My daughter walked into her Pre-K class one morning recently. She was having a rough time with drop off. She was clinging to me and to make matters worse, a kid in her class, we'll call her Charm School, starting calling her “baby”. Some of the kids laughed and followed along. My daughter started to cry and my heart broke.
The teacher quickly put a stop to it but leaving that day was hard. I wanted to grab my daughter and take her with me. I wanted to let Charm School have it. I wanted her mother to know what happened and how awful her daughter had been to mine. I did none of those things. I let the teacher control her class and left my daughter to continue on with her day. By the time I picked her up in the afternoon, she didn’t even mention what happened in the morning and seemed fine. I believe I dwelled on it more than her.
The thing is, I know, even while my heart breaks and my blood boils, that I do my child no favors by fixing things for her—to a point. There will be mean people throughout life. Part of growing up is learning how to cope with people who try to hurt or humiliate you and knowing your own self-worth enough to not let their cruelty shape how you see yourself.
As a mother, though my brain understands this, inside I just die a little when I see my “baby” hurt. I want to fix it. I want her world to be perfect. It’s not logical or realistic. It’s just how I feel.
Learning how to handle the adversity of a cruel or hurtful individual unfortunately only comes with time and unpleasant experiences.
My child is not to the age where we have these intellectual discussions on bullying or self-confidence. We do talk about what to do if someone is mean and when something does happen, I try to help her work through it. Nevertheless, when she tells me about something that happens, like another time when Charm School called her and her friend a bag of d—ks (lovely, right?), I didn’t minimize how it made her feel. I know, from experience, dumb insults can hurt way more than they should. Logically, you know what someone says is stupid and meaningless. But it breaks your heart anyway and makes you feel like crap.
Thankfully, I have a strong girl. She gets her feelings hurt and things people say can get to her, but she, for now, seems to gets past it. It doesn’t stop her from walking in that door every day and, it seems based on the pictures the teachers take, she and Charm School even play together at times. She’s only four, but at least relatively speaking, she seems to be handling her own battles well at this point.
The important thing I want her to know that even when some kid is ugly or mean, feeling hurt or embarrassed doesn’t make you weak or “less than”. It’s human. On the flip side, also know that these moments don’t shape who you are and even when it feels like your whole world is falling apart or everyone hates you (it’s dramatic, but so are young girls), that it’s never as bad as it feels. Time and space to put things into perspective usually helps you see things more clearly.
All that said, the place where I will draw the line when it comes to my “learn to cope to be strong” line of thinking is when it comes to bullying. Be it physical bullying and intimidation or cyberbullying, at that point, if some kid picks on my child like that, they will be dealing with mama bear. I will never be ok with her having to endure any behavior that makes her feel unsafe or broken down if I can help it. I do believe, in those cases, it is our duty as parents to protect and defend our children.
Letting my "baby" fight her battles is perhaps one of the biggest battles internally for me at this point in things. I know this is one of those “growing up” things we parents must cope with as our kids get more independent and we are less able to shelter them. It's tough--as tough as I hope she becomes. It doesn't mean you don't hurt. It just means you persevere too.