Since I first figured out that my sisters were different, I knew that there would be times when other, typical kids wouldn’t understand. I feel extremely lucky that my parents explained to me on multiple occasions how to deal with the hurt that comes from the teasing and bullying of Emma and Olivia from their peers, even strangers.
Even though I had this ingrained in my head, it still came as a shock to me when grown adults had the audacity to say something mean, not just rude, about or to my sisters. It would hurt to the point where I would cry to my parents because I didn’t say something, and felt like I wasn’t doing the right thing for my sisters. There was one particular situation that will always stick with me for the rest of my life.
When I was in high school, I drove my neighbor Hanna* to school when I got my license. She was much younger than me, so she enjoyed being able to talk about all sorts of things before we got to school. She was just out of middle school and loved my sisters. She had been in the same middle school with them for a few years after I was. One day (I don’t remember how), we got on the topic of how I felt when Emma and Olivia were teased.
She started telling me about one day when she was in Spanish class with Ms. Torres*. Ms. Torres was one of the meanest teachers I had ever had in my entire life. She not only told people in my class personal information about my life, but also made me cry when I told her about it in privacy.
Hanna began telling me that on this day, my sisters were being wheeled in their chairs down the hallway by their aids, and were repeating something they had heard in a movie or on YouTube. Whatever the girls were repeating, it called for them to be loud. Not ones to be shy, they were yelling whatever it was that they were repeating that day. Hanna was in Ms. Torres’ class down the hall, and when Ms. Torres heard the yells, she jumped, rolled her eyes, and laughed sarcastically with the kids in the class. Hanna also mentioned that she said something along the lines of “Well, that’s annoying.”
Now, maybe some would think, “Okay, she was just trying to avoid the situation or lighten the mood,” but I knew this teacher too well to kid myself. She truly thought that it was annoying, and was not about to explain to the class what the noise was or who it was coming from, because that wasn’t who she was. She was a mean lady, and I knew she didn’t “approve” of my sisters.
Later on that day, I told my mom the story. My mom knew about the times in middle school that this teacher caused me grief, and had to speak to her on multiple occasions. She didn’t have much of a reaction – she kind of just shook it off and that was that. I was so mad! I asked her why she didn’t go down to the school and say something, or even call or email this evil lady! What kind of example is that to all of the other kids in the class?
She told me it didn’t hurt her, and people like Ms. Torres would never hurt her, because she knew that these people probably have just has much hurt in their lives as I was feeling at that moment. How were we supposed to know if she was going through a rough time in her life? How was I to know that she didn’t feel this hurt on a daily basis?
My mom did end up saying something to the guidance counselors and the principal, but didn’t make it her job to go and get angry with Ms. Torres herself. To my mom, she wasn’t worth her time. Administration handled it.
Although not at that moment, I came to realize my mom’s point. Even though I’d still like to go tell off Ms. Torres, I see now that people like her can’t hurt me. I have so much happiness in my life because of Emma and Olivia that no one’s comments or opinions can take any of it away.
* denotes name change