by STEPHANIE OSFIELD
My family life has been shaken up like a snow dome throughout years of bullying. I mean seismic shudders. Gut wrenching. Infuriating. Crushing. And relentless.
Beyond the tears and fears, my kids have suffered migraines, nausea, insomnia, stress-triggered seizures (in my daughter who suffers nocturnal epilepsy) and terror of being harmed (triggered by food threats made against my other daughter, who is anaphylactic to peanut).
Studies show that bullying slam-dunks immunity. We lived this. It decimated the health of my daughters, now 11, until they escaped by getting into an OC class, free of those girls. Suddenly my twins enjoyed their best health in years. The change was miraculous. The bullies still continue to recruit people to exclude my girls. But now they get less daily access to engage in their other behaviours.
Sadly, last year we then went through it all again with my son. In his first year of high school his bullying involved physical assault after months of verbal denigration. Again, I was shocked. The shock has never been as much about the children’s behavior, (though downright awful), as it has been about the way that adults around them behave when it all comes to light.
Each new surge of bullying has picked our family up and dumped us. Down. Dashed on the rocks. Swept into our lives like a sudden, emotional tidal wave. Some days I have barely came up for air. Before the next dumper. Had to fake the smiles and calm while the afternoon butterflies were swarming in my stomach. Because for months on end, home time meant my kids arriving in tears or needing a de-brief about that day’s devastating incidents and humiliations.
Looking back? One of the biggest emotions I feel is guilt. Full on. Hardcore. Regret. That I didn’t do enough. Sure I was there – with the tissues, the cuddles and the pep talks. But I should have been a warrior woman – Boadicea and Buffy rolled into one.
This Friday is National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. In the lead-up I’ve been thinking about how I handled my children’s bullying. How I owe them a big apology. How bullying happens when adults don’t step up. And up. And up. I came forward only three or four times and it was disastrous.
One parent went kind of beserko. One school told me I should get my kids counselling asap because the bullying was having a devastating impact. They then did absolutely nothing. We were dismissed. A few rounds of battles and I was punch drunk. Couldn’t face any more. But I should have got right up and back in that ring.
To other parents, what I want to say is this – if you ever find yourself in that bullying frontline, don’t make these same mistakes that I did: