The heartbreaking reason my daughter cried herself to sleep

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

Last week, my daughter cried herself to sleep.

She is 13, and we had told her earlier that week she would be going back to school after two months at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

I wish I could say her tears were an isolated incident, but they are not. Nor is the vomiting the night before school, especially on a Sunday night, when the welcome respite of the weekend is coming to an end and the only thing laid out before her is five days of torture.

I don't like to throw around the word "bullying". It has certain connotations that may or may not be relevant to my daughter's situation.

It brings up images of girls circling another and shouting names or hurling half-eaten sandwiches at the victim as they are egged on by a baying crowd. Or meeting up in the sports sheds to fight.

Today's bullies are not that open. But boy, are they mean.

They trade their blows a different way. It is with the little comments and barbs, whether in person or over text or social media, about her appearance or something she did or said.

Or the way they cover their mouths with their hands when she walks past, either at school or elsewhere, and whisper to whoever they are with.

Or the way they never invite her anywhere, whether it is a birthday party, sleepover, end of term activity or Friday afternoon trip to the shops for a treat.

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Or the fact she sits alone on every bus trip, to every sporting activity, excursion or school camp.

It is the complete lack of kindness they show for someone who is a little "different".

The school is aware of her struggles, but like her primary school before it, seems reluctant to step in.

There have been countless discussions, emails, conversations with teaching staff and the school counsellor, but little in the way of action, and with my daughter reluctant to make a complaint or seek help, there is only so much that can be done.

The toll on her, and our whole family, is huge.

The fear that we each live with, that one day it will all become too much for her to bear, weighs heavily on our shoulders.

Whenever I read of a child who gave in to their tormenters and chose to end their life instead of continuing to battle through each day, fills me with dread.

My heart breaks for them and the families they left behind, but also for my child.

Last week was Do it for Dolly Day. It is in honour of Dolly Everett, a victim of relentless bullying. In 2018, Dolly ended her life, leaving behind heartbroken parents Kate and Tick. She was 14. 

Her parents created Dolly's Dream as a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves and to work towards stopping other young people from taking their lives as a result of bullying.

They believe in the power of kindness and it is their greatest hope that by encouraging people to speak out against bullying, it will one day cease to exist.

In watching my daughter's struggles over the years, one thing I have noticed is the lack of kindness shown towards her, whether from her peers or their parents. A perceived difference seems to be a licence for others to treat her with contempt.

It is my greatest wish that schools will one day put the same energy into educating children about kindness and acceptance of others as they do other subjects. 

Only then will the next generation or children feel safe going to school each day instead of crying themselves to sleep at the prospect of stepping inside those gates to face their tormenters again.

The author has chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect her daughter's privacy.