend...but sadly it was both and had been happening for years. The one turning point came when the little girl in question stepped over the line of what was acceptable.

The image I see of my distressed child running across the playground at pick up time will haunt me. Her face crumpled and desperate to get to me, it makes me want to wrap her up even now and not let her out of my sight. She had been threatened with death from being thrown from a building and then if she wasn't dead she'd be found in the night and killed. That walk home was long and drawn out as this tumbled out between big gulping sobs.

I feel that although very distressing it was the defining moment that allowed us to see the extent of the problem. It also allowed us to get measures put in place so it didn't happen anymore.  That night with her finally asleep, I crumbled into pieces that I felt would never be put back together. We wrote a letter to the school and meetings were hastily put in place.

Getting Over Being Bullied

She had to confront her bully in a mediation session with a counsellor which I wish didn't need to happen. But she handled herself with poise and grace and told the truth. We then thought that was the end of it but it isn't. She is still in the same class with the girl, she still has to interact with her and she is still hassled to play with this child. Unfortunately the girl took no responsibility for the situation and doesn't understand why she can't play with our daughter.

Now that the dust has settled, Bubba is suffering from some after shock waves. She has anxiety where there was none before, she cannot sleep very well and wakes up mid panic. It's almost as if her body was holding it together for so long that now she is safe...her brain is letting it all go.  She is having sessions with the school counsellor on her own and it's helping. The panic attacks she has when a ripple of a sob works it's way through her body, the pained look in her eye when she can't control her breathing and the general mental anguish is so distressing. It's not what any of us hoped for with our 8 year olds.

I feel like I've let her down and not helped her see that this isn't what real friendship is. I can get very emotional thinking about it all and hoping her whole life won't be shaped by this experience. My heart aches every day hoping that the day is uneventful for her and I only feel calm once she is back with me. So if you are wondering of the signs of gaslighting (manipulation) then these are it.

  1. They tell blatant lies - Bubba was always scared to report anything in case they didn't believe her as the other child was a blatant lier
  2. They use what you care about as ammunition - She threatened to kill Bubba's rabbit
  3. They wear you down over time - To the point Bubba thought it was normal
  4. They tell others you are crazy - This child even told me that Bubba was 'weird' and we had a discussing as to why I know she wasn't. Now looking back I didn't see it as a sign!
  5. They project - Bubba is a good student but was made to feel she was stupid.
If you need any help please do talk to the school, your doctor or the other parents. Letting it fester doesn't help anyone and it very rarely goes away by itself.
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