November 25, 2017

The Complexities of Bullying

By Heidi Aquino


As my husband and I walked into the grocery store, he pulled me aside to look at a headline in the local paper “Teen who committed suicide was bullied for being gay,” it read.  The picture of the mourning parents took my breath away. The article stated that 18-year-old Jeffrey Fehr was bullied starting in the sixth grade; so young to have to endure hate.


My mind immediately jumped to the conclusion that the parents of the bullies are to blame. Perhaps their own views have influenced the behavior of their children or maybe even something as simple as their dinner conversations promoted the taunting. Then I take a breather…


I can’t help but reflect on my own experiences as a young girl and the mean things I said to other children. I remember being mean to a child because she was Jewish.  It is something I will always regret as an adult.


I have talked with my longtime friend who also participated with me and we both draw blanks on the source of the hate. My parents never mentioned anything negative about being Jewish, never mentioned Judaism, nor did any parents I knew.  But they also didn’t educate me on differences in people- like some people celebrate Christmas and some Chanukah or some people have accents and some sound like me.  


So I can take this lesson and apply it to my parenting: educate children on diversity and teach them to carry love in their hearts for all who surround them.


We do not have to agree, but we should always love.


Because my best friend is Jewish, my girls know that Chanukah is a holiday steeped in tradition. Because my daughter’s Catholic godmother is a lesbian, they know love is infinite and genderless. Because my girl’s grandpa is right wing conservative, they know another way to look at the world that is different from mine.


Just because we don’t plant seeds of hate in our children does not mean it will not grow in them. We have to plant seeds of love.


My heart goes out to all the children who feel less than wonderful because of ignorance.


In memory of Jeffrey Fehr.


Heidi is the mother of two elementary school aged girls.


image of 18-year-old Jeffrey Fehr





  1. Well said Heidi. “Seeds of love”, love that!

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