Did you wake up with a feeling of dread, with your heart racing, your mind swirling, on school mornings when you were a preteen or a teen? Did you eat lunch in the bathroom (or just hang out in the bathroom alone during the time everyone else was actually eating and talking and laughing in the cafeteria)? Did you worry? Just worry about anything, everything, constant- full – unexplainable and intractable worry?
Do you know if your kid suffers the same way?
You probably think you know. But you don’t. Our kids tell us things in a way we can’t hear. They speak in limericks and haikus. They want us to read their minds. Parents complain that their teens are always on their electronic devices, always texting friends, on social media too much. Parents complain that their teens don’t open up to them.
Our kids are talking. We just have to listen.
We have to stop talking. We have to suppress that urge to advise our offspring about what to do, even though we have been there. We have been in the bathroom alone wondering why we can’t sit at the lunch table and smile and laugh with everyone else. Maybe we even still eat lunch alone. We have to quiet ourselves for one minute and listen and yes decipher what the hell they are talking about. And no, we might not understand the code they are talking in, but that feeling our kid will get when they can just talk freely with their mom or dad and not feel … judged, or less than, or worried that we will love them any less… that moment will be worth something. Our kids are worth something.
My oldest daughter is being bullied.
Who am I kidding? Even my 8-year-old son is picked on by his peers. He told me last weekend that they call him gay at school. His face was red and his eyes were wet. My two middle daughters, they too are picked on… I am not naïve. I know how hard middle school is. I know which end of the stick my kids are on.
My oldest daughter is so beautiful, talented, smart, and truly … kindhearted. I see a lot of characteristics in her that I had at that age. When she tells me that there is a club forming at her school that’s focus is … “hating” her.. I can’t believe it. Disbelief. Who could hate her? It just doesn’t make sense. But, then I remember.
I am driving the car while she is telling me this, while she reads me the hateful things a girl is writing about her on Facebook and others are “liking” this girl’s hateful status. There was no Facebook wall when I was in high school – nope – we had bathroom and locker room walls. And yes, that could be painted over, but that never seemed to happen.
Yesterday morning the vice principal of her high school called me at work and informed me she was involved in an altercation.
“Is she okay?” I started to shake. I knew something was wrong. All morning I felt not right. I couldn’t understand a word he said after I asked the question and heard the answer, “She’s in the nurse’s office with a headache.” I knew I had to go get her and I wanted him to shut up so I could just get there and see for myself.
How will you protect my child, exactly?
When I got there and was able to process what happened (a group of girls cornered my daughter in the bathroom first thing in the morning), I asked the vice principal and the police officer what was going to happen to ensure the future safety of my daughter when she returns after her suspension.
They had no good answers.
To my friends who have children – listen to your children. Just listen to what they are saying, and what they are not saying. Follow them on Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter. Follow from a distance.
Tell them the root word of bullying is bullshit. That’s the advice Freckles gave me just now.