The Power of a Bully Comes From Suffering in Silence.
Before Dylan went to private school, he was bullied mercilessly by a classmate. We’ll call the bully “Andy.”
Andy and Dylan had gone to kindergarten together, and even had playdates when they were younger. Dylan went into the GT program for two years and the boys lost touch. Then, for whatever reason, Andy decided to unleash his wrath on Dylan on the very first day of middle school.
Dylan didn’t tell me until months – maybe years – later.
Andy knocked Dylan’s books out of his hands, or punched him in the stomach – hard – whenever he saw Dylan in the hallway. Andy tried to slam Dylan’s head into his locker – but Dylan pulled the pin on the locker, causing the metal to slam backwards and hit Andy in the head instead.
I thought this was brilliant.
“I saw Andy doing it to other kids,” Dylan told me later, “so I figured out how to make it backfire when he tried it with me.”
We never reported these things to the school or to Andy’s parents because Dylan begged me to stay quiet.
Later I learned that Andy had been in plenty of trouble without any reporting from Dylan. So I figured it was fine that we’d kept quiet, although I felt odd seeing Andy’s parents around town and saying nothing.
Then I ran into Andy’s mom this summer, and we started talking about middle school.
She told me, “The people at the school were driving me crazy. They were calling me at work all the time! They called me because Andy threw gum at somebody. C’mon! You’re going to call me at work because Andy threw gum?”
I almost said nothing.
Then she said, “If you’re going to call me at work, at least call me for something that’s actually dangerous.”
Dangerous, I thought.
“Well, Andy slammed Dylan’s head in a locker,” I said. “And he knocked Dylan’s books out of his hands, and punched him in the stomach a few times.”
Andy’s mom didn’t even blink at these accusations. “Well, I didn’t even know about that!” she said.
“I didn’t either,” I said. “I didn’t find out about it until way later.”
And we kept right on talking, like moms sometimes do, as if nothing had ever happened.
But a great burden had been lifted from me.
Andy’s mom never apologized for her son’s behavior. In fact, I don’t think it even registered. She has no idea that her son was the class bully, that he abused so many kids.
She’s in complete denial – and I probably would be, too.
Dylan had a run-in with Andy after he went to private school. He tried to intimidate Dylan and Dylan just laughed.
“He’s just embarrassing himself,” Dylan told me later. “And that’s just how it’s going to be from now on.”
I’m not sure Dylan realized that Andy’s power had diminished not because Andy is less powerful, but because Dylan now has the power he needs to ignore Andy.
So I’m not worried about Dylan’s future, and I can face the past with a clearer conscience.
The power of a bully comes from suffering in silence. And Dylan’s bullying is not a secret anymore.
At least I told her, I think.
Whether or not she ever knows.