Bullying has been all over the media lately.
It’s been something that has existed since the beginning of time, but it seems to be more vicious and cruel than ever.
Being a mom in general…but specifically being a mom to a child with special needs, this both hurts my heart and terrifies me.
The very thought…the THOUGHT…of someone teasing Jill for her disabilities makes my blood boil. My heart races, I’m feeling hot under the collar, and I want to burst into tears.
Obviously the same would be true for any of my children. We mama bears don’t have favorites. But I guess I just realize that Jill, with her silver walker, her plastic braces, her benik vest, her constant tremors, her occasional seizures, being in special education, and possibly her continued difficulties with speech and learning…well, it’s probably only a matter of time before some mean kid decides to take advantage of any or all of that.
As if she hasn’t paid the price enough.
(Please hold. I’m crying. I just can’t.)
The thing is, I obviously can’t protect my children from the world. I can’t be by their side at all times ready to roar my terrible roar and gnash my terrible teeth and roll my terrible eyes and show my terrible claws.
(But oh how satisfying it would be!)
About the only thing I can do is to intentionally and constantly discuss Kindness with my children.
And I can remind you, my little ragamuffin band of readers, to do the same with your own children.
Somehow, maybe between us, the world can be a little less mean if we all do our part with the hearts we’ve been trusted to raise.
It isn’t about sitting kids down for a lesson on “Be Nice”. But instead, looking for places, situations, pointing out mean spiritedness when you see it. On television shows, movies, books, even when you are out and about.
I’ve been known to scold a random kid on the playground if I see them teasing another child.
Show your kids what it looks like to be brave and speak up for those being taunted.
It’s not just about they, themselves being nice…but to be a brave friend too.
To talk to teachers. Parents. Adults.
To never, ever, ever join.
To grab a hand and say “come on, let’s go.”
To specifically seek out those who are sitting alone.
Your kids will surprise you.
“Henry, do you ever see kids at your school that are always eating lunch by themselves? They don’t play. They just kinda sit there with no friends?”
“Yeah. There’s one girl who’s always alone.”
“You know, you should go out of your way to say hi to her. I know you want to play, but it’s important that she knows you see her. I want you to try to remember to go up to her and say hi. You can go play with your friends after.”
“Mom, isn’t that super mean though? Shouldn’t I stay and hang out with her for a while? I think it would be mean to just say hi and then go play and leave her there.”
Oh sweet boy.
There is hope for this world.
Elizabeth’s post yesterday (of some bullying her TINY YOUNG LITTLE I CAN’T BELIEVE IT STARTS SO SOON daughter) struck a nerve.
But mostly, it reminded me that we need to be ridiculously deliberate in raising beautiful hearted children.
My kids might be loud. They might be silly. They might be messy. But I couldn’t be more proud of their little spirits.
You’ll see teaching opportunities everywhere, but a couple of my recent favorites:
It was the $1 book special in the Scholastic booklet a couple of years ago. I’m usually really picky (and leery) of newer (i.e. not from my own childhood) books, but for a buck, it was worth a shot.
(I recently picked up the DVD at Costco…it’s pretty cheesy. I’d recommend sticking to the book if you can find it.)
Imagine the lump in my throat getting bigger by the word as I read aloud the story of Spookley.
“Spookley was different. He was odd, he was rare. Spookley the pumpkin wasn’t round — he was…square!”
“The other pumpkins teased him because he was square. Spookley wished he was round and could roll everywhere.”
I hated those pumpkins. I wanted to reach into the book and throw them off a cliff. I couldn’t think of anything but my blonde, blue eyed girl. Who offers nothing but a sparkle eyed smile to the world.
And the first time I laid on the couch watching Wreck-It Ralph with my kids?
I had NO IDEA.
Had me unable to breathe.
But it couldn’t have been a more perfect opportunity to talk to the Bigs about poor Vanellope. How she was different. And how it was okay that she was different. And how it was most certainly NOT okay that they were mean to her because she was different.
As is with most childhood stories, Vanellope and Spookley overcome obstacles, win the race, save the day, and live happily ever after.
I wish it were as easy for their real life counterparts.
“Maybe someday, you’ll tell someone too, and they’ll go tell someone who’ll go tell another, and maybe one day we all will discover — you can’t judge a book, or a pumpkin…by its cover.”
Psst…pass it on.