Nothing can spin your moral compass faster than the protective instinct of parenting. We are dealing with another round of bullying at school and hearing about turns me into a seething ball of anger. Holding my composure around my daughters is even tougher.
I sat down at dinner the other night with the daughter who is having the problems. She was acting tough or maybe it was just a disconnection from the day.
“I heard you had a tough day at school.”
“Yeah”, she said without looking up.
I prodded further, “Some kids being jerks?”
Tears welled up in her eyes and she set down the book she was reading. “I just don’t understand it.” A tear from her right eye rolled down over her cheek and was followed by one on the left. “They threw a ball into some weeds and asked me to get it. I got muddy and the other girls laughed. ALL of the boys are muddy everyday but no one laughs at them.” She leaned over on me and her shoulders slumped. I knew she had been waiting for Daddy for support.
“What else did they do?”
“I tried to throw the ball back to the group but it was wet and it went way left. It slipped out of my hand. One of the girls called me stupid and another said, ‘Throw it again. Make the dog fetch’.”
I could hear how wounded she felt in her voice. I could see the scene of kids gathered around having fun picking at the lone target. A girl who was too wrapped up in fairies and fantasy to realize she was walking into a trap.
“Then they smashed my fairy house I was making.”
She likes to pile up rocks and decorate them with moss to make a fairy house. I could picture this scene too. “Who smashed it?” I asked.
“My friend told one of the boys to do it. And they walked over and jumped on it and kicked it around.”
“Your friend? That doesn’t sound like a friend.”
“She was my friend. She was just being mean with the other girls. I don’t know what I did to them.” She looked at her empty hands. Searching for some reason.
My heart ached in my chest. What can I do? I can love her beyond words. I can be her friend at home and on the weekends. I am lost at how to make things better at school. I feel tears building in the corner of my eyes. Hot angry tears.
I know what I want to tell her. I want to tell her to pick the biggest one and completely lose her shit in a tornado of rage. Bite them in the face. Poke an eye. Smash and burn everything they have ever loved into a powder. Light fires. Raze the landscape and leave nothing but scorched earth in your wake. Make those little bastards pay. Put fear into the hearts of men and all of those who would be your enemy. Take no prisoners.
I take a breath. The instinct passes quickly. I would never tell her those things and it wouldn’t matter anyway. That isn’t who she is.
I’m a little more “Old Testament” kind of guy. I was the kid who would get hit with a spit-wad and return fire with a chair. My daughter wants to enjoy animals and talk about funny things. She loves reading magic stories and watching old movies. I can’t imagine a better friend in the world and hopefully she doesn’t let the mob mentality of a few 5thgrade dumbasses change her.
I put my arm around her and sit for a minute. I need to say something but it all feels empty. “I’ll talk with the principal. It may help. It may not. Don’t ever for a second think that you will be in trouble for standing up for yourself. If you feel threatened or in danger, fight with everything you have. Once you decide to fight… don’t stop until someone makes you. People go after easy targets because they are assholes. That never changes. This will get better, one way or the other. Most bullies are just bullfrogs. They sit around their little pond and croak at whatever walks by.”
I’m not the guy who cries wolf at every little problem. I feel like society at large is quick to label things as bullying. I was teased by friends occasionally but I don’t feel it counts as bullying. I did my share of teasing too but I don’t think it crossed that line. My daughter’s scenario is different. The actions are petty but constant. It can be difficult to decide if “kids being kids” or there is a persistent trend that needs intervention. Most of the kids who bully are dealing with a challenge from some other part of their lives. Some of them are just shitty human beings. When it is your child who is bearing the brunt of their actions, you really don’t care which is which.
We are going to work through this. Things are quieter at the moment. Summer is approaching so we will have a few months to rebound and several of the problem children are claiming they are transferring school districts for next fall. Fingers crossed.
I went to eat lunch at the school in a show of support and I met a few of the kids. They didn’t have fire coming out of their ears or horns on their heads. They were just stupid kids who didn’t seem to have much direction. They certainly weren’t prestigious enough to be passing judgement on anyone. One of them might actually be part bullfrog. Considering it may me laugh out loud.
Part of my visit was to try and see if my daughter was truly alone in her struggle. She did have one friend who seemed to have her back. The girl was holding half of a pair of scissors when I met her. I asked, “How well do those scissors work?”
“Just fine. They ain’t for cutting paper anyway…”
She then started to sharpen a pencil she was holding in her other hand. She stared blankly into the lunchroom crowd and let the shavings fall into her plate. I leaned over to my daughter, “It’s a good thing this one is on your side.”
“I know right. She is kind of scary but I like her. She doesn’t like people being mean to other people either. I teach her about animals and Greek Mythology.”
“Sounds like a good friend. Buy her an ice cream every now and then. I’ll pay for it.”
Bears don’t mess with wolverines because the fight ain’t worth the crazy. I’m glad my daughter has a wolverine.
If you deal with any of this crap from time to time, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Bullying is complete crap. Be a friend and a safety net. That’s really the only advice I have.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.