Every day I read the news with a mixed bag of emotions; disgust, anger, sadness, empathy, heartbreak but it’s always tempered with a “Oh well, that’s what the world is like” kind of feeling. I move on, we all move on. We forget and we wait for the next big headline. The next tragic event. This morning I was stopped cold by a headline and I simply can’t move on. The headline read:
Bullied Boy Took his Own Life
Immediately from the headline I know it’s not a teen, the usual demographic for suicide due to bullying. I read further and sure enough he was eleven. Chills ran up my spine. ELEVEN. I just can’t get that number out of my head. What terrible place must this child have been in to think that taking his own life was better than growing up? How does an eleven year old even have these thoughts? It’s incomprehensible.
Reading his story you learn that he lost his mother at 8 and he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 9. Enough misery had been passed to this little boy to last him a lifetime, but no, some little jerk decided he’d add a little more. A 12-year-old bully, which at only one tender year older than the victim is also hard to imagine. And therein lies the next question. How does a 12-year-old boy lack empathy for a clearly disabled child?
Well, let me be the first to stand up and say his parents. That’s right. His parents are responsible. You can blame society all you want but ultimately parents are accountable for raising their children with empathy and compassion for others. This story should have ended after the 12 year old boy was arrested. If his parents had been doing their job they would have been at that young boy’s doorstep apologizing. Then they would have made their son make up for his behaviour by a) returning the iPhone he stole b) apologizing for his behaviour and c) watching his every move to ensure he didn’t do it again. But no. That’s not what happened. The bully continued to bully and even got his friends involved (more sorry parenting).
I think we’re going about this bullying thing all wrong frankly. Someone is raising these kids after all. Shouldn’t they be called to the mat for this? I’m not kidding. If either one of my children, heaven forbid, ever did anything like that, you can be damn sure that I’d be going above and beyond what I listed above. I’d be mortified. How as a parent do you shrug your shoulders and not make this right? How as a society are we not looking beyond the bully and tapping the parents on the shoulder and saying “Excuse me, are you going to do something about this?”
This last year my daughter was subjected to some bullying on the school bus by a young boy who called her a “fat fucking pig”. He’s nine. His brother repeated the sentiment on another occasion. He’s eight. I let that slide because my daughter begged me not to make it worse. Now more than ever, I realize the mistake I made there. That will never happen again. I’m going to tell you when your kids are being jerks and I hope you’ll tell me when mine are.
It may take a village to raise a child, but ultimately the whole village isn’t living in your house. Do your job.
It is typical for my daughters to come in the house after school and dump their belongings smack dab in the middle of the front entrance and then scatter with shouts of “I’m hungry” or “I need to use the washroom”. Despite the fact that I flat out refuse to pick their things up anymore, the idea of doing it immediately when they come is toxic to them. In fact, today I saw exactly what lengths my one daughter will go to, to avoid putting an item where it belongs.
First I asked her twice to hang her school and lunch bags up. Then on our way out the door for gymnastics, I noticed her sweater lying in the middle of the floor. “Come back in please and hang that up”, I say.
”Oh, I was going to wear that", she says matter of factly, and then picks it up and takes it to the van with her, where it is promptly dropped on the floor of the van. Apparently, “wearing it” is code for “moving it”. I thinking she’s hoping that I’ll be tripped up by this shell game. Ok, I think I’ll play along.
When we get to gymnastics, I ask, “I thought you were going to wear that sweater”.
“Ummm, mom it’s way too hot in there” with a look that says “Why would you ask such a stupid question?” When we get home, she flies out of the car leaving the sweater behind. I wait until we get inside to remind her that she has to go get it and hang it up. This elicits large, over-emphasized sighs. Does she now walk in and hang the sweater up? Has she finally had enough hassle over this stupid thing to just get it done? Nope, she walks in and hangs it on the chair in the dining room.
Good grief!! What is this child’s issue with hanging clothes up? Is she allergic? Does she break out into hives? Is it physically painful for her? Or is it more sinister than that? Does she see the wrinkles she’s giving me? Does she enjoy seeing my right eye twitch? Is she planning slow-death-by-aggravation for me?
“Morgan. Get. Back. Here.” I say through clenched teeth. “Please hang this sweater up before I lose my temper.”
“Sheesh mom, what’s the big deal?”
The vein at my temple begins to pulse. I feel a tirade coming on. An indignant explosion of “Do you know what I do around here?” followed closely by “Do you know there are little girls who would love to have a sweater like that and a place to hang it up?!” but I refrain. Very calmly, with just a hint of “mommy dearest” thrown in, I tell her that if it’s not hung up I will take it to the Salvation Army tomorrow. The sweater finally, FINALLY, gets hung up.
Hours later, I go into her room to tuck her in. I brush her hair back and kiss her softly and think what a great kid I have. I then go to close her closet door and notice the sweater in a crumpled heap on the floor, where it had fallen off the hanger. Maybe it’s not my daughter out to get me after all but the sweater.
Ten years ago, after I was married and before I was pregnant with my first child, I sat in an office at the bank I worked at receiving my performance appraisal. These appraisals, as many know, are similar to the report cards of today. They are cookie cutter, fill in the blank appraisals, where the writer is given a list of politically correct words to choose from to describe the employee. So I sat and listened to three things I do really well, and three things I need to improve on. I answered as best I could how I was going to improve, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Then my boss read the final question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Without hesitation, I responded, “Not here”. My boss was a little taken aback, after all I had not given the typical “in your chair” answer where we would then exchange a good laugh and map my career path for the next decade. No, I’d pretty much said I had no future with this company. “Where do you see yourself then?” I looked him dead in the eye and said, “At home, raising my children”. I was as certain of this as I was of my own existence. There was just no other future I could envision or even want. When I finally did walk out of that office a little over a year later on my maternity leave, I vowed that was it. Work in the future was going to mean something to me.
Five years later I was doing exactly what I said I would be doing. I was at home raising my children. Which, by the way, I totally loved. I don’t regret one minute of the time I took to spend with them. For me, staying at home with my kids was like a calling, just like some feel the call of medicine or law. I told myself and my husband that when my youngest was in school full time, I would go find inspiration and an income. My plans didn’t entirely go according to plan when the idea for Best Tools for Schools came along and I started working a year ahead of my timeline. And that’s about the time when life started to snowball.
Inspiration has been coming at me for three solid years now, unfortunately it’s not quite hand in hand with the income yet.* Best Tools for Schools has been incredible and is an ongoing labour of love. It also led me to social media which brought me to writing at the Yummy Mummy Club, which also led me to the United Way, which brought my passion for philanthropy and volunteering to the forefront. Then I’ve recently started writing travel blogs and want desperately to continue with that. I also started Life in Pleasantville to have my own little happy place on the internet. I can’t begin to count the incredible people I’ve come to call good friends and mentors along the way. Then there are a couple of other sticks in the fire to which I’m too afraid to mention, lest I jinx it. Don’t forget, I still try my damndest to be Martha Stewart-ish at home. So, all of this is to say, that the snowball is gaining speed and right about now the only parts of me visible are my arms and legs sticking out. It all seems so crazy and out of control and unfocused and sometimes it is. But here’s what it’s not.
It’s not that office job where I punched a time card and couldn’t wait to get out of there. It’s not sucking the life out of me. It’s not shooting for goals that aren’t mine and mapping out a future determined by a corporation. It’s not making me rich financially, but definitely making me richer. It’s not stability. It’s not “work” by its traditional definition. It’s not easy. It’s not for everyone.
I am living my life looking through a kaleidoscope where the picture changes daily, sometimes hourly. It's usually bright and vibrant and my focus changes all the time, but it keeps me inspired. So for all the things my "work" is not right now, it is joyful. And that's all that matters to me.
*Word of advice for all future women entrepreneurs. When they say most businesses don’t make a profit for five years, they mean it.