So we have just started the 3rd week of the school year here in Norway. Our boy is in second class now, 7 years old and the boredom comments in the first week back after summer would make you think he has been at this gig for YEARS.
In the first few days, we got a message home from the school about the focus there on teaching kids to be kind to each other, look out for any who are left out or sad or being picked on and to stand up for them. The message was clearly to ensure parents were saying the same thing at home. I see the same message in social media in the last few weeks coming from here and abroad. Bullying, or mobbing as it is called in Norwegian, is terrible no matter what language you are operating in.
So it brought it all back, the school concert at the end of his first year. My husband was away on a work trip so it was myself and my daughter who rocked up to the after-school concert in June, all excited. Our boy even had a bit to recite about a squirrel liking acorns. This was going to be entertaining and educational, I could feel it in my bones.
First class was the first on stage to do their thing after some introductory speeches. Watching your boy doing the chicken dance with 60 other 7 year olds is a rare treat, and I felt that sort of pride that unconditional love really helps to shore up.
And then they started on the serious stuff, the anti-bullying anthem. It’s a song about bullying called Stopp! Ikke mob! or Stop! Don’t bully! That was it, it all started to descend a bit into waterworks for me after that.
The anti-bullying song is very powerful. Rough translation…
Stop don’t bully, this here is my friend,
you find no good but he’s as good as gold,
we are all on the outside sometimes and it is not nice.
Don’t bully, all for one and one for all.
It’s hard to empathise, I will be the one that makes the small difference. And dares to speak out.
And so on. The song has a great melody to it with the Stopp, ikke mobb, building into a crescendo bellowed out with great force coming all the way up from their small boots.
It’s most parent’s nightmare that their child becomes the bully or the bullied. Sitting there at the school concert, watching our little boy belting out STOPP, IKKE MOBB!! sort of topped me over the edge of emotion. This little army of kids from around 12 different cultures linking arms, singing joyfully about such a serious theme, it was great stuff. At 7 years old, they look small on a stage. The cute clumsy movements and the toothless smiles are sweet and grin-inducing. Surely there wasn’t a dry eye in the house but a stealthy glance around told me that there were indeed lots of them, all but mine, it would seem.
I was all alone in my joyous emotional wonder, starting to sniff and wipe away tears and finding it hard to grab a hold of myself. Aside of the wonder of this great performance, I think there was also some emotion there connected to the fact that he was singing about bullying IN NORWEGIAN. Still wrestling with the language myself after 3 and a half years here now, I am constantly amazed at how the kids took it on and mastered it. So my scattered thought process was along the lines of, Imagine him not wanting to be a bully in two languages now, isn’t that brilliant altogether…sniff, sniff, SOB…
Before I could make a total show of myself, I grabbed the 4 year old beside me and put her on my lap (my child by the way, not any random one ) so that I could hide behind her as we swayed to the music, trying to play down her booming questions, “Why are you crying, Mommy”. It seemed like that powerful song was never going to end.
My son said to me afterwards, “you looked a bit funny when we were singing alright, a bit red in the face.” Nice. Tears of pride, son, tears of pride.
Bullying in school here is a problem, as it is everywhere. There have been some awful cases in the press over the last few years, particularly involving teenagers. With kids at the heart of society here, it feels to me like it’s taken very seriously when there are systemic failures that lead to dire consequences for a child. After a particularly harrowing case in 2014, there were extensive discussions in parliament on how bullying is dealt with in schools. Both the King and the Prime Minister talked about bullying in their New Year speeches last year. The King quoted from a “constitution” that had been written in a barnehage ( kindergarten ) he had visited, it was about caring for each other, using kind words and the natural order of big kids looking after small kids. Fair play, even the King thought it was a worthy topic.
So it’s all good for us so far in the school system in Norway. Our boy loves his school and has learned a lot about the world in his first year there, partly because so many of the kids in his class come from somewhere else. So far it’s all about inclusion and it seems there is as much focus on creating decent people as there is in learning norsk and maths and english. And I learned this evening that the 2 hour parent meeting coming up in the barnehage in a few weeks is totally devoted to bullying, on the basis that you need to get ’em young to establish and interrupt patterns of behaviour.
Well, here’s hoping that between us all, it will be enough to keep us well away from any part of the bullying spectrum as the kids make their way through the school system.