Not That Great

14 Apr

How was your day?

“Not that great.”

I could tell. She hadn’t come out of her room when I got home. I had to seek her out, her purple-painted toenails peeking out from a pile of coverss.

I asked what was wrong, she said a boy had said mean things to her at school in the hall.

A boy you know? No, just a kid walking down the hall.

What did he say?

She paused. “Words I don’t want to say.”

Tell me.

“Can I write it?”

I reminded her, words only have evil when we use them to hurt people. She could say them, tell me, give voice to the hurt.

So she said, barely above a whisper, “he said I was an ugly little faggot.”

She is none of those things, this blue-eyed girl of mine. Neither little or ugly or gay.

And I told her that. But I wish I hadn’t.

Because if she were, why would it matter? Would it be ok then, to snarl insults at her in the hall?

I told her, shrug it off. Who is he, anyway, this angry boy in the hall telling lies to her?

I’m not happy with my answer.

Because I don’t  want to settle for a child who can just let it go. I want to raise a woman who stands up for herself, and others.

So tonight, I will tell her, I know the words hurt. Right or wrong, true or false. They hurt. And for the teenagers struggling with questions of beauty, of self-worth, of sexuality, they cut even deeper. Remember how it hurt, I will tell her. And turn those tears under the comforter into anger, then courage. Not just for yourself, but for any time you hear those words thrown like daggers.

My answer, I will tell her, was not that great.

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8 Responses to “Not That Great”

  1. Karen April 14, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Oh. It is so hard to be young.

    I love that you are the kind of mother who rethinks her initial response. You’ve got some lucky children.

    Big love to you and your beautiful daughter.

    Karen

  2. Sean April 14, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Dawn,

    Your initial answer may not have been that great, but you were able to be there for her. You know we don’t always have to solve the problem, but as parents we feel so compelled to do so. They’re our kids. We need to protect them or to at least arm them.

    I would have given the same answer, and in hindsight, I probably would not have come up with your better one. I hope you don’t mind if I use it next time someone is ugly to one of my children.

    You are a good mom and if there were more moms like you, the world would be a much better place.

    Love,
    Sean

  3. Natanya April 14, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    We’re dealing with a bullying situation right now and parents have become involved. I let another mother treat my child poorly over *her* child’s bullying behavior because I was shell shocked that the situation was even happening. That was a not great moment for me and I told my daughter so the next day. And we’ve been telling our daughter to walk away, to avoid the bully, to find new friends. But now I wonder, should I be saying something else – is walking away always the right answer?

    Being young sucks. I know, KNOW that she has to go through this to turn into a confident, competent, and happy adult but man it’s hard to watch it happen and even harder to find a way to help.

  4. Kristen April 14, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Thank you. Yesterday I had a similar situation with my son, and I don’t feel like I handled it as well as I could have. It is so hard to protect them, yet make them strong enough to protect themselves.

  5. Shari Biediger April 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Can I share how I have tried to answer those? When my daughter tells me something hurtful someone says to her, I respond by asking her, “Well, are you?” Of course, she says an emphatic “no,” and I quickly agree with her. But now I’ve also empowered her to give voice to what she really is — a beautiful, smart, open and giving person — to practice standing up for herself, and break the spell that creates the echo of those hurtful comments.

  6. Bridget Ivey April 15, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    Luckily for her, she has a mom who isn’t afraid of going back and saying “I’m wrong”. My mom was like that but I had a lot of friends who had parents who would never, ever admit that they were wrong.
    p.s. I hope you told her that next time she could kick him where it hurts. 🙂

  7. Beth April 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    My “other” job, the one that comes after being a Mommy, is being a middle school counselor. Bullying is one of the toughest issues I tackle on a daily basis.

    Your first answer was straight from the heart. Any loving parent’s first instinct is to deny the cruel words being said about their child. And, your second answer was brilliant: Validating, supportive, and with a future action step to go with it. It was perfect! Your daughter is going to be just fine, with a Mama like you in her corner.

    Take care.

  8. Karen May 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Oh I agree with all these folks saying you are a good mama! I am a mom, and a clinical psychologist – one of the best traits a parent can have is to be able to admit he/she doesn’t know everything, and to come back and apologize or to offer something more than the first time around. But even before that you did something wonderful, which was to allow her to speak it in whatever fashion – because those words that are unspoken, unwritten, often hold the most power. You deflated that little boy’s power, as surely as if you were standing there – by teaching your daughter to have a voice! Bravo!
    (not to mention the love and affection you so clearly demonstrated….)

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