Today, No One Can Talk To You

23 Nov

From the second they’re born, we want to protect our kids. In the delivery room, the doctors can’t hand them to us fast enough.

Never mind that we just gave birth, and possibly someone’s stitching us up where the sun don’t shine. We want to hold them, cradle them into safety.

They take their first steps with us holding fast to tiny hands. They hear their first songs because we sing them.

Then, we get those gut-punching, searingly painful moments when we realize they’ve toddled and walked and run to a point in their lives where we can’t protect them anymore.

For me, that punch came driving my little girl home from second grade, when I asked “how was your day?”

A tiny voice in the back seat sighed and said, “Sad. Alyssa said no one could to talk to me today.”

Alyssa (and of course, no, that’s not her real name), ruled my daughter’s second-grade classroom. Not the teacher, too young and inexperienced to deal with the bullying. Alyssa reigned.

She would send my daughter home with assignments. “Color this for me or no one can talk to you.”

She made an identical animal habitat box as my daughter, and told everyone my daughter copied her. Never mind that my child was the only second grader at the school who knew what a fennec fox even was, and brought her project in three days early, where Alyssa transcribed her report down point for point.

I fought back as best I could. We would role-play, and talk about things she could say in response. We talked about standing up for yourself. I met with her teacher. We would talk about setting boundaries, and the importance of standing up for yourself.

The bullying would wax and wane, but was never extinguished. Mostly because like a moth to a flame, my daughter would forgive Alyssa and befriend her again. Get close again, and get hurt.

Finally one day, when my daughter won a coveted fitness buddy medal, Alyssa threatened her. “Give it to me or no one is allowed to talk to you at recess all month.”

And at that, my daughter had enough. She said “no.”

In the car that afternoon, she was exuberant with the power of standing up for herself. We did a “I’m not gonna take it dance” in the kitchen.

Then, the next day, I got a call from the assistant principal. In revenge, Alyssa had told all the kids in the second-grade class that my daughter had sex with her dogs.

Told all the kids. In her second-grade class. That my daughter had sex with her dogs.

Honestly, if I could have reached Alyssa in the moment I heard that, I would have slapped her to the ground. Never mind she was only eight. I wanted to tell my daughter every family secret this girl’s mother had ever shared over coffee, and arm her with the real dirt to fight back the vicious lies. I wanted her out of the school, out of the class, out of our lives forever.

And mostly, I wanted my daughter to never speak to her again. I asked her why, when Alyssa hurt her over and over, she would still forgive her, still talk to her, still be her friend.

“What kind of friend does that?” I remember screaming in frustration as we drove home. “She’s not your friend.”

I can still hear her, the quiet voice from the back seat.

“Mom, it’s not about what kind of friend she is to me. It’s about what kind of friend I am to her.”

I realized in that moment, that she was not choosing to be a victim from some place of weakness. She was choosing to forgive, from a place of great strength. More strength than Alyssa’s bullying would ever have.

Of course, the bullying hurt. But she was not letting it change her. She refused to participate when Alyssa chose another target. She spoke up for herself, she found adults who would hold Alyssa accountable. But then, she chose to forgive, and be kind anyway.

I didn’t stop worrying. I didn’t stop wanting to protect her, didn’t stop talking to her about making good choices in her friends. But I stopped seeing her as a victim.

She and Alyssa were never in the same class again, but as it got close to elementary school graduation, I watched in the pick-up line as my daughter hugged this girl goodbye.

And when I expressed some surprise, the voice in the back seat said “Oh, she’s changed. She’s nice now.”

18 Responses to “Today, No One Can Talk To You”

  1. RuthWells November 23, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    What a wonderful human you are raising. Well done.

  2. Ed Harvey November 23, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    Sometimes,… our children teach us.

  3. Brian November 23, 2009 at 5:11 pm #

    Dawn your writing always captures and amazes. Thank you for being fearless enough to write it and share it!

  4. Mandi November 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    Yes, I agree. Thank you for sharing that story. Your daughter reminds me exactly of a cousin of mine (grown up now) She was treated the same way by girl who was supposed to be her friend. She reacted the same way as your daughter. My cousin turned out a confident, wonderful human being. Your daughter is on her way. Well done!

  5. Matthew November 23, 2009 at 5:55 pm #

    Beautiful. My wife sent me this via Twitter today. I’m glad she did. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Beth November 23, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    Great story! My 5-year-old is shaping up to be like your daughter, and it’s awesome. Such wisdom from such little people sometimes, eh? And, she clearly has a terrific Mom. Good job Cheers!

  7. vanessa November 23, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    Your daughter sounds like a wonderful human being!, but My daughter had a rough experience with a couple of girls who chose to pick on her and she chose to forgive them and move on! Nevermind that I wanted to be 8 yrs old for like 5 minutes and beat them up (yeah stellar example…I know!), but I learned from my daughter. I learned about forgiveness and just moving on…

  8. Elle November 24, 2009 at 7:45 am #

    What an amazing girl your daughter is. As an adult, it would be very tough for me to follow her example–though I know I should. But like you said, we want to protect our kids and the first reaction isn’t always the best. Her thought of “it’s what kind of friend I am” is, of course, exactly the way we should all be thinking.

    Beautiful post!

  9. Quadelle November 24, 2009 at 8:25 am #

    What an amazing character your daughter has.

  10. Katie November 24, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    Chills. Terrific story. You should send that to Parenting Magazine or Parents or whatever it’s called! Ha. Seriously.
    Beautifully written and what a wonderful lesson!

  11. ingrid November 24, 2009 at 10:18 am #

    Oh, my….I have to say you handled that much better than I would have. I would have been hard pressed not to “get ghetto”. LOL!

    Your daughter sounds like she’s an amazing girl. Just like her Mama.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Dawn! Hope you and your family have a safe and happy one!

  12. kristy - wheres my damn answer November 24, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    Wow … from the mouths of babes.

    When Zac was younger he had a run in with a bully for a couple years. I explained to him that when kids say mean things to you it’s usually the worst thing they can imagine someone else saying to them. Once he learned that … the words the bully was spouting off didn’t seem quite as hurtful to him. He would say, “wow … I’m sorry you feel that way”.

  13. Elizabeth November 24, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

    I remember that day well. I was in seventh grade and no one “could” talk to me. I remember my best friend saying she was confused because she had been told not to, and so, she was really sorry. In the afternoon, in desperation, I told her I was going to another school. I wanted her to beg me not to and to realize the craziness of the day. It was a long, painful day, and fortunately that was the extent of my being bullied that year. But the bully wasn’t done bullying people. And after her would come another bully. There is always a bully. Your daughter shines in the example that she gives, choosing to stand up for herself. Her choice is admirable. Having a mom that does the celebratory dance in the kitchen with her allows her to make such a choice. These are the bests of motherhood I think, the important parts. You are a gem, and I hope you feel it in your heart. And I hope she recognizes the gift that she is. I pray that I am the dancing mother as my little girl grows. Your example makes me hopeful.

  14. Aunt Becky November 24, 2009 at 10:24 pm #

    She’s 2844393 times the person I can ever be. Wow.

  15. Sandra McKenzie November 26, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    Hey Dawn, have I told you lately how much I love your blog? (And now your daughter). I can soooo relate to the “mean girl” bullying. My worst bullying incident happened in high school – and it was a guy. He seemed to hate most of the girls in school, but for me he reserved an especially mean type of hatred. Don’t know what set him off – do know that I regret, to this day, not having the guts to call him on his nastiness. And I certainly don’t have your daughter’s largeness of spirit, so haven’t forgiven him (and likely never will) for making my adolescence more of a living hell than it absolutely had to be.

  16. Octopusgrabbus November 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm #

    That Alyssa girl needs some serious therapy. There are mean things you can say — not that you should — without having said that.

  17. Sherry Carr-Smith November 30, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    What an amazing person your daughter already is. And what the hell was going on in Alyssa’s young life to not only make her treat others that way, but give her the language to do it? Sad.


  18. Ali December 8, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    Bravo to you! for raising such a strong, beautiful daughter.

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