Many have asked how our daughter is. Whether the bullying has stopped? Whether she is okay.
And to that I say, it’s complicated.
The short answer is, yes, the bullying has stopped. After further incidents where Thea once again was targeted, was hurt both physically and emotionally, the girl who continued to seek her out was removed from her classroom and so it stopped. They don’t see each other and so there has been no room for any kind of incidents to happen.
The long answer though is different. Sure, Thea is no longer in an active bullying situation but as any parent of a child who has experienced trauma will tell you, it is not over.
Her foundational belief that school is safe for her is gone.
Her belief that adults can keep her safe is being rebuilt.
Her positive attitude toward school and what it entails to be a student is often missing.
Instead, we are left with a child who sometimes still asks to not go to school and wonders what will happen if…
What will happen if they target me again?
What will happen if they hit me?
What will happen if no one likes me?
What will happen if my teacher doesn’t believe me?
And whenever we need to, we remind her that we are here to help. That her teachers are there to help. That we have a plan. That we have a system in place.
And yet, telling a child that you have a plan who has already witnessed that plan failing to protect them seems cruel at times and laughable at others.
And yet she goes to school. She laughs with her friends. She smiles about boys (where did that come from?), she tells me of her interest in Rosa Parks and how one day she hopes to be as brave as her. She shares the good, the trivial, and sometimes the bad. We speak of before and after, having found a new time marker in our life that we never wanted. We speak of next year and wonder whether 3rd grade was just a year to forget and that next year certainly must be better.
Her father and I wonder what the long-term changes will be. Will she continue to distrust school? Will she continue to reach fight, flight, or freeze much faster than her siblings? Will she continue to wonder when someone says or does something unkind to her whether they will repeat it and a new bullying situation will happen?
I wish I could say that it’s over and that she is fine.
There are days I believe it but then there are days where we see the pain from it all rear its ugly head again and we are left to pick up the pieces of a kid who so much wants to love school, to be successful, to be liked. But who just doesn’t know if it will happen.
So all I can say, to those who have wondered. It’s better, we believe that, but we still have a long way to go. And our daughter? She continues to amaze us because that is all she ever has been; amazing. And tough. And kind. No child should have to experience bullying, what can we do to stop it?