When something pisses me off I often need to write about it. And whether that’s to purge it, share it, or simply make sense of it, I’m not sure. All I know is that right now I am extremely pissed off so let’s talk. Let’s talk about labelling. Persecution. Let’s talk about the snide, snarky shit some people feel entitled to say before sauntering away, oh-so self important. Let’s talk about re-victimization.
2013/2014 was an awful year for my child. She was bullied. Disliked. Labelled as a sneak. Called on the carpet over and over—to the point where I wanted to throw up every time I saw the school’s number on my cell (much less how my child must have felt, knowing I was getting a call. AGAIN).
So what did she do to warrant this dreadful year?
To be frank, I’m still trying to figure that out. Was she bullied? Yes. One day she brought home a list of names some girls regularly called her and I privately wept at how breathtakingly vicious, and crude, the insults were. ‘Okay,’ you say. ‘But what was her role? Every conflict takes two.’ You are right. She absolutely did retaliate sometimes, fought fire-with-fire. And did she sometimes also, and quite robustly, stand up for herself? Yes, she did. Oh, and, when she was accused of something she DID NOT DO, did she argue, not take the blame? Uh-huh. Guilty as charged.
What a wicked, incorrigible child.
Now, anyone who works knows that every profession develops its own lingo. Educators are no different. Here's what I was told: “She’s the kind of kid who I wonder—where will she be in twenty years?”
Here’s the thing: I AM MARRIED TO A TEACHER. For twenty years. Meaning I KNOW what a statement like that really means. It is tantamount to saying that you think in twenty years my child might be in jail. Or peddling dope. Perhaps selling her ass.
What a vile, hateful thing to say that about an 11 year old whose crime was to stand up for herself and to not tolerate being lied about. Yet, apparently being outspoken, direct, and not willing to take any shit is (mysteriously) wrong. Very wrong. So wrong that the end of her year was like watching the Hindenburg crash in slow motion; a never-ending retching of flames, explosions, and noxiousness. A happy, energetic, extroverted child became distrustful and bitter. So depressed she had a hard time getting out of bed.
September 2014 meant a change. A new setting, different school, (one where her Dad, ironically, is the principal), and she is happy. Plays on sports teams. Volunteers at 7am for the Breakfast Club twice a week, every week. The school is divided into house leagues and she is proud to earn points for her respective house as often as she can. Last week she was ill (Hand-Foot-And Mouth Disease) and had to be home for a full five days so as not to spread the infection. She ached for school. For her friends. Her teachers. Her beloved volleyball coach.
A new year. New vigor. Happiness. Hooray! These experiences reflect her true nature, the person who last year no one got to see and few cared to know.
Apparently some still don’t see her, or know her. Today I had an appointment downtown, and note that in a small town privacy is a mere illusion; any office has a catch-all waiting room allowing everyone and their dog to see that you’re there (and likely wonder what you came for). My nose was in a book and, hating conspicuousness, I was trying to fly under the radar. Didn’t work. Someone from my child’s old school, a person who typically wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire on any other day, approached me. The first words after hello? “So. School any better this year? Her Dad keeping her in line?”
My speechlessness spoke for me.
“Or maybe he doesn’t need to keep her in line.” A slick chuckle. “Maybe with him there she knows better than to cross it.”
Okay. Did I miss something here? Last year did my child bring a gun to school and shoot out all the lights? Blow up an out-building? Conduct a black mass in the darkened gym over lunch hour?
’Cause why the hell else would my child, no longer at that school, still be such a hot-ticket topic that someone felt the need to go out of their way to bother me about it while I was reading?
Or (and I am being real magnanimous here) maybe this was some half-assed attempt to be funny.
Well, here’s a newsflash: I’m not laughing. I’m fucking well furious. That an insistence (despite the change in geography!) prevails to malign my child, discredit her, to try, clearly, to convince even me, her mother that she’s some sort of deranged delinquent is equal parts astonishing and infuriating. And all of it because….why, exactly? I sincerely don’t know. If there ever was some big, bad reason, I assure you it was NOT shared with me. So that leaves me with my best guess and it’s this: my child is disliked, labeled, call-it-what-you-will because she did something which, as she matures, will only ever serve her well: SHE TOOK NO SHIT.
What a sin.
That a young person, who will one day emerge into womanhood, is already cultivating the skills to take down bullies and predators. To call people out on their lack of integrity, their viciousness, their bullshit. What have we raised? Where on earth will she end up in 20 years?
Under no one’s thumb, that’s where. ’Cause she takes no shit and that thoroughly pisses some people off.
Well, guess what? I no longer plan to take this shit, either. Today’s experience made the high road impassible. Made my patience so thin it’s now both colorless and odorless, a whole lot like poison, and I’m thinking: what is the best way to commend my daughter for her courageousness (yes: COURAGEOUSNESS) in refusing to be bullied? Why, it’s refusing, in turn, to be bullied—or labelled, or antagonized, or re-victimized. By ANYONE. See, I already did the responsible things: I addressed behaviors when behaviors were pointed out to me. I orchestrated the transition of switching schools. I continue to invest a tremendous amount of energy in what (in my profession) we call ‘asset building’; a fancy phrase that really just means encouraging what’s working or positive.
But here’s what I will no longer do: I won’t turn the other cheek when some smart ass, some lookie-loo, or some self-righteous asshat feels the need to remind me of how much they dislike my child. When they try to convince me that they are right and that I am somehow wrong; that she is some sort of ‘problem’. No. I stood in enough of that shit last year. And this year I thought my boots were finally clean—but today someone felt the need to remind me that they are not. Fine. If there is an adult out there who continues to carry a grudge over an 11 year old child with a backbone? Then I highly encourage them to come tell me all about it. BRING IT ON.