YA Wednesday: Heather Brewer on Bullying
October is National Bullying Prevention month (you can check out books for kids or parents), and author Heather Brewer is the perfect match for a YA Wednesday guest post this week--in Eighth Grade Bites, the first book of her best-selling series, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, we meet Vlad Tod in a state of constant harassment by junior high bullies that does not end with the first book, despite the fact that Vlad is actually a vampire. Just goes to show, anyone can be bullied...
Brewer has a new series, The Slayer Chronicles, told from the perspective of Vlad's ex-BFF and now arch enemy, Joss McMillan, but this busy author took some time away from writing and touring to give us this exclusive guest blog post on an episode of bullying close to her heart.
WHEN THE BULLY IS YOUR FRIEND
My daughter is probably the most open, funny, sweet, kind child that you will ever meet. I may be biased, but Alexandria (or Alex, as I call her) has always been a ball of sunshine. She makes friends easily, and everyone--I mean everyone--likes her and goes out of their way to say so. My little ball of sunshine has recently started middle school, but I was confident that she'd handle it like she faces anything else--with a positive attitude, and a surprising amount of strength for a twelve year old girl.
So you can imagine my surprise when my daughter returned home from her middle school experience that first day with a cloud shadowing her sunshiny self. After a couple of hugs, she opened up to me that her day had been ruined by the most unlikely source. The presence of a friend.
Now, one might be quick to point out that my daughter is at that hormonal, dramatic age (and wow...believe me, I know that), but Alex has been dealing with a type of bullying that not many discuss for several years now. Alex has been bullied by her best friend.
It wasn't always like this. She and her BFF (we'll call her Susie) had hit it off the moment they met. But after some time, Alex had come to me to say that she though Susie was being too negative, too needy, too over-protective, too demanding of Alex's attention. If Alex spent time with any other girl, Susie would get mad. If Alex just didn't feel like chatting on the phone, Susie would get very upset. After trying to talk to Susie about their friendship (Alex has always been very communicative and incredibly intuitive about people's emotional needs), Alex decided that it was time for them to break up. So she told Susie the next day why she no longer wanted to be friends, but tears and pleading ("I need you in my life, Alex!") mended their friendship for a short time. The controlling got worse, and bordered on obsession. And that's when my husband and I stepped in.
I don't believe in being a helicopter parent. It's not healthy to solve all of your child's issues and be so involved in tween drama that you become a part of the problem rather than an advocate of solution. So we waited a good while before we stepped in as parents, but when the phone calls became an every day, every few hours occurrence and Alex would come home crying every time she saw Susie because it was stressing her out just to be in this girl's presence, it was time for us to intervene.
I told Alex that this was not a healthy relationship. You should be happy to see friends, and friends should always treat you with respect. But it's up to you to change your situation if you're not happy with it. And then I told her something that my amazing friend A.S. King (author of PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ) had written. “The trick is remembering that change is as easy as you make it. The trick is remembering that you are the boss of you.”
The next day, Alex sat on the bus after school and waited for Susie to get on. When Susie arrived, Alex told her that she didn't think they were good friends for one another and that she didn't think they should be friends anymore. Upon hearing this, Susie changed seats. In the fog on the window, Alex wrote the words, "I did it." She came home with a huge smile on her face, practically floating.
She'd stood up for herself. And all she'd needed was someone standing behind her, telling her that it was okay to do so.
I'm incredibly proud to have been that person, but more so, I'm proud of Alex for standing up for her happiness.