Bullying: No Laughing Matter By Amberly Ashton School memories. Everyone has them. For some of us they were the best days of our life but for others it was not so pleasant. I have mixed feelings about my childhood. We moved most of my life. I was always known as the "new kid" at school until I was able to make friends and usually by then it was time to move again. My 8th grade year holds some painful memories for me. I was overweight at the time. Anytime a child is different it can be difficult for them. Now I was the "fat new kid". One day I was standing in the lunch line. I could hear the popular girls standing behind me. All of a sudden I felt a fingernail on my back. I stared a head. I will never forget what happened next. With each movement of her finger she pronounced the word she was spelling on my back.......wide load. It felt like the longest moments of my short life. I was horrified and embarrassed. All I wanted to do was melt into the floor and be invisible. As my face burned red, I was in disbelief by what was happening to me. I didn't even know this girl. Why was she doing something so evil to me? I still remember every single detail and I can still fill the imprint of her finger in my back. I don't know how I made it through this ordeal. I just continued to stare a head while I heard the laughter behind me. I was froze from embarrassment and prayed for this taunting to be over. Somehow I survived it. The rest is a blur. I don't recall anything else after the nightmare in the cafeteria. When I returned home after school I never told either of my parents. Why didn't I tell them? To tell the truth I was ashamed. I didn't want them to realize their daughter wasn't pretty, wasn't popular and wasn't what they deserved. Years later, when our first son was born they informed us he was born with moderate to severe hearing loss. I should of been thinking about his future and what hurdles he would face. The only thoughts that entered my mind was how this beautiful innocent child is going to be treated differently, like I was. I was heartbroken thinking my son through no fault of his own, may experience the same heartache as his Mother. My son is now 15 and I think about those moments when we received the news and it sickens me that instead of being upset about his health I was upset for all the wrong reasons. Today, 3.2 million children are bullied each year. Why? Most bullies want to be popular so they go out of their way by belittling their victims. These victims are our children! The schools are not doing enough to prevent this problem. Most parents don't know their child is being bullied. Bullying is severe enough that 160,000 kids avoid going to school each day! We have to get a handle on this now. For me, it starts at home. It is up to me to teach my children that bullying is not acceptable! I have instilled compassion for others in my kids. I have taught them early on how painful it can be to be bullied. Also, when I see one of them calling the other "harmless" names such as "stupid" or "dummy" I address it immediately! I had a little sister and she had her favorite nick names for me. It damaged my self-esteem even more when I had to come home to the same hell I experienced at school. A child's home is where they should feel comfortable and safe. Bullying is a national epidemic. 75% of school shootings are linked to bullying. Some parents think this is normal childhood behavior. It's not and it's not acceptable! The number of kids committing suicide because of the constant verbal and physical abuse is on the rise. I could not even begin to imagine how empty and forever changed my life would be if one of my boys felt suicide was their only escape. Make sure you tell your kids daily that if they are being made fun of that they can come to you. You can't just say it once. Tell them every single day if you have to. They have to know it is not alright for someone to do that to them. You have to show them that it is unacceptable to tease others. If you suspect bullying then you have no choice but to make sure it doesn't happen again. Go to the school, the principal or your local police department. Don't back down. There is a movie available on Netflix called Bully that I have watched with my kids, nieces and nephews. Every parent should watch this eye opening documentary with their children. They should make it mandatory that it be watched by every student in every school. This world is complicated. Our children should enjoy the innocence of childhood and never have the feelings I felt all those years ago. Bullying is no laughing matter and as parents we have to do anything we can to educate and protect our children.