Emme is five-years-old.
She got glasses when she turned four.
It was the day she turned four.
No one realised before her four year health check that Emme could hardly see out of her left eye. So Emme, like thousands and thousands and thousands of other kids around her got glasses. It wasn’t just glasses for Emme but patching, daily for several hours at a time to correct the eye that forgot how to work.
It’s not a big deal is it? I mean look around you, everyone has glasses, children and adults, teenagers and the elderly. It’s so common place you don’t think twice about it.
Until your four-year-old comes home crying from pre-school, her glasses twisted and warped.
Four eyes they called her.
One of the kids stepped on her bright pink glasses.
They called her"four eyes". Image: iStock.
It could have been an accident. You have to think the best don’t you?
Another kid asked her what was “wrong” with her. Was she a pirate-head? Is that why she wore a patch?
Pirate-head. Four eyes. It’s easy to dismiss them as silly phrases but when they leave your child weeping they cut to the heart.
When I shared Emme’s story with friends, what happened stunned me.
Other stories, other tales of hurt and sorrow, of bullying and nastiness came out, some from people I’d known for years.
A six-year-old told she was “fat”.
A nine-year-old told she had no friends.
A 13-year-old girl tricked into believing she was popular and whispered about daily until the bullies broke her.
These were stories of survivors, stories of people who had been subjected to relentless bulling who had not just survived it but overcome it and how years later they wanted to reach out and help a sad little girl teased for her bright pink glasses.
"Other stories, other tales of hurt and sorrow, of bullying and nastiness came out, some from people I’d known for years." Image: iStock.
Here are their stories:
“They told me I was fat”
Anita is 29-years-old.
She’s pregnant with her first child and coming to terms with her changing body, something that’s harder than she thought as she finds it brings back memories of her childhood bullying.
“I was tiny,” she recalls. “So looking back, realistically I know that they were just being nasty, but it stuck deep.”
“It lasted for years.”
It was a group of girls at her primary school who began the bullying and didn’t let up until her teacher found her crying in the bathroom and she confessed that the girls had been telling she was “fat” since the start of term.
“Telling my teacher was the best thing I ever did,” she says.
“My bullying probably wasn’t as serious as some people endure but the day the teacher addressed it with the girls was the day it stopped.”
“I only wish I spoke up earlier”.
If there is one thing she could tell Emme it’s this, she says, “Call it out. Speak up. There are people to support you. Get them to address the bullies.”
She says it will leave Emme feeling cared about and the bullies knowing they’ve said the wrong thing.
“Call it out. Speak up. There are people to support you. Get them to address the bullies.” Image: iStock.
“No one likes you.”
When nine-year-old Andrea changed schools she knew she’d be lonely but she never expected to be the target of a group of girls and boys.
Her parents eventually noticed she had become withdrawn and was refusing to go to school and it all, as she says, “came spilling out.”
My parents helped me by not just speaking to the school about it but by actively helping me make friends.
She wants to tell Emme to remember how strong she can be, how confident and fun and kind she can be. She says that if Emme believes in herself the bullies words are meaningless.
“I feel like the memories have sort of been erased because of how hurtful it was.”
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A colleague, only in her 20’s remembers her personal torment.
“I was bullied by one particular girl in Year 7/8 who I'm convinced was a sociopath,” she says. “I remember her inviting me to the movies with a bunch of people, and then when I got there they all ran away and hid." She told me how she used to sit behind her in class and say the cruelest thing that only she could hear.
Eventually she too turned to her parents for help. She says that anyone subjected to bullying needs to remember they aren’t alone.
“Talk about it, because often the bully is victimising a bunch of other people too.”
It’s now been a year since Emme got her glasses. She still does daily patching but she is accepting of it and she’s now never seen without her bright pink glasses.
What helped her was knowing she wasn’t alone. She heard the tales of other people who’d been through a similar situation and she had the realisation that her glasses helped her.
They were her strength not a weakness.
How has your child overcome bullying?
The OPSM #IAM4EYES campaign is designed to redefine the 'Four Eyes' schoolyard taunt and give kids the confidence to wear their glasses with pride. Let’s flip the stigma attached to wearing glasses and use #IAM4EYES to celebrate an individual’s strengths, not the weakness usually associated with the taunt ‘four eyes’.