When I was in middle school, I was bullied. None of it was physical, thank goodness, but the emotional damage was pretty extensive.
I grew up in a pretty religious community, and went to the same church with a lot of my neighbors and school mates. There was a day I went to my locker that a few of us shared, and as I walked up they asked if I wanted me to pop some pills with them. I instinctively said no because honestly I thought it was a joke. I didn’t think anyone would really be so stupid to 1) pop a handful of pills that you didn’t know how they would mix and react in your body, and 2) to do that during school! But that one word “no”, and in those 2 seconds, I sealed my fate for the rest of middle school and high school before I even really knew what was going on.
At the next break, I went back to my locker to find all my stuff thrown out of the locker and on the ground. Nobody was around, so I honestly had no clue what was going on. I gathered my things and went out to the bus. My “friends” were already out there and let me know I couldn’t sit with them because I was too “goodie goodie” to be around them. Then it all went down hill from there.
They spread the news like wildfire not to be friends with me. They would yell at me, call me names and curse at me in the hallways. I ate lunch alone in the cafeteria if I was brave, or in the bathroom on the toilet seat if I was scared or couldn’t stop myself from crying. This went on for 2 very long lonely years. And what was worse, is I saw these girls at church. I heard them preaching Christlike love and charity, but the next day at school it was the same drama as the week before.
One day, an angel of a person came into my life. I was sitting by myself in the cafeteria, and this sweet sweet girl walked up and sat by me and just started talking to me like we already knew each other. Jenny quickly became my best friend until my family moved a year later. My goodness am I so grateful for this sweet soul who came into my life at a time that I SO needed it! She showed me the love and charity that I so longed for. Her example is something I have shared with dozens of teenage girls, and will share with my own kids someday!
16 years later, and I’ve got 3 babes of my own, one of which is in Kindergarten. Honestly, I am terrified that he will be bullied. He’s one of the sweetest kids, and has one of the biggest hearts. But here’s the thing. I don’t feel the need to protect and hover and hope he doesn’t get bullied. I mean I do hope he doesn’t have to feel that, but the odds are that he will. So instead, I feel this need to prep my kids for the inevitable of when it happens.
Kids are just mean sometimes. They don’t know how to regulate their emotions, they all have bad days, they have home situations that nobody realizes, they may have not slept well the night before, or had much of a breakfast… all of these things and more totally play a huge role in kids behaviors. I’m by no means making excuses for bad behavior, but I’m trying to look at this from the perspective of how to help our kids understand bullies and to teach them how to react to bad behavior. I mean they’re all experiencing this growing up thing at the same time, learning about themselves and their environment, and they’re feeling pretty vulnerable. When I feel those things, even as a grown adult, I don’t always react the best. So why are we so surprised when our kids end up making bad choices when they’re feeling out of control? Honestly, we shouldn’t.
Do I wish I wasn’t bullied? Well duh… of course! But am I grateful for the experience and growth that I’ve had from it? Without a doubt! I have been able to help so many different people because of my experiences. And I want to prepare my kids the same way.
I try to prep my kids and say “if there’s a kid that isn’t nice to you, that’s okay, that’s his choice. But that doesn’t mean that you get to make those bad choices and be mean back.” I try to remind them that we all have sad or grumpy days where we just don’t make the best choices, and maybe these kids are just having a sad or grumpy day. I remind them that they have a choice, and they don’t have to play with someone if they’re being mean to them, but to try to communicate their feelings first and then go do something else.
This parenting thing is so hard, so lets band together! We all want the best for our babies, and want them to grow up to be rockstar adults that contribute to society in a positive way, and I just know that it starts here. It starts with kind words, and a generous heart! Let’s help our babies spread more love!
xoxo my friends, trista