Bullying and “Blubber”

At the age of four, my favorite pastime became reading. My mom said I went straight from the Berenstain Bears to Sherlock Holmes with few stops in between. Now that I’m a mother, I’m revisiting some of my favorite childhood authors.

This past week I checked out an audio version of Blubber by Judy Blume. I didn’t remember the story, so I previewed—or pre-listened—to it before I played it for my second-grader. The story is quite powerful. In an interview at the end of the presentation, author Judy Blume shares that she wrote the story because of what her fifth-grade-aged daughter observed in her own classroom: Fifth through ninth grade can be brutal. I’ve heard middle school described as cannibalistic. Based on my own experiences as a youth, I’d agree.

Many times while listening to Blubber my mouth hung open. I wanted to smack the adults. Their lack of supervision and connection to the kids around them allowed peer torture. Sadly, the story depicts real life in too many cases. Just the other day, a middle-schooler told me of her own torment. Where are the advocates for these children? As mothers we have to be proactive. Author Judy Blume suggests talking to the classroom teacher, the school counselor, and the principal. Yet that too often results in nothing.

If your experience is anything like mine a few years ago when my own child experienced bullying, don’t give up hope. Pray for God to intervene. Several children were bullied on the playground, so we mothers banded together. When the principal refused to act on behalf of our children, we went as a group to recess. There we witnessed the same children torturing another child. We turned them into the office. Even though the principal was angry with us for “interfering,” and he told the parents of the accused they did nothing wrong, the truth eventually came out. The playground monitors became more aware of what was happening to their students, and the parents of all the children involved became more involved in the situation. As we discovered, most bullies aren’t bad kids, they just need guidance.

Blubber does have a few words I found objectionable, but it offers a great platform upon which to build a discussion. Kids can often identify with one of the characters and the story presents powerful issues which can be discussed in an open manner. I’m praying about when to listen to it with my daughter and that it will prepare her for what’s to come.

I know the above is geared toward children in elementary school. In my own case, my parents changed my school in middle school to get me out of a terrible environment—thanks again, Mom and Dad!

So, what are some other ways you moms have helped your children during this tough time? I’d love to hear more advice so I can help my young friend in the midst of bully torture.

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