I’ll never forget the words or more so the guilt.
“Bonnie Sue’s germs no returns,” yelled a snotty-nosed kid slapping me on the arm. Seemingly every eye on the playground stared disgustingly at me.
Ooooo, you have Bonnie Sue’s germs. Yuck! Look, she has Bonnie Sue’s germs.
I can still remember the look on Bonnie’s face. A beat down despondent young girl in a tattered blue dress with white polkadots. She watched as the other’s taunted me to indulge in their game.
As the jeering of the popular kids increased, I couldn’t be the one left with Bonnie’s germs. I needed freedom from the heat and pressure of being linked with Bonnie, so I joined the chase—running down the next unaware kid on the playground and relinquishing the unwanted germs.
Today, I think what a horrible experience going to school must have been for Bonnie. For me, I wasn’t a popular kid, but neither was I considered one of Bonnie’s club. As the middle child of a large working-class family, I remember the days of hand-me-down clothing, the lack of money for school clothes, and the pain of kids ridiculing my lack of fashion sense; but never did I feel the humiliation of Bonnie.
Often I wonder what happened to Bonnie. She moved and I stayed. As I still live in the town of my growing-up, I pass the playground where this torturous event took place. I’m reminded that even a good kid like myself can turn into a bully. What I wouldn’t do to go back and make up for my dreadful lack of courage and character that day.
People say schools are different now and I agree. But what I know to be the same is our ability to fall victim to peer pressure and to sacrifice our morals for the sake of fitting in. One in four children report being bullied or cyberbullied according to an April 2015 report by the Department of Education. As parents, we can’t assume that our child will never engage in name-calling or maligning another child’s character. We must understand that children want to fit in and it may be at the expense of another child’s pain. Empower your children with a plan to deny peer pressure. Give them words to say and actions to take when confronted with the uncomfortable position of choosing to fit in or stand up. Bullying doesn’t have to win. We can be a part of the solution to overcoming this epidemic.