Compassion...what's that again? I'll look up integrity, accountability, and responsibility while I'm at it.


My brain is full of upsetting thoughts. Between the young boy returned to Russia and the young woman who committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied I'm just shaking my head. At least the young Russian adoptee is alive, although I know some will argue that's not necessarily better, to which I can't agree. As sickening as the conduct of the adoptive family and the people responsible for placing him with them is, there's a chance this boy will get what would appear to be a third chance at stability although I agree that the odds are stacked against him.

What's gone on and is still going on with the case of the young woman who committed suicide is beyond imagination. When my son was pre-school and I was teaching him about bullying and meanness we discussed words and their impact. That when we are in school sometimes kids will be mean to other kids just because they wear glasses, or because they weigh more, or because of the colour of their skin. Maybe they'll make fun because of the person's name or the clothes that they wear. We discussed what to do when it happened, why not to do it, how it makes people feel. I relayed stories of meanness from my teen years, situations where I was the victim but also situations where I was the perpetrator, caught up in a teen frenzy of thoughtlessness, competition, and peer pressure. In fact, I recall quite clearly the last time I was mean to a fellow student, and the vow I made to myself to never be that way again.

Twenty years ago we didn't include the internet for obvious reasons but eventually it became a regular, important part of the discussion. In fact we discuss it to this day, with my son not only in the role of student but also of teacher and confidant. We've both had our moments of unpleasantness online which was and is helpful in order to have someone to commiserate with, to remind us of who we "really" are. I remember a time when my son was not getting along with a friend in school and how it had spilled over onto MSN messenger, with the friend doing much of the maligning. My son showed me a scathing email he'd written in retaliation and I remember the resulting discussion, how it was very important that in defending himself he made sure to also protect himself, that anything written could be very damaging and used out of context, that although every word was justified, if they were presented alone it would be difficult to believe he'd been a victim.

Pretending that all this nastiness and cruelty doesn't exist, or if it does, would NEVER be something my perfect darling would be involved in is not helpful, in fact, it's culpable! I say this because if you're not discussing teenage cruelty and bullying with your kids and their responsibility when it happens (because it will happen) whether it be online or off, or both, you're likely contributing to it.

I don't know how the whole situation with this young girl who committed suicide will unfold, but I do know it will become more horrific, even though it's hard to believe that's even possible. She will be dragged through the mud, count on it, as will her family and the young people who harassed and bullied her and their families. It's already happening, people are doing just exactly what they claim to be speaking out against. What kind of an example does this set?

Can anyone honestly say that all involved had done all they should for these kids?

And now, it's too late.


  1. Campbell, I hear what you are saying and have one question. Do you believe that parents are truly responsible for everything their child does?

    Just curious.

  2. Hmmm...everything? No I guess not Lori but I think parents should take their role in their kids' lives very seriously and do all they can to be involved and help guide them. We're responsible for plenty.

    If parents were entirely responsible for everything their kids do, how would one explain kids who do overcome less than stellar childhoods and succeed at becoming basically good adults. How they do it is beyond me, but, they do it : )

  3. Campbell, a very timely post. Both of these stories make my blood boil and the one about the Russian boy makes me absolutley livid, for obvious reasons. This woman had so many other options, I just can't even imagine coming to the decision to stick him on a plane to Moscow. WTF??? I don't even know what to make of it, it's so absurd and unforgivable. She should go to jail for child abandonment/endangerment/neglect/abuse, something.

    I discuss bullying with my kids often (espcially the 10 and 12 year olds) b/c the cruelty is just rampant. And yes, I have seen it in my own kids, unfortunately. (One day I saw my 12 year old give a kid the finger for no apparent reason - I was appalled!) And there are those parents who find it impossible to believe their kids could possibly be capable of cruelty. In middle school, it's survival and its almost universal. I plan to do a post about this but a biggie at our house is the word "retard", again for obvious reasons. I absolutely loathe that word and don't understand why it hasn't gone the way of other offensive words, why it is still acceptable. And it is used without hesitation by kids and adults alike, with no thought to its implications. I even see it on blogs - either the word retard itself or references to "the short bus", etc used in a derogatory way and NO ONE EVER GETS CALLED ON IT!!!!!!

    OK, rant over! (:

  4. Campbell - since I was one of those kids that overcame a, well, less than stellar is a huge understatement, childhood, I can tell you this. Sometimes you have to realize that you, the child, really do make your own choices, no matter who raised you.

    I know, crappy parents buried in their mutual self-loathing, divorce and then spending 6.5 years in foster care dodging perverts and beatings. Along with spotty education and no work experience.

    I still have issues, but now I know what they are.

    It is a matter of will, desire to "live well" and the belief in self.

    As for responsibility by parents, yes, when they are children, under puberty, parents are responsible. After that, children pretty much make their own decisions and no matter what a parent wants, it is up to the child to decide to do the right thing or not.

  5. Kris, I know what you mean about that word. In fact, I've called people on it and I'm ashamed to admit have been called on it. I used it in a social online chat situation several years ago and even though I'd used it describing a situation rather than a person I seriously upset someone (such as yourself) and felt completely horrible. I knew better and deserved every bit of chastising I got.

  6. Yeah Lori, I agree that the early years are most important.

    It's why I wish people would do whatever it takes to be with their kids as much as they can in the preschool and preteen years.

    It's when they're learning what the right thing to do is.

  7. Both of these stories absolutely infuriate me! I just don't understand what was in the mind of the SW (and the adoptive single mother) to seek out the adoption of an older child from Russia. Anyone who has done even minute amounts of research on this program know it has a history of problems from bribes to falsified medical records. For any SW to think that a single mother (with another child already) would be able to properly care for a child of this age is insane! I think they should charge her with everything possible. Her ability to parent the other child should be reviewed as well.

    The story about the girl being bullied hits a very close to home for me. I suffered at the hands of a bully and her minions all through junior high. When I reported them, teachers would discipline them but it just came back on me ten fold. My reliefr came when I went to HS and never had to deal with them again. I did finally see the bully my senior year (we shared a class) but she had lost all her power, she was no longer top dog in a larger HS, the way she was in the small jr. high.

    I do believe that parents need to take some responsibility for their minor childrens' actions, including (especially) teenagers.

  8. Hey Cheryl, did you tell your parents about the bullying? Did anyone tell the bully's parents?

    It's a tough call letting anyone know that you're being bullied for the very reason that it can then come back at you ten fold.

    While talking about all this with a co-worker today we decided that it was important for our kids to be able to tell and trust we won't do anything if they don't want us to. So that at least we're aware that our kids is struggling and they can talk to us. You know, feel safe somewhere.

  9. I forgot to ask you! Would you be interested in participating, Cambell?? :) I'd love to have you of course!

  10. Ahh well thank you Amanda but I'm not so sure I'd have much to add that would be helpful, although I'd want to help you if you needed it.

    Don't forget, I'm Canadian, eh?

  11. Hi Campbell, I never told my mom until about 10 years ago, when I happened to see the girls father and it brought up the memories. My mom suspected something was going on but thought it was just a spat, because the bully was a neighbor and she would pretend to be friends with me and then have her "boy friends" do the bullying. My mom figured if it was something serious that I would tell her. The sad thing is none of my teachers or my sister who all knew the bullying was going on, said a thing either. I don't really remember why I never said anything other than I didn't want the bullying to get any worse. If my mom or dad had asked I probably would have told them, but as a child you just don't know how to start that conversation with your parents.

    In many ways I pity this girl, her parents got divorced about the time the bullying started and I really think it was her way of trying to gain control over a situation since she had none with her family.


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