On our way home from Springfield today, Tom turned on Howard Stern on Sirius and they were doing a Best of 2011 interviews. One that I happened to catch was Lady Gaga's. I'd heard about the interview and, while I'm not a big fan of the music, I'd heard it was a great interview and that she'd done an amazing live performance while on the show. I'm not really up on a lot of pop culture stuff (mostly because it irritates me that stupid people become famous for being stupid) but it's hard not to hear about her and her outrageous clothes and also how she's a big supporter of human rights. After hearing her interview today, I have to say, I have a new found respect for her. But one of the things that really stood out to me were her comments on the inspiration for one of her songs. She was talking about bullying and how kids are often afraid to be themselves for fear of their parents rejecting them.
As a teacher, and just as a member of our society, it's hard not to be aware of all the bullying that goes on today. On the one hand I think to myself that bullying has always occurred and kids survived it then, but then on the other hand, I think there are so many new ways for kids to "stand out" and also so many new ways to be bullied that didn't exist when I was in school and for sure not when our parents or grandparents were in school. In the past, the bullying may have occurred in school, but probably didn't extend much past that. Now there's email, phone calls, texting, Facebook, etc. The number of ways for kids to be bullied is incredible and I try to be aware of it in my classroom because it kills me to think that some kid would think of causing harm to himself, or others in the cases of so many school shootings, because I didn't step in and do something about it. But the bullying at school is only a part of it.
What I have an even harder time comprehending is kids being bullied at home by their parents. Maybe bullied isn't quite the right word, but I think it's pretty accurate when it concerns parents who don't accept their own child for who they are, or even who they think they are. Childhood and adolescence are supposed to be about discovering your likes, dislikes, quirks, friends, making mistakes and learning from them, and finding out who you want to be, what you believe in, and how you want to start living your life, whether it's how you end up doing it or not.
From the time that Tom and I started contemplating children, we talked about things we would let go and things we would take a stand on. If our child wanted to dye their hair blue, so be it; it will grow out or they'll change their mind, or they won't and oh well. If they get a D or an F in a class, guess what, they're going to work their ass off to improve. If it's a C and we know they're trying their hardest, that's another story. We knew all along we would choose our battles carefully knowing full well that we wanted our child (or children) to be able to be themselves with our support and love. I absolutely cannot imagine Tera coming to me someday and telling me something that would make me not love her and the thought of it makes me sick that kids are out there experiencing that very thing. I also know there is a responsibility as a parent to make sure that if I encourage my child to be an individual, that I also make sure they know they will always be loved at home and that I will help to instill the confidence and self-esteem that will help them through any rough patches along the way.
This all comes on the heels of another source of inspiration for me: a story about the adoption of kids and babies with DS from other countries, specifically the Ukraine. http://abcnews.go.com/International/hidden-angels-american-families-saving-children-syndrome/story?id=15234109
If you don't read through the whole thing (it is long) there is a part of the story that talks about a couple in the Ukraine who had a baby 6 weeks early and they visited her every day in the NICU for a month and then found out she had DS and signed her over and gave up their parental rights almost immediately. If you read through the article, you'll find out there are various reasons for people doing this more in certain countries than others, but I still sat in amazement at the fact that these people could love their daughter enough to visit her everyday for a month, but as soon as they find out she has DS, they don't acknowledge her anymore. And when I mention this to Tom he likens it to when parents disown their children when they find out they're gay. You mean to tell me that you can spend more than a decade, or sometimes two or three, loving your child, a person you created, and then as soon as you find out they don't follow the same beliefs you do, you don't love them anymore?
I promised Tera on the day she was born, and on most days since, that she will never lack for love. I will also go to the ends of the earth to protect her from people who would harm her or make her question her worth. One look at that face, and how can I not?