In sixth grade, I was part of the "popular" group.
There was a girl in my class that wanted to be a part of that group, let's call her Kate. I don't know exactly why we decided that we didn't like Kate or want her to be in our little clique, but we did.
Whenever Kate tried to hang around us, we would ignore her. I remember one time we wrote her a note to meet us on the playground at recess after lunch, and then we ditched and never showed up.
A friend and I were partnered with Kate for a project in class, and I don't remember exactly what happened but I do remember I was mean enough that my mom made me call and apologize to her.
I imagine that what happened that year is much clearer in Kate's mind than it is in my own, because we were mean enough to her that the next year she switched school districts.
I didn't think much more of it.
In high school, I was at the local country club pool with my friend, who was a member. Kate, whose family also had a membership, was also there and was sitting on a deck chair. I hadn't talked to her since sixth grade, and I had a sudden urge to go over there and apologize for what a little brat I had been.
Thankfully, she was gracious enough to accept my apology. We're even Facebook friends now.
There is a lot of news about bullying today and how it has even led to suicide in several cases. I think, "How could kids be that mean?" And then I stop and realize I was that mean, I am just glad that Kate was strong enough and her parents wise enough to get her out of the situation and put her on the path to a better life.
After sixth grade, I no longer was considered popular. I don't even know what happened, but somewhere along the way people decided I was no longer cool either, and although I had many friends, I wasn't ever in that secluded group at the top of social hierarchy.
Social standing is so important when you're a kid, and so many parents push their children to be in the popular group, thinking that leads to a better life. It doesn't. Popularity is so temporary — one day you're in and the next day you're out, with all your former friends tormenting you behind your back and to your face.
I wish that instead of hindsight being 20/20 that kids would just realize how harmful their words are and how lasting the effects. Being mean might make you feel good for a moment, but the memory of what you did to someone else will stay with you and most definitely it will stay with the person you bullied.
I'm truly sorry for the way I acted in elementary school, and I'm sure I alienated people that I could have had good relationships with. I just hope that I can use my experiences to help my children make better decisions in the future.