I have a shirt that says “Trust the Universe” across the front and a tattoo on my foot that reads “one step at a time.” My bathroom cabinet and light switch have quotes adhered to them reminding me to be awesome and other good crap like that. I read, every day, to my kids, for myself, real books, magazines, and other blogs (especially on Medium, super awesome). I even listen to ebooks via bluetooth in the car (when I’m not bumping hip hop, that is). I use the thesaurus, daily. I adore vocabulary words; it’s my favorite part of lecturing. My pinterest boards are sparkled (yep, sparkled, it’s a thing) with fun, motivational and thought provoking quotes.
Speaking of virtual inspiration, I took that whole “what you visualize you materialize” thing a bit literally and uh, printed out those quotes and created a pretty fabulous wall feature in my laundry room (yes, the laundry room. . .). These are there for sure to cheer me on while I wash and fold. Wait, who am I kidding? I don’t really fold, or iron for that matter. My clothes have 5 probable locations- on me, in the closet, on my bed, on the floor (yes, I’m 33 and still occasionally leave clothes on the floor. Whatever.), in the laundry room, or in the dry cleaning bag. These are all versions of wearable, waiting for transportation to the holy land (my tiny closet space), in the process of being wearable again, and it has to be ironed.
Based on this (obviously tidy, and awesome) substantial “print-rich environment,” one might argue that I am a bit attached to the written word. I might not disagree (#firsttimeforeverything).
But oh, the power of the word.
Oh mighty pen, what dragons you slay, what marks you leave upon my tear stained face, what flutter you bring to my heart, what light you shine on my life.
Wait. WHAT THE HELL!?! Who writes this shit? Um. Me. Sometimes. To make a point, when necessary. I like to wear the suit of linguistics the occasion requires. Words are powerful. They can bring joy, harm, wisdom, inspiration, and, pain.
Earlier this week my eight year old brought home a reminder of that paradoxical truth. I knew something was up when she started dropping (extra) attitude on me from her first step out the classroom door. We had reached the “my mommy is here so now I can let it all out but I don’t know how to express that so instead I’m going to act like a two year old” part of our day. Oh boy. We made it home, eventually – longest two damn blocks of my life, thankyouverymuch – and she proceed to melt into a full blown hot mess.
When she chilled a little and was calm enough to give me the down low I discovered that she is, unfortunately, experiencing a rite of passage in her childhood about which I have extremely contradictory opinions. At totally opposing ends of the mom-pain spectrum, I both wish I could shield her from it and am grateful for the opportunity to guide her through it.
She is getting teased. By boys, mostly, who think she’s “cute.” Oh MY. That’s a whole different can of worms, right there. Gulp. But the main deal, for now, is the fact that she is hearing words used against her and she’s not sure what to do about it.
Did I give her the usual “sticks and stones” crap? Negative. Did I tell her to call names back? Of course not. What I did do, is shoot for a trifecta takeaway, T3 baby. One- acknowledge, two- provide some insight and explanation, and three- give her tools to use.
First, looking to show support by listening and recognizing her feelings, I asked some open ended questions to get some dialogue going. While she shared, I expressed empathy and understanding and overall worked to keep the lines of communication open for her to share with me on an ongoing basis.
Then we had a little chat about learning how to not taking things personally. About egos. About the antecedent for most negative behaviors and how that plays out in our interactions with others. Why people say what they say, do what they do, and otherwise inflict pain on others. I thought about getting into the brain research and how and why we react like we do but thought maayyyyybbbbbeeee that was a bit much. Tiny bit. Smidge.
We also talked about behavior and responses look like on her end. What can she do to help prevent and how to respond to teasing. Basically, how she can avoid doing #8 here and instead keep on the sunny side of life with these tools.
We talked a little about karma, about getting what you put out there and about kindness. This part was not new to her; I regularly say to my children “speak with kindness and love or don’t speak at all.” We do lot of rephrasing and reframing as I have found that specificity generates better results than do broad and vague statements like “be nice.” It was though, a reminder of how to apply this outside of our home, with other people and in other situations (namely one where your mother isn’t standing there to help you).
To be honest, the poor kid stopped probably listening to my lecture after the 50th word. It was all Charlie Brown’s mom after the second minute started (whaaa, whaaaaaa, whaaaaaaa . . . ) What I did find absolutely hysterical, however, was when she said “I know, I know, this is something YOUR mom told you, right?” Smarty pants. She already understands the basics of epigenetic inheritance, or at the very least the matriarchal dynamic of the passing of wisdom across generations. Awesome. Maybe she’ll be a sociologist when she grows up. She’s definitely going to have some good shit to tell her own kid some day. Well, her kids and her therapist. . .
So speaking of specificity (and therapy bills), the tools I gave her were:
- Be an ambassador for goodness. Give kindness. Gracious behavior solicits humanity. Goodwill spreads. Compliments beget compliments. In turn then:
- Speak well of others, do not tease, do not gossip, even in response, which simply invites teasing. Be impeccable with your word, my darling.
- Keep calm (and carry on. . . ). Seriously. Be unflappable. Do not react. Fastest way to lose an argument? React. Best way to make the other person keep talking? React. Want your little brother/classmate/frenemy to continue provoking you? REACT. Therefore, although it is difficult up front, if you can keep it chill, maintain composure, respond cooly, specifically and sans emotion- you win. Plain and simple. People tease for the purpose of a response. Devoid a response, there is little benefit to exert the effort. Given that she is only eight, and even adults struggle with this;
- Find your “A” Team. Surround yourself with like minded people and get help when you need it. Seek and offer support to and from your peer group. It is easy to target someone who is alone, it is more difficult to hurt someone in a group. Hang near a person in authority if need be, since most kids don’t really like getting caught acting like a jackass (plenty of exceptions here though, for sure). Do not, ever, use that group strength to hurt others. Ever. No excuses.
- Call them out on the mat and then let it go. Tell it to them straight. Try to avoid the “I feel ____ when you_____” statements because let’s be honest, the other person knows they hurt your feelings, THAT’S WHY THEY DID IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Duh. So don’t open yourself up for that. Instead, be specific, provide examples, and be very clear about what is not okay. Not why it’s not okay from an emotional standpoint, simply that it is unacceptable. Disregard all negative behavior from that person after that point. Standing up for yourself shows others your strength and lets them know what you will and will not tolerate. Do not engage with the other person beyond that, but simply communicate, clearly and regularly to those who can help. The teacher can’t see everything and s/he can’t help you unless made aware of the problem. Do your part by standing up for yourself and letting an adult know what is going on, and then let it go. The culprit will get themselves into their own trouble after that.
It was overall a good lesson, for both of us, and it’s not over. It will keep growing and going as time continues because this isn’t a one shot, teasing vaccination kind of deal. To use a teaching joke, it wasn’t a drive-by training. I’m not taking the “well I told you to ….” approach. That shit doesn’t work; it’s not sustainable, even with adults, hence the universe dropping those lessons on us, all.the.time.
Here’s to parenting adventures. May they continue to teach us humility, encourage our own reflection and continue to send that karmic boomerang back around again, and again, and again.
Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. ~Henry James
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