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It’s all fun and games

Leisa Prowd was one of six emerging writers who showcased their work at the Write-ability Salon at EWF on Sunday 1 June, 2014.

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!

I don’t ever want anyone to think I was all sweetness and nice growing up. The mindfulness that is now mine in adulthood did not always exist and sometimes, despite parental guidance and encouragement, I too engaged in the teasing and ridicule of other children who were deemed different…or who may not have been as clean as me, or those my peers saw as weird, or strange or annoying…or…worthy of being picked on just because…

Why do children do that? How do they start doing that? Why do they follow a pack mentality? Why do they engage in such behaviour even though their parents may model and encourage acceptance and love? I don’t know.

I can cast my mind back and see it all happening but I cannot understand the mindset. I remember a little girl called X who was part of a friendship circle we were in. All was well and fine until one day…we decided it wasn’t. No rhyme, no reason. We decided to let her know that we hated her by writing her a note telling her she was as yucky and smelly and ugly as cow poo – complete with pictures. I remember contributing to that note by drawing the pictures with such glee! No thought to the potential consequences of such a note – just the pure enjoyment of writing such venom. I believe the average age of the girls in our group was ten. It was all fun and games until someone got hurt.

I don’t remember who delivered the terrible note…but I do remember that sweet little girls face crumple with grief and the way she sobbed and sobbed and showed the teacher. I was mortified, ashamed, grief stricken. In my gleeful involvement I had not had the foresight to think of the consequences for this dear, sweet little girl; what it would feel like to be singled out and have your friendship group turn against you like that – with no warning! But I saw her face…and I knew…and I was ashamed.

The next morning we surrounded the girl of our own volition and told her how sorry we were. We asked forgiveness. I think there was an element of punishment avoidance behind our apology but I cannot forget how horrible I felt watching that little girl sob.

Obviously the teacher saw that there was a heartfelt resolution to the whole incident because she never got involved. I think she saw us all happily playing together and let us be. Even though I never forgot that incident it didn’t serve as enough of a lesson to stop me engaging in other forms of subtle bullying.

In Year 9 at High School (why is Year 9 such a feral year?) my best friend and I made up nicknames for other students and teachers – those who were different, others with mental illnesses or disabilities or those we just didn’t like and teachers with odd quirks. Blockhead, Spoon, Dude, Mr Jellylegs, Fräulein Lizardface. We never called them those names to their faces but I find myself wondering if they ever knew and sometimes I see their faces even now and wish I could turn back time and be less of a minion and more of an understanding individual.

Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that maybe the victim forgets these incidents, but logic says to me that if I, the bully, hasn’t forgotten, chances are the victim hasn’t either.

Time marches on and thankfully I left immature childhood behind. The faces of the past still flit through my mind sometimes and I remember them and send out good wishes to them in the hope that they are having a happy life. I’ve learned from incidents where I have been the target of bullying, rejection and cruelty – sometimes because of my dwarfism and sometimes for no reason at all.

Life has been kind and has offered me opportunities to meet with people from the past and make amends, developing genuine friendships as a result. Adulthood and maturity is a great leveller. One of the truths that I try and remember when faced with discrimination and hurtful comments directed towards me is that I too, am capable of such darkness and in this, I try and journey forward with a clearer understanding of what it is like on both sides of the fence.

© Leisa Prowd 2014

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