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Published November 07, 2010, 12:00 AM

Suicide stirs memories of youth, fear of future

If there’s anything that scares me about parenting, it’s stories like the one this past week in which a 16-year-old Cooperstown, N.D., girl committed suicide in what appeared to be the result of bullying.

By: Mary Jo Hotzler, INFORUM

If there’s anything that scares me about parenting, it’s stories like the one this past week in which a 16-year-old Cooperstown, N.D., girl committed suicide in what appeared to be the result of bullying.

It’s a sad story, and one you’d expect to hear about happening somewhere else.

I can only imagine how heartbreaking it would be to watch my own two boys (7-month-old twins) get bullied. And yet, as I told my husband Friday morning, I hope we raise them to be kind enough people that they’re never the ones doing the bullying, either.

As a parent, which is worse?

I hate to admit it, but I’ve actually been on both sides of bullying, although it wasn’t called that when I was in school. Back then, bullies were the kids who beat people up.

I never did anything like that, but in fifth and sixth grade, I was most definitely a mean girl. I placed a high value on popularity and remember being horrible to a few different girls.

By seventh grade, I started to come around and began to dislike the social structure I once embraced. I hated the idea of having to worship the Junior High Queen Bee. So I wrote a note to my best friend and told her that I thought she had become a follower and that these other girls weren’t all that great.

And so the drama began.

In an instant, my friend and her girl posse turned on me and made the last half of the school year hell.

A couple of them started calling me “forehead” – an odd thing to tease someone about, especially since my forehead isn’t all that big. I can laugh about it today, but those comments hurt at the time, and I’m insecure about my forehead to this day. It’s why you’ll never see my hair pulled back without bangs.

There were other things, too, but I’m not looking for a pity party. Because for me, everything turned out OK. I somehow had enough self-confidence to rise above the situation. I also had a few other good friends who stood by me, and together we became our own strong unit.

The bullying fizzled over time and by high school, my former best friend and I had reconciled. Would you believe we’re still good friends today?

Not every story has a happy ending, though. And today’s world makes bullying even harder to cope with. We didn’t have cell phones or Facebook pages. I can’t imagine what will be out there when my boys are in that world.

You can control (or try to control) a lot of things when it comes to your kids, but not something like bullying. Many parents might not even know their kids are being bullied. Or, maybe they don’t realize that their kids are the ones doing the harm. After all, every parent would like to think they’ve taught their children better.

The best we can do is be aware, talk openly with our kids, and teach them early that they’re valuable and loved. I’m not suggesting that didn’t happen with the Cooperstown girl. I don’t know her circumstance, and, frankly, it doesn’t matter. It’s a tragedy, plain and simple. Hopefully we can learn from it.


Mary Jo’s blog “Minivan Moments” can be found at http://www.minivanmom.areavoices.com

Readers can reach Forum Deputy Editor Mary Jo Hotzler at (701) 241-5531

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