dwarf“When our son comes home one day and tells us his teacher is mean are you going to storm in there like a hurricane? Or should I approach first?”

I was taken aback by his question. It seemed to come from nowhere, but this question must have been circling around in Eric’s mind for quite some time before finally finding its way out.

“Are you worried he’s going to be bullied?” I asked.

Replied my husband: “You were a victim of bullying.”

As I describe in my memoir, Dwarf, when I was in high school, a teacher singled me out and humiliated me in front of my classmates when I wanted to participate in the Sports Medicine team. Subsequently, yet not surprisingly, the administration failed to take any action to stand up for me.

Up until this point I’d never considered what I would do if my son were to be bullied, whether by a teacher or by a student. I never considered the possibility that Titan could be bullied, period. I’ve been so consumed by his adorable toothless grin and smiling eyes to think much beyond tomorrow. Do other first time parents worry about their child being bullied one day? If so, what are they doing about it?

“You talk about as if you were stuck in Folsom Prison,” Eric continued.

I couldn’t help but press the release button on my switchblade tongue. I cocked back my head, slipped on my sunglasses, and impersonated Johnny Cash. “My fellow inmates were wonderful. I just don’t like some of the wardens.”

But Eric was serious and growing impatient with my humor. “When Titan comes home and tells us his teacher is mean what should we do?” he repeated. A hardcore marine, Eric wanted to draw up a battle plan.

I spent the remainder of October researching anti-bullying groups and taking note of organizations geared towards stopping bullying and hate crimes. I learned that October was National Bullying Prevention Month. I read article upon article about student-on-student bullying. But I found very little regarding cases that involved a teacher. Why is this so? Why does it seem no one is talking about this? Perhaps, because too often those who are bullied by a teacher are asked not to talk about it?

This is exactly what was asked of me by the school administration.

Armed with my own experience and with the knowledge of how administrations may react (or fail to react), my husband and I have drawn up our own attack plan, because the possibility for Titan to be bullied is very real and very scary. It’s not that I feel Titan has reason to be a target, but I am acknowledging that as a little person there may be a time he’s harshly teased about it. Why? I don’t know why. Why does anyone do or say anything?

Disturbingly, according to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying and sadly 160,000 kids are too afraid to go to school and they push to stay home instead (bullyingstatistics.org). With this blowing around in my mind, I envisioned the worst—Titan waking up early on a school day, the bright twinkle faded from his happy eyes as he begs me to keep him home, because he is too afraid.

I can’t take it.

The first step, my husband and I agreed, needs to begin with Titan. He needs to know what abusive behavior is, because to be forewarned is to be forearmed. And he needs to know he doesn’t deserve it. He needs to know he shouldn’t be silent about it even if the abuse isn’t happening to him directly. We’ll need to teach him to speak up about bullying, no matter the form. Kids and teenagers are killing themselves over bullying. According to the CDC, suicide among young people is the third leading cause of death. And bully victims are between 2 and 9 times more likely to consider suicide (bullyingstatistics.org). This is a rampant epidemic that goes far beyond my experiences and I want to pay it forward and do something to help.

The second step is for my husband and me to be strong advocates against discrimination in a positive, inspirational and educational way. This begins inside our own home. And it includes the simplest of aspects, like our use of language. Also, as a physically disabled mom, I may have an upper hand teaching Titan tolerance and acceptance. Not everyone accomplishes tasks in the same way, and that’s what makes the world we live in unique and exciting. Movies, games, books—there are so many informative ways to show how differences make us beautiful. Hell, I’m a writer! I’ll think I’ll create my own story for him.

Our third prong of attack is to reach out to others and get involved. As a family we need to join anti-bullying organizations targeted towards stopping bullying and hate crimes in our community. www.niot.org is a great area to begin. There is power in numbers. We need to organize events and inspire others to take a stand. We need to talk about it. If the lines of communication are kept open students can share their experiences with bullying and discuss ways to prevent it with those in their school and in their community. Specifically, I think parents need to be unafraid to make a few demands from their child’s school, too. Like www.stopbullying.gov suggests, parents should ask the school faculty to keep them abreast with what’s happening and treat them like a partner in the growth and development of their child. Whether it’s beginning a school safety committee or appointing a coordinator to foster more parent and youth activities, parents need to be actively involved with what’s going on . Without a doubt I’ll be joining the parent teacher association and volunteering with any school event I can find. If I’m informed as a parent about what’s going on I won’t be left in the dark about the issues facing my son.

dwarfWhen I was about eight years old I watched my first United States Marine Corps commercial. I remember it vividly. I was sitting on the floor doing my physical therapy when the TV faded to black. From seemingly nowhere a loud orchestra sounded and then the screen opened to a massive chess board that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. A silver knight perched high and proud on a horse entered the shot proudly. He battled all the other game pieces that were dressed in black. There were also some corny flashes of neon blue lightening, but it was the 80’s so that was to be expected. I will never forget this commercial, because it set an ideal of the perfect man. And that man for me is a Marine. To me, it’s an absolute privilege to be able to call myself an author. It’s an honor to be called a mom. But, the title I work hardest at is the title of Marine Wife.

“What’s it like?” A friend of mine from home asked of being a Marine Wife. “I hear about the serious things on the news all the time, but what are some of the funny things that make it different from other marriages?”

Her question kept me thinking throughout the night. To be a Marine Wife (or military wife in general) it takes an incredible ability to adapt and overcome to all challenges thrown your way. And Christ all mighty, tests are thrown in your direction. It’s a job that’s ever changing and never boring. More often than not I feel as though I’m enlisted in the ranks, too. Pack up your life and move to another country in three months? Sir, no problem, Sir! I’ll get started right after dinner, sir!

But, what the heck are the unique aspects about being a Marine Wife? I’m pretty sure many will agree with that these are tell-tale signs of the life of a Marine Wife …

You know you’re a Military Wife if… your nights consist of buttons, holes and ticks—Oh my! On some nights it’s not uncommon to burn the Irish penance on my husband’s combat boots. On others, I’m either reinforcing the loose buttons on his cammies with thread or patching the holes over his knees torn from training with consertina wire. Double checking his naked body for ticks when he gets home from the field and saying the words (hopefully), “You’re good to go” is also part of the adventure I call, Military Wifedom.

You know you’re a Military Wife if…  you mistake thunderstorms for artillery training fire. Not too long ago one of my best friends, Mark flew down from Providence to stay with me at my house near Camp Lejeune. Together, we sat on the deck outside and enjoyed a few glasses of wine. I shared with him the latest page I wrote in my memoir, Dwarf and he shared with me more memories of us in college. When the sky erupted with a loud bang that echoed for miles, I didn’t flinch. But, Mark grabbed his glass and bolted for the sliding glass door. I was certain that it was only artillery training in the distance and argued the point until the sky opened up and rained on my assertion. Too often I just can’t tell the difference. Even when the pictures on my wall become crooked from the percussion, I barely notice the loud roaring overhead.

You know you’re a Military Wife if… you stop referring to your local Harris-Teeter as a “grocery store.” In fact the term grocery store will leave your vocabulary all together! Four months into my marriage I was visiting home and said to my mom, “I need to go to the commissary.” She looked at me funny, not because she didn’t know what it was, but because I had never spoken that lingo before. Hats were also no longer hats. I needed to call them covers. A bed became a rack. A shirt needed to be called a blouse. 72’s and 96’s are only to be used when referring to periods of time off duty and when I needed to use the bathroom on base I had to phrase it like this, “Can I use your head?” And this was only the beginning. Eventually I had to learn to decipher acronyms, too! BAH’s, EAS, BAS, CMC—It’s enough to make you need Advil STAT!

You know you’re a Marine Wife if… During your husband’s yearly Oleoresin Capsicum (or OC Spray) qualification you become subjected to level two contamination. I’ll never forget the night when around 6PM my husband came walking in our front door looking excited and relieved to be home from work. All he could think about was getting in the shower and that night, all I could think about was joining him. When I tip-toed into the bathroom anxious to surprise him there was an odd mist filling the air. It peppered my throat and made my cheeks flush, but I ignored it. When I pushed aside the shower curtain and surprised Eric with a kiss his eyes widened. “No, no babe!” He said loudly. Seconds later my lips burned and my tongue felt swollen. My eyes stung and watered and my nose began to run uncontrollably. Unknown to me, the shower reactivates the OC spray and I had just become contaminated! My frisky plans were flushed down the proverbial toilet. It was that night I also became more familiar with Marine Corps vernacular—OC spray is also called, Devil Piss.

If you can relate to any of these (and there are so many more I want to share) then it’s official, you are a Marine Wife. And you always will be. It doesn’t matter if you’re still currently serving alongside your husband or you’ve been long retired after years of service, the point remains—Once a Marine Wife always a Marine Wife. Semper Fi, ladies.