The Face of a Child
In the face of a child the joy of just being alive can be observed in all of its untarnished latency.
Children have little in the way of possessions, they don't own a house, and they don't have cars or luxury boats. They hold no currency, no stocks or bonds. They have never attended a prestigious university and they hold no advanced degree. In spite of their material and intellectual shortfalls, they are happy.
Their curiosity and zest for life allow them to enjoy even the smallest pleasure; one need only observe a child with an ice cream cone to understand. They walk with the energy and swagger of knowing that they are perfect just as they are.
They are perfect, until they are told they are not. Because children develop at different rates, a pee-wee baseball team may have children that are relatively large and physically developed alongside same age children that are small and undeveloped.
When the small child comes to the plate, he takes his cuts and sometimes strikes out or hits the ball a short distance. Still, he enjoys being on the team, wearing the uniform and all the while learning new skills.
However, his eagerness to keep trying is sometimes extinguished or diminished when teammates criticize. It is hard describe the look on a child's face that has been hurt in this way. The shoulders slump, the head falls forward, the child's eyes are averted not wanting to look at anyone. The child feels shamed, made to feel an outcast and would simply disappear if he could.
Most children survive these emotional insults and others like them. It is when criticisms become more frequent and intense that these events become bullying.
It has been my experience in working with bullied children that they are often robbed of the pure joy of being young, in perfect health and encountering so many first time experiences. In a word, they become sad.
If you speak with a bullied child she will tell you this first and you can see it in her deportment. She often concludes that something is wrong with her and she feels like she is the only person in the world that this is happening to. Some feel embarrassed that it is happening to them.
As the bullying continues, some children develop somatic complaints. They have frequent unexplained headaches or stomach aches often spending part of each day at the school nurses office. They also report feeling lonely.
The victims of bullying become untouchables because classmates that befriend them or support them may become victims by association. I met a little boy about five years ago in a group setting that told me his feelings and I have never forgotten his face or his words."Why do they all hate me, what have I done?"
Outwardly, I could not understand why his classmates shunned and taunted him. I wanted to tell him something to make him feel better. Later as I thought of him, I knew how inadequate and hollow my words were. I had told him to keep believing in himself no matter what, and others will come to believe in him, too.
Instead, I should have told him how wrong his classmates were in mistreating him. I should have sought out an adult who might have come to his aid. As adults, we can make a difference by not over looking bullying, whenever it happens.
Remember, all kids count.
Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net