There Be Bullies

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.

This month, we are focussing on issues in the school system (and this means any school system: homeschooling, charters, etc are not exempt) that are prevalent, insidious and hard for us to talk about with our kids.

Bullying has been around since Cain and Abel, but if Eve had given them smart phones I think they could have avoided going out into the field altogether and Cain could have ruined his brother from the comfort of his couch.

What this means for today’s kids is a perceived power imbalance (which is what sells technology in the first place) so magnified that the result, more times than we want to look at, is death. Death of an idea, death of self-worth, death of a child. Please stop right now and call, text, message, hug, or high-five a kid. It doesn’t have to be your kid. And you don’t need a reason. Every kid needs that little ping of positivity because – people listen up – we are fighting an undercover avalanche of insidious bullying.

And you count. I’ll wait while you send it….

According to my many teacher friends, schools are educating kids about proper web use and ethics. They know it’s hard for some kids to admit to being bullied, so it’s discussed regularly in the classroom. Some teachers have an app that can check a kid’s iPad at a moments notice to see if it’s being used appropriately. They have counselors, social workers, and technology staff and partner with police and programs for nonviolence and peace. The message they are sending out is: “Bullying is not right. Everyone deserves a safe place to be in school.”

But of course, there’s a flip side: how do you distinguish between bully behavior and normal, age-appropriate immaturity, or even teasing between two children who both think it’s funny? The “bully” label is easily triggered in students and parents alike and they expect dramatic reactive steps on the part of school staff, regardless of the circumstances. (Here’s my fun story on that.)

Usually a quick, real-time intervention by the teacher, having kids apologize or just a stern talking-to, resolves many incidents. Seasoned teachers definitely know the difference and they also know their students personalities.

But the teacher is not you, the parent. (Unless of course you are homeschooling like Eve was and we are praying for you. Get yourself a favorite aunt who will take your kid for ice cream and have this conversation.)

You, the parent, should also be using real-time intervention by talking to your kids about when they were bullied and also when they bullied someone else. The answers are perhaps not so important as the process of opening the discussion. We all have to find ways to get along on the planet and this is a good place to practice the conversation. Earn their honesty by trusting them to find solutions along with you. Suggest ways they can hand out those little pings of positivity, too.

Conversation Prompts:

  1. Technology is just a tool and you control the “off” button. No one can access you via technology unless you allow them to. Others can block you, too, if you lose their trust.
  2. Bullying can be physical, emotional, or verbal. Harassment or intimidation via technology is called cyberbullying. Look up your school policy on it and read it together.
  3. Make an action plan as a family. Consider and act out scenarios where you are the target, the witness, and the bully in turn. How do you feel? What can you say? What will you do?
  4. Restorative Circles will give you the dialogue you need, and here is the other side of that with examples.
  5. Find resources on
  6. Find more resources from the national PTA here.

“Love your enemies as yourself” Lev. 19:18

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

All About Meme

“I love them,” I said, “Where do they come from?”

My kid, of course, was creating music on Garage Band and ignored me.

He flat out refused to take piano lessons last year. He loves playing around on the keyboard and has a good ear for music and a mother who, you know, taught music lessons for years.

But put an iPad in his hands, and the kid thinks he’s Mozart.

No, it was Beethoven who went deaf. Must be Beethoven.

Little Ludwig is one of my “go-to”s for all things techy because every five minutes my electronics are outdated and updated and generally leaving me in the Stone Age.

I am used to feeling stupid on a regular basis. But I don’t like to live there.

“Mom,” he asked, “what is a me me?”

“Look at my Pinterest,” I demanded, shoving my MacAir between him and his decibels.

My Pinterest, as you know, is full of wise-cracking memes that speak to me at gut level. I figure if I laugh hard enough, I will eventually build up some nice abs.

“Somebody, somewhere, is making these!” I told him, “And I want in. Where do they come from?”

After some severe eye-rolling, I was told to pronounce it “meem”.


L van B knew everything except that. So I turned to Siri and within five minutes, I had this:


Now I can wax poetic about the fact that my family, while willing in spirit, are totally incapable in body, of landing anything where it actually goes.

The dirty dishes are set two inches away from the dishwasher.

The dirty clothes are set two inches away from the hamper.

Only two inches of toilet paper are left on the spindle.

Wet towels lie crumpled below the racks from which they ought to hang.

But this little gem of a meme gets right to the point. ‘Nuff said.

And yes, it should be called a “me me” if “I I” made it.


The next thing I wanted to figure out is how to add sound and video clips to my blog…


Look! It took two teenagers and one frazzled mom to figure out that I can (sort of) put audio in this blog.

First we tried Garage Band, so we went with that truly obnoxious 80s tribute to Amadeus, just to make my point to the kid.

Who didn’t get it. Which doesn’t matter because neither did Garage Band.

This one is iMovie. So naturally, it wants to be a movie. You’re welcome that I didn’t show what we all looked like while trying to find the right buttons to push in the right order.

Oh my.

And I realized why they know more about technology than I do, and why the socks never land in the hamper:

I am a “the hamper’s half empty” kind of mom, and they are “the hamper’s half full” kind of kids.

They are fearless with buttons. They act like the world won’t blow up if you push the red button, and I was raised knowing for a fact that you do NOT push the red button. Ever.

So I’ll be attempting to throw more socks to the wind and find more ways to have fun with buttons.

I hope I win.


Something fantabulous happened to my girlfriend.

I don’t even know what it is.

I know she’s been on hold in more than one life strata, so regardless of whatever just went through, I’m super excited for her.

She sent out a brief little message with a handful of words and a bucket of emoticons, to which other girlfriends are replying with additional flurries of little symbols and stickers, and all I could manage was a word (“Congratulations!”) followed with a colon (:) and a right-hand parenthesis ()).

That makes a pathetic little smiley face.

But I feel in the loop.



Oh, who am I kidding?

I never took a crash course in ESL (Emoticons as a Second Language) but I should have, as my own kids (the under 20s but not my over 20s) are fluent.

They can have entire conversations in texting that contain zero actual words.

And rule the world thereby, I assume.

My phone gives me a selection of pre-made “smileys”.

Next to each one is a helpful hint as to what each one conveys.

;^) is “winking”. Simple enough.

But if I put my “foot in mouth” :-! over a “kissing” :-* incident and need to have “my lips sealed”, :-X, these little guys are here to help.

I am both o_O and :-[.

Frankly, parents, you should have seen the “new math” coming.

I’ve had my Mac Air for a year now. I have wanted to throw it out the window more than once because it doesn’t behave the way my old PC did. Like every piece of technology over the last ten years, by the time I figured out the basics, it was time to ‘upgrade’ to a new unknown.

It’s like I went to do the dishes one night, and when I got back to my desk, I could no longer use disks to back-up the photos made from film that I scanned into my laptop files that were no longer compatible with my photo program and now Great Aunt Bessie’s wedding photo is as six-feet-under as she is.

Oh, it’s in there somewhere.

We’ll just never be able to see it.

My gravy, life’s too short.

I watch everyone emailing and Facebooking all the day long and smothering their words with little thumbs-up and saxophones and puppies and cakes and hands-in-the-air-like-they-just-don’t-care.

And, ya’all…some of them are animated.

I have emoticon envy.

But from my barcalounger.

I wonder what happened to my girlfriend?

I could ask my 14 year old to interpret, but that’s just wrong.

I could call her by actual telephone and hold an actual conversation.

I presume she still speaks the mother tongue.

But we all know, no one uses that archaic device.

I could order flowers over the internet. I’m sure there’s an app for that.

I’ll attach a virtual card that says,


Today’s Episode is Brought to you by…

Everything used to be so simple. Sesame Street is where we should all be living. Twenty years ago. It’s a little dicey on that street these days, and I have my suspicions about Mr. Roger’s neighborhood as well.

And once upon a time, I had a perfectly normal cell phone. It made phone calls, took phone calls, left messages for me to get back to. Sat there in my purse and behaved itself.

When the dreaded “year of the upgrade” rolled around, I deliberately delayed it while four more years crept by.

The debate was: to replace my phone with another “dumb” phone or to jump into the worldwide web of “smarter than a fifth grader” smart phones. Crap. I haven’t been able to help my fifth graders with math for years. Phones are all about numbers. This was not going to be pretty.

I held my breath and leaped into the 22nd century, hoping it wouldn’t be obsolete before I could transfer my contact list. There were a few months of uphill negotiations with my new smarty pants phone but the more I played with it the more I enjoyed it.

Finally there came the day of impasse, and I needed a fifth grader stat….or the nearest equivalent.

I’m sitting next to my tween-ager and casually start a conversation. “So, (fill in any name, there’s plenty to choose from), I don’t suppose you have a minute to show me something on my phone?”

There’s a ten minute silence while the kid finishes annihilating a village “like a boss” on Clash of the Clans. In kid time, that’s a 20 second pause.

“Yeah mom, what?”

“Well, I’ve been using my phone as a camera and I have about nine months of photos and a couple videos I found out that it does, but the problem is, I have no idea how to get it off my phone and into my laptop.”

“Why do you need it out of your phone?” This accompanied with an eye roll, which is impressive since his eyes have not left his iPad screen.

“So I can fix them up and email them. Maybe I can put them on my Facebook if I get around to it.”

“Just Snapchat it Mom. Or use Instagram. Or email it from your phone.”

“Look kid, I just want to have them where I can manipulate them. I need to feel in control here. Those photos are just sitting in there taunting me and there’s nothing I can do except delete them. I did find that little trashcan icon…tell me, where do these things go when you trashcan them? Is there a big dump in cyberspace where all deleted files go to be buried?”

This is not even dignified with a response, as said kid has moved on to Angry Birds. I wait respectfully while he decides whether or not to use a black bird as a bomb for more leverage.

“Moooooom,” he sighs deeply, taking out a laughing pig, “all you have to do is plug your phone into your laptop and push whatever button pops up.”

“But sweetie,” I’m really trying for patience here, “my phone didn’t come with a cord that connects those two things!”

At this point, the child has had enough. He turns fully into my face, trying to refocus his digitalized retinas. “Take the electric plug part off the end of your charger cord. Stick it in the hole.”

This is the child that I made flash cards of the alphabet for when he was four. This is the one I raised singing all the songs from Schoolhouse Rock. This, my progeny, was elected Mayor of BizTown in fifth grade. This kid is a varmint.

“My hero!” I say with a smile. Gently I pry his frozen fingers from his beloved iPad. “Now you can take a break and load the dishes into the dishwasher for me.”

Judging from the loud grumbling in the kitchen, there is no app for that.