I am a minority in Quebec. I have a Pakistani background, and my husband is of Egyptian origin. Our children are mixed (obviously). We are a minority within a minority, as we are also Anglophones in a French Province. We love our Quebecer roots as much as we love our ethnic roots. As a person who was raised in Quebec, Canada, I identify with my culture as a Canadian, more than that of any ethnic background. My husband feels the same sentiment. We were two Canadian kids who fell in love. If food were culture then we would be identified as Italians (thank you pizza and pasta!).
The curve ball in all of this is that I am also disabled. I love and embrace my difference. But that wasn't always the case. I remember being different as a kid, and not enjoying it as much. The worst thing about being different is that, you are a moving target for the local bullies. Being treated not so nicely was something I became accustomed to in elementary school. I was the disabled girl in my school that brought funny smelling lunches to school.
Fast-forward 20 years, and I am the mother of three healthy beautiful kids. Two of which are in elementary school. We don't live far from where I grew up, and my kids will likely go to the same high school I went to. My kids attend a French immersion English school here in Kirkland. My kids are part of the few ethnic children in their school. Due to Quebec language laws, most immigrant children are in French only schools. I would think nothing of this; if it wasn't for the fact that being different has the potential to expose children to the worst scenarios in their peer group. Namely bullying.
When I discovered that my daughter was having a hard time adjusting to school a few years back, I did everything I could to make sure she understood that making friends was an easy task. I tried to equip her with skills to deal with her situation, having gone through it myself. My daughter is a spitting image of me, minus the crutches. She's a tomboy, she's got her own sense of fashion, if she were allowed to wear her track pants and running shoes to a wedding, she would. Just as I did in elementary school, she only hangs around boys. Boys for some reason are easier to get along with at that age. They don't look at what you're wearing, so long as you bring a football to school. Girls aren't as nice, hence the term "mean girls."
Year after year she continued to have a tough time with the kids at her school. Last year, things went beyond not having friends. She was exposed to her first true bullying incident. Someone went into her locker and destroyed her brand new soccer ball. Her teacher was very proactive and spoke to the whole class, and addressed the issue. The school's gym teacher was wonderful, and he replaced her ball. But as we know, bullying never ends there. Even if you are no longer bullied, being different always makes you stick out. For some sad reason, kids are mean; kids don't like unfamiliar things, and are very vocal about it.
I thought that you had to be a badly dressed, disabled kid to be a victim of bullying. But I wonder at times if all you have to be is a shade darker, or a tomboy, to be pushed around.
If I learned something from my life, it's that we have some of our worst experiences as kids, so that we can grow up with thick skins and deal with the adult world. Easier said than done, when you have to watch your child go through, something you already experienced. Wounds heal but vivid memories rarely fade.
For some inspiration please check out these videos about Molly Burke anti-bullying activist.Video credit Winnipeg Free Press.
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