Safety in friendship

With Australia’s National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence occurring  this Friday 17 March and Harmony Day next Tuesday 21 March, it is timely to consider what we can do to ensure our schools and communities are safe places; places where everyone is included, diversity is appreciated, and others are treated with compassion and respect.

I recently wrote about the importance of teaching children strategies for making friends and getting along with others.  As for children in any class, these strategies would be very useful for Marnie and others in her class. Marnie, a girl who is abused at home and bullied at school, is a character I have been developing intermittently over the past few years in response to Charli’s flash fiction challenges at the Carrot Ranch. I haven’t written about her recently as the gaps widened and the inconsistencies grew and I felt I needed to give her more attention than time allowed.

You may wonder how I got here from the current flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story. But my mind will wander.

Sometimes, when children are having difficulty settling in and making friends at school, are being bullied, or are bullying, it is easier to point the finger, allocate blame, and attempt to place the responsibility for a solution on others. Firstly, I think we, as a society, need to realise that we share responsibility. Secondly, we need to be the type of person we want others to be: compassionate, kind, accepting, welcoming, respectful. Thirdly, we need to teach the attitudes and behaviours we wish to encourage and make it very clear what is and is not acceptable; including “Bullying.No Way!”

We are not always aware of the circumstances in which children are living or the situations to which they are exposed which may impact upon their ability to learn or to fit in. I wondered why Marnie might be abused at home. Although I knew her parents were abusive, I hadn’t before considered why they might be so. Charli’s honeymoon prompt led me to thinking about young teenage parents, who “had” to get married and take on the responsibility of caring for a child when they were hardly more than children themselves. I thought about broken dreams, lost opportunities, and definitely no honeymoon. Such was life for many in years not long ago.

Blaming is easy. Mending is more difficult. Safety and respect are essential. I’d love to know what you think.

Honeymoon dreams

Marnie sat on the bed, legs drawn up, chin pressed into her knees, hands over her ears. “Stop it! Stop it!” she screamed inside. Why was it always like this? Why couldn’t they just get over it? Or leave? She’d leave; if only she had somewhere to go. She quivered as the familiar scenario played out. Hurts and accusations unleashed: “Fault”. “Tricked”. “Honeymoon”. “Bastard”. Marnie knew: she was their bastard problem. He’d storm out. She’d sob into her wine on the couch. Quiet would reign, but briefly.  Marnie knew he’d be into her later, and she? She’d do nothing.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Remember to catch up with Karen Tyrrell who writes about empowerment in my interview on the readilearn blog this Friday.

38 thoughts on “Safety in friendship

  1. julespaige

    Abuse comes in many forms. Neglect being just one…I can relate to Marnie here because my parents often had fights into the wee hours. Though mostly just with words.
    Partly I think because of all of ‘their’ fighting – I vowed to not be like them. I think in all my married years my hubby and I might have had two or three loud arguments. Mostly though about things we could not control.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      How wonderful, Jules, that you could see that your parent’s negative behaviour was not a good role model, and that you were able to make the decision to change the situation for yourself and your own family. I did so with mine as well. If only more could step out of the cycle and break it too. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. dgkaye

    I can sadly identify with Marnie in some ways. Ironically, my younger sister’s name is Marnie. I write to share my stories hoping to share inspiration in overcoming and hoping that those who don’t know any better may learn. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m sorry to hear that you can identify with aspects of Marnie’s story. Sadly, it is all too true for all too many. Your books do provide that hope and inspiration for others. Helping others learn is a wonderful motivation. Thank you. Sharing isn’t always easy, but if it benefits others it is worthwhile. You never know how far those little ripples travel.

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  3. Hugh's Views and News

    This is a very powerful piece of writing in so few words, Norah. We walk past doors every day and very rarely do we know what goes on behind them. I’ve been hearing a lot about bullying recently, including a 13-year-old boy who was bullied because he was learning to street dance and a 17-year-old school girl who sadly took her own life after ‘coming out’ as gay to one of her school friends and then experiencing months of bullying, both physically and on her social media accounts. I’m so pleased to hear that many schools now teach children that bullying is unacceptable and will never be tolerated, but there is still so much to do especially when children see their own parents or other grown-ups bullying. I hope we hear a lot more about national days of action against bullying and violence.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing and for your support, Hugh. Those stories of bullying are very sad. It is terrible that some can be made to feel so badly about themselves that they believe life is not worth living. I think it all comes down to respect and acceptance, and empathy. We are different. Like the colours in the rainbow, it would not be as beautiful without the differences, it would be just a band of colour. How boring it would be if we were all the same. We do need to stamp out bullying – everywhere. Terrorism is bullying with weapons of mass destruction.

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    1. Norah Post author

      They don’t. But sadly many of them are only repeating what they learned in their own childhoods. We need a way of breaking the cycle of dysfunction and abuse.

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  4. Pingback: On the Honeymoon Trail « Carrot Ranch Communications

  5. Charli Mills

    Bullying is complex and you are right in that blame is not the answer. We all have a responsibility. And while your flash seems dark, it’s shedding light on the suffering that creates the complex dynamics of social bullying. Marnie shows the struggle and we better see the root of abuse. Interesting that this prompt made you think of her parents, giving you that discovery. Thank you for this post, too and it’s support of friendships over bullying.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Steven

    I really like how you have taken a bright, happy subject and in your fiction have turned it into something quite unexpected and dark. It is a great contrast and I think you have executed it really well.

    Based on my everyday experiences, I would generally agree that most are born to married parents these days, but not all. It certainly isn’t a “necessity” like it used to be and I think this is probably a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Steven. It doesn’t say much for my meliorism, does it, if I take something bright and happy and turn it into something dark? I couldn’t think of another way of fitting a honeymoon into an education post. I guess a teacher could get married and go on a honeymoon. I really wanted to include the song “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”. I remember a cartoon of it when I was child and we used to sing along with it by following the bouncing ball. I really liked it, but the bouncing ball was long before your time. And the song too! 🙂 And I couldn’t find a shareable version with the bouncing ball.

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  7. thecontentedcrafter

    Goodness you just described my childhood! Thankfully life gives us many opportunities to recover from such experiences. Even so, I also know there are many who do not recover and who perpetuate their childhood experiences for their children. There are always reasons why kids bully and are bullied and the answers lie in their homes. It is difficult for society to take a hand in any way other than offering love and acceptance to bully and victim and showing both their is another way. I remain grateful to those few adults (all teachers by the way) who took an interest in the mute, battered child that I once was. They are shining little lights that glowed briefly but who illuminated great possibilities. I chose the possibilities. I remain positive that the only way forward is to educate, mentor and monitor at risk parents. The one little community group in this city that offers that service from volunteers has just had their funding pulled by the government.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Charli Mills

      What a gift your shining lights gave to you and that you so beautifully share with others. I’m sorry to hear of the funding being pulled. We are seeing more of that in the US, too. But it’s those mentors who give us anchor, those people willing to reach out in kindness that will make a difference. Thank you for choosing possibilities! In doing so you give possibilities to others.

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    2. Norah Post author

      Oh, Pauline. Thank you for sharing. Hugs to that “mute, battered child”. I’m so pleased that you experienced those “shining little lights”, and that you grasped the possibilities, rather than accept what was as had to be. It is interesting that you and I both came from childhoods of being silenced (mine wasn’t quite like Marnie’s) and are passionate about improving the childhoods of others. I agree that the only way forward is to “educate, mentor and monitor at risk parents”. It’s what made me create (in my head at least) the early learning caravan. I am saddened to hear that the community group has lost its funding. Instead “they” put their money into more assessment-driven formal situations which do nothing to support children and encourage them to chase possibilities. I’m so happy we both get to chase possibilities together. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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  8. Colline

    Hopefully there are less girls now who feel that have to get married when they fall pregnant. There are many options available for girls now – and being an unmarried mother doesn’t have the stigma that it used to have.

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. Annecdotist

    Another delightful ramble through your thoughts, Norah. I think we do have to take a look at what the bullies are struggling with in order to eradicate it, and I like how you build that into Marnie’s developing story. And how fact that Australia has an anti-bullying day (I don’t think we do).

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. I tried to make it a shorter ramble this week. 🙂
      It is great that we have an anti-bullying day, but I think we need to be constantly working on those socio-emotional skills, both in and out of schools, all the time. I know you agree. 🙂

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  10. robbiesinspiration

    A very thought provoking post. I know a number of children who are born out of wedlock and it certainly doesn’t seem to have the same stigma it had before but these were planned children who were wanted and loved by both parents despite their not being married. It is different when the child is an accident and unwanted – very sad.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Yes, although times have changed, sadly there are still too many children who are unwanted, considered a burden, and treated badly. I wish our Children’s Services didn’t need to deal with so many.

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  11. TanGental

    thoughtful post; my grandfather was illegitimate and apparently never really got over the stigma. I’ve been wondering how that manifested itself from the little I know of his life; one thing is he became a tailor like his father (his father and aunt brought him up) but at 18 left home to set up his own business 100 miles away. The cruelties this caused, golly. Better times yet we still have stigmas we put on our children.

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      It’s interesting to hear about your grandfather, Geoff. Thanks for sharing. Of course, there are many different ways of responding to similar circumstances. We can’t say all will respond in the same way, but it helped me discover a possible reason for Marnie’s situation. It would be interesting to know how different it was in your grandfather’s time. Even when I was young it was frowned upon to have children “out of wedlock”. Now there’s not much wedlock! Changing times yes, but we always find new labels and stigmas to cause pain.

      Liked by 2 people

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  12. karenwrites19

    Hi Norah,
    Thanks for your very kind mention of my author spotlight on Bully prevention on Friday.
    Can’t wait !! … Karen tyrrell 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

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