My daughter has been bullied for years. Starting in first grade, the word ‘bully’ started circling through conversations with parents and teachers. I refused to use it until two years later. Our goal at home was to teach our daughter to cope. We wanted her to know the difference between someone not liking her shoes, not liking her, and taunting her. I could share almost endless stories of violence other kids inflicted upon her, from being punched in the mouth, to being pinned down in the dark by boys much older, and being kicked in the head and chest. But that’s not really my goal. We know these things happen. Many that know us might be surprised to know she was kicked in the head and chest. We’ve told very few. I could talk for days about the hurtful words that are thrown at her everyday, whether because of what she brings to school, her height, or her energy. But that’s never really my goal either.
We’ve spent years trying to teach her to cope. To know the difference when someone is bullying and when someone is simply being unkind. Instead of giving her examples of each over and over, we started giving her ideas of how to react in any situation with kindness. It’s working.
Five days into the new school year, and friends have already teased her about bringing a stuffed animal to school. Her response is usually something like, “I’m good with it.” Or, “Would you like to give it a hug?” Instead of reacting out of the overwhelming feeling of defense, she offers kindness in return. She’s still hurt by the mean words. She’s still hurt because some of these kids are friends and lack support in her decisions. But she’s coping.
Each day we talk about our kind actions throughout our days, and I always like to ask if someone did something kind for my children. These make for fun dinnertime conversations.
Yesterday she told me she was shoved, probably lost in a crowd rather than something violent, and fell down a few stairs and dropped all of her papers and notebooks on the floor. In the rush to get to classes on time, all the kids nearby stepped on her and her papers while passing by. No one stopped. No one helped. She told me she stopped the tears from coming out of her eyes. Her reasoning was because she didn’t want her contacts to fall out. I’m sure she also didn’t want anyone to see her pain either.
After the next class, another little girl was pushed in the crowd and fell down four steps, dropping all of her belongings. Students stepping all over her papers, and she rushed to clear the papers before they were ruined in the crowd. My daughter saw her. And stopped. She helped this other girl pick up her papers and offered to help organize her backpack again during lunch.
After hearing both stories at dinner, I asked my daughter which one she thought she’d remember most tomorrow or in a week. She told me she’d remember stopping to help someone else. But she’ll always know no one stopped to help her. Until someone does.
All I asked of her at the end of that conversation was, always be the person that stops.
I love her energy. She is high energy in a world where the kids her age think it’s only appropriate to stand around and talk about shoes and make-up. I love the bond she has with her stuffed animal. And I’m happy to report she is not changing that because kids, friends even, can be cruel enough to let her know they think she’s immature for bringing it hidden in her backpack where she knows it keeps a smile saved just for her.
And, finally, I’m proud to know that when I’m not around, she’ll be the kid that stops to help.
Please share your stories of kindness. And continue to be kind.