Alfonso was his name. I think about him often, and if I remembered his last name, I might even reach out to him now to apologize. We were in middle school together and we shared some of the same classes. I was trying to be funny and thought if I called him “Egghead” it would put me in the popular group. What I should have realized is that calling him names and bullying him would make him feel downright miserable.
You see, I should’ve known how it would make Alfonso feel because I was bullied myself. I was called “Football Head” all throughout elementary school and on to middle school. As I would walk to and from school, the bus would drive by and the kids on the bus would shout out the window to me, “Hey Football Head!” While it may seem funny now, I can tell you that it wasn’t funny at all back then. I was so miserable that there were many days that I just didn’t want to go to school.
Looking back, I don’t really remember if I told my parents that everyone called me Football Head. I don’t know if “bullying” was really a term in the 80s, or if there was really anything they could have done. So, I just lived with it until the end of middle school when it just kind of stopped on its own.
I’m not sure why I thought it was okay to make Alfonso feel as bad as I did. I wish I could have realized my mistake back in middle school and apologize to him then. So, here I am, way too many years late, apologizing to you, Alfonso. I am really sorry from the bottom of my heart for bullying you and making you feel awful. I hope you were able to move past the insults and know that you were better than that.
Fast forward to now. I have two elementary school kids and I am now on the other side worrying about bullying and name-calling. The school has a great program in place to protect kids against bullying, but there’s only so much they can do. How much of the bullying happens on the playground or in the classroom when the teachers are busy with other things?
What if my kids are called names? Or worse yet, what if THEY are the name-callers?
My middle son has a lisp and is also extremely sensitive. If someone is calling him names, would I even know? When he tells me that he doesn’t want to go to school (which happens more often than not), I worry that maybe he’s being bullied like I was in elementary school.
I often have conversations with my kids about bullying and how important it is to be friendly to others. I ask them if they see others that are being bullied on the playground or in the classroom. I don’t think they really get the concept fully yet.
For now, I will do my best to teach my kids not to be bullies. And hopefully they know that they can always tell me if they’ve been bullied or if someone they know has.
And maybe today, I’ll tell them my story.