Bullying

Today, my girl is the greatest human in the room. And I’m not just saying this room, I’m saying EVERY room.

She’s the funniest, the smartest, the kindest, and of course, the most beautiful. That girl of mine shines the brightest.

Today, she is the greatest because she believes it so.

Tomorrow, this will change. Maybe not today’s tomorrow, but a soon tomorrow.

This is not a guess. This is a certainty.

There soon will come a day when someone dulls her shine. It may be a friend. It may be an enemy. It may be a boy. It may even be herself. But that day Will come.

My children are at a delicate age. Crossing over into adolescence. I can speak easily about my girl because I was that girl. In grade school, I felt amazing in my skin, but by middle school I wanted nothing more than to crawl out of it.

I’ll never forget the moment that I was made to feel Less. It was at a sleepover party. I remember biting back tears, forcing a smile. I remember feeling the pillars of my inner strength crumbling as I tried to keep it together on the outside. I remember each word that girl said. But what I remember most was the silence of everyone else. My friends just sat there. Saying nothing.  Some even nodded along.

I could easily point a finger at my tormentor and blame her for all the insecurites that flooded in where she ripped away my barriers of confidence. I could also shame the girls who didn’t step in and try to quell the flow when they saw me drowning. But blame wouldn’t repair what had been broken that night.

The truth is bullying WILL happen. No matter the amount of posters, assemblies, or contracts, bullying will not disappear. I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. There will always be people willing to make you feel less in order to make them look like more.

Recently, my daughter’s friend was hipchecked by another, bigger girl in the middle of a group of teammates. My little one, seeing this, turned right into the bigger girl’s face, albiet a good four inches above her own, and with her chin upturned, she hollered, “What is your problem?” She later told me that this girl had been picking on her friend for some time now.  We talked for a while about why we think people bully, and why we shouldn’t let other’s words affect us when we know they are coming from a place of hurt.

I was proud of this conversation. Proud of her for telling me about this, and proud of the way she handled it. But I’m not sure if a few years from now, when they are in a locker room, the cafe, a party, or in front of a large group, that she will be able to muster the strength to stand up.

Mob mentality can be crippling. And while I hope she will always find the courage to defend her friends as well as a herself, I’m aware that she might fold. I won’t fault her for this. I can’t fault anyone for this.

Condemnation is far too easy.

Pitchforks are a surplus commodity nowadays. While they are sure to get the points across, those points come with so much aggression that we lose any reason for change except fear. I don’t want my child, or any child to change their ways by point of fear. I’d rather they learn through points of compassion and conversation.

And that’s what I’m calling for. Put down the pitchforks, put down the stones. We all know in our hearts that we are unworthy of thrusting out that first one. I’d rather help build a sturdy foundation in my home than break down another’s.

We’ve seen far too many of these situations end in tragedy. I can’t sit back and expect my children to eradicate bullying. That’s out of their hands. All that we can do is instill strength to speak up. Though I’d love to believe that their voice is strong from day one, I know it might not be. I just hope when they feel muted by a crowd, they are comfortable enough to speak to me. Because conversation leads to understanding, and eventually compassion. And that is where strength comes into play.

So as our children pledge to black out bullying, I pledge to open up a door to conversation. To let them know mistakes are inevitable. It’s what you take away and apply to tomorrow that leads us to a better future.

See weakness, speak compassion, grow strength, and we’ll make it through.

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