JAPAN: Boo-boos of the Heart

JAPAN: Boo-boos of the Heart

Fixing boo-boos was easier when they were little. Even the “big” boo-boos; call the ambulance! Go to the emergency room! Call the poison control center!

Those times were scary, and I thought nothing could be worse. But at least I always knew what I should do. I didn’t second guess if taking those actions would make the situation worse.

But as children get bigger, I find their boo-boos can’t be fixed with a kiss or a band-aid, or a trip to the emergency room.

Those are all fixes for the body, but of little use to the heart.

I have been hurt in many ways during my life, but nothing can prepare you for the pain you feel when your child is hurt, intentionally, repeatedly, by a bully.

It hurts that it would happen at all; that anyone would see your sweet little baby as a joke, a nerd, someone worthy of disdain and mistreatment.

It hurts more to know that your child is a target because of you: that you being a foreigner, of a different race, with a different accent has opened your child up to ridicule.

No action I can think of is free from an undesirable reaction, but doing nothing is also not a solution. I don’t want to make it worse, but I can’t see any way to make it better.

Have your children suffered from bullying? What steps have you taken to help them?

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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