Daddy

Bullfrogs

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.”

“Okay Daddy…”

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.”

“Okay.”

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.

My Mona Lisas

A picture is worth a thousand words right? Some are masterpieces. Some leave you speechless. I discovered one I took today that left me looking for words.

We had a snow day today and my usual parenting failure feelings crept in as I debated playing in the snow. I want to play in the snow. I want the kids to play in the snow. I was excited last night to watch the snow fall and thinking about going outside today to throw snowballs, make snow angels, and make snow cream. But the reality of children waking up early and trying to make sure all of them are bundled up enough to avoid frostbite, put my spirits to the test. The kids who are big enough to self-dress don’t appear to have the logic to follow through. Prima walked to the door ready to go outside and did not have anything on her feet. Anything. Coat, coveralls, hat, gloves, and bare feet. The tile floor near the door is cold and that cold on her feet triggered exactly zero thoughts. Jane gets fully dressed and is likely hyper-thermic waiting on everyone else to get ready. Don Threeto, of course, has to pee after putting her coat on.

Then we get outside and I suddenly remember winters-gone-by. I realize that all of the kids are still young enough that they don’t hold memories as well as adults. Even the ones that have enjoyed snow before probably don’t remember it that well. They test it out to see if it is slippery. What does it taste like? Can you throw it at each other?

I knew I had to take pictures and I tried to stage a few to compare to the past. There is one picture from our old house that I loved. Jane was a toddler and we had 13” of snow in one evening. The next morning we played and I tried to lay her down and make a snow angel. She sunk into the snow almost completely disappearing. She cried and was all bundled up, stuck in the snow, and for a minute I found it funny and snapped a picture.

Note the trendy pink jacket and ballet shoes.

Note the trendy pink jacket and ballet shoes.

Then one today to compare.

Still rocking a pink jacket but with more attention to appropriate footwear.

Still rocking a pink jacket but with more attention to appropriate footwear.

But that isn’t the photo that got me.

The one that got me is a rare case. Every now and again you can press a button and capture a moment, wrapped in a personality, and glowing with an emotion. I am always happy to capture it and somehow sad at the same time as if I am mourning an innocence that doesn’t even know it is doomed.

This was that picture.

Lady Bug.

Lady Bug.

A smile. A full face grin that says, “I am warm from my big coat. I am comfortable with my rosy cheeks. I feel safe because I close my eyes when I smile. I am happy because my whole face is smiling. I am smiling because you are here with me and I am here with you. Because mommy said to look at daddy…” That smile is for me.

There is no yesterday or tomorrow only right now. In the photo, Lady Bug’s “right now” is in the snow with her family.

The picture is beauty.

I have this type of picture with all my children. My wife. My siblings. Family and friends and even a few strangers. I can’t imagine living in a time when cameras didn’t existing and the only similar option was getting sentimental about a painting. Maybe that is why the Mona Lisa is so famous, she is holding a wisp of a smile and Leonardo captured something rare.

If you have photos that capture your heart, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.