Red Rover, Red Rover, let Kim come
There was a game called "Red
Rover" I would play when I was a child. Lines of children would grip hands; one line facing the other--about
an eighth of a football field’s distance from each other--and holler in unison for a member of the other line to "come
over." That child would target the perceived weakest arms linked and run full speed straight there; either
breaking through or not. Back and forth, the opposing teams would call out names until there was one pair still holding hands.
That team won. The rest of the
participants would stand to the side and massage their sore arms.
Red Rover may have been fun for some children. I was, however, often terror filled; particularly
when a burly boy gleefully targeted my link. He probably knew to get rid of the opposing team's weakest links
I didn't like "Red Rover."
I imagine other children didn't like it either. When I heard: "Hey! Let's play Red Rover!," instead of protesting
and suggesting another game, I'd heave a sigh, trudge off to one of the two sides...and preemptively begin to massage my lower
Red Rover makes me
contemplate it as a personal life lesson. Red Rover still makes me shudder.
I felt scared and vulnerable every time I played it.
And still, I played it a lot. I was more frightened
not to play it than to play it. I knew kids would make fun of me if I didn’t play. Some of those kids would
have been children who also didn’t really want to play. I didn't think to say, "No thanks. I don't like Red Rover. I don't want to
play."I'd just clench my jaw and tense my shoulders
and arms and with feigned gusto, holler with the others, "Red Rover, Red Rover...." relief or terror filled as the
"invited" child either chose or did not choose my arms' links.I still clench my jaw and tense my shoulders.
I still feel stress. I can't help it. I'm sitting here right now with a sore neck and shoulders;
clenched jaw.... and this:I am learning I am just not wired--never have
been-- to tolerate bullying. I am just not wired to tolerate injustice. There is much of both. Now, though, unlike during my childhood "Red Rover" playing days, I am
more likely to face things I don't like and say, "No thanks. I don't want to play."
It's not easy not to play.
thanks. I don't want to play" to my former principal, for instance, when he bullied and coerced me into fraudulently
submitting documents, was a difficult thing to do. Saying "No thanks, I don't
want to play" to my district and my union when they, together, wanted to silence me about
their culpability in keeping a known abusive man in his position was also a difficult thing to do.
There is now a voice in my head asking, "Just
who do you think you are, Kim? Where do you get off talking about such an important thing as injustice when,
really, you have lived without much of that?
ROVER!? That's the best you got?!
Who made you a voice of the downtrodden and the unjustly treated?
Just go to work, for Pete's sake! Shut up already! Didn't the district take care
of you--get you away from that guy-- and put you in a good school?You should be grateful."
“Red Rover, Red Rover, let Kim come over.”
Like the opposing Red Rover line, that inner voice is joined by voices outside myself.
My husband's voice sometimes holds “Red Rover voice hands” with my voice. His sometimes worried
voice says things like, "You are putting this family at risk.
Just go to work, for Pete's sake!"
“Red Rover, Red Rover, let Kim come over.”
My inner voice's and my husband's
"voice hands" are joined by family's and friends' and colleagues' "voice hands." Those voices
say this; "Watch out, Kim. They are looking to get you. They will take you down.
Just go to work, for Pete's sake! Shut up already!"“Red Rover, Red Rover, let Kim come over.”
An influential friend’s—influential by anyone's standards—perplexed voice has joined
the others. He doesn’t understand, I think, why I “haven’t moved on.” Although
his voice, in general, is one of courage in standing up to injustice, he too, I believe, sees the danger for me in speaking
up. His voice seems to be saying, “Stay safe, Kim....stay safe.”
His protective “voice hand,” though, has joined hands with
my husband’s, my district’s,family's, friends', and my own “inner voice hands.” None
of those voices is particularly encouraging in helping me address the injustice of a bullying abusive man and the system that
allows men and women like him to lead our schools. All of them together—my inner voice included--in fact,
have me almost saying along with them:
“Kim! Just go to work, for Pete's sake! Shut up already! Didn't the district take care of you--get
you away from that guy-- and put you in a good school?
You should be grateful."
Those linked “voice
hands” seem, at times, to be calling for me “to come over.”
“Come over, Red Rover, come over here. You know you will never break
through! Our links are strong! It's better and safer for you to play our game of lying and cheating and manipulation,”
some of the voices cry.”
Kim, and be safe. You do not have to lie and cheat and manipulate. You just need to be quiet about others lying
and cheating and manipulating," plead other voices: voices that do not know that they are linked to the lying and cheating
and manipulating voices; for to stay quiet is to lie.
“Red Rover, Red Rover..... I'm not coming over.I don’t want to play Red Rover. It hurts my arms. It scares me when big and powerful
kids run straight at me. I don’t like it.Let’s play a different game.”