South City Confessions: Advice for kids as school returns

Dear kids of varying ages, 

School is back. Like the grass that grows underneath your feet in the backyard, every summer ensures the eventual return of school. It’s a part of life and growth… or so I was told decades ago. But with every school yard, there lies another battle. If only the books were the primary antagonist in those buildings, August wouldn’t be despised so much. It’s the bullying that makes it all so hard. I know all about it.

Every school year for me involved stuttering, and I’m talking about all the way up to college. As a kid, I was relentlessly bullied and attacked on a daily basis. The group may have been smaller one day than the next, but every word and insult for something out of my control made a dent. My dad always admired my ability to deflect insults and not let it hurt me. He’s only half-right. It didn’t bounce off me. It hit me and knocked me down inside; my skill was not showing it.

Bullying needs to stop. It’s awful and every other lower word that your vocabulary entails at the moment. It’s poopy behavior. Verbal diarrhea. Something that lesser yet human beings nevertheless do in order to mask their own pain. We all feel pain, but it hits in different ways. As I got older, and bigger, the direct bullying lessened. They didn’t want to see the inside of a hospital, and I didn’t want to have to explain to my mom why she’s pulling a pair of teeth out of my hand. She was a nurse at Children’s Hospital for over 35 years.

However, the indirect bullying continued, especially in high school and college. If I stuttered, three out of four people would just burst into laughter. That right there… is indirect bullying. Sometimes, a good laugh can’t be blocked and it just comes out. But the tax of that exchange is that I felt it. I felt it for hours.

Over the years, I learned new ways to put myself back together faster. Make a joke about it, or just laugh with them for a few seconds. Or work out and just flex as I tried to speak–basically saying, go ahead and laugh, I dare you. I never took special classes for it or went to a speech coach to fix my stutter. I worked on it myself, eliminated it slowly over the years, and eventually left it by the side of the road. Yes, it can be like Loki and just show up endlessly, but it didn’t last.

Here’s the thing. You’re going to get blown up a lot before you learn how to protect yourself. Blown up emotionally, not like something Iron Man blew up. It’s part of growing up. Changing outfits, from kid to adult. Disappointment will bully its way into your world. It can’t be stopped. All you can do is learn how to put yourself back together better each time. Learn from the mistakes. Grab intel from the knockdowns. Take something away. Before you know it, getting blown up will feel like a wickedly thrilling type of school.

Yes, school can be thrilling… I think. Anyway, kick butt and take names this year. Understand the haters are just hurting human beings with camouflage on, and that the nonsense will stop one day. Pardon my other language, and don’t tell your parents you read this.

(Image Credit: Robert Kneschke/Shuttershock)

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