Beth doesn’t look forward to school. She’s not afraid of the subjects or the work. She’s one of many of children who go to school afraid of the other kids.
I was one of those kids. I’ve been thinking about my school days a lot lately, with all the messages I’ve received about a high school reunion coming up this year. The small minded, vengeful little prick in me would like to reply, “go fuck yourselves and your reunion.” But that wouldn’t be entirely fair. I’m sure a lot of those folks turned out to be decent people – many probably better than me.
Beth and I talk about it sometimes after school – how one of the things we learn growing up, going to school, and being around others, is how to interact -how to get along. I want to believe people aren’t all bad, so I suggest some have a harder time than others learning and understanding how much our words can hurt. On the flip side, some of us are faced with an unfortunate choice. How do we respond? Do we fight back with our own harsh words or deeds? Do we try to give some benefit of doubt, not knowing if these bullies are motivated by their own pain? Do we try to find some middle ground, standing up for ourselves while avoiding the temptation to retaliate?
Sometimes these talks don’t go very well. I feel it’s important never to lie, exagerate, or make promises I can’t keep with my kids. I’ve told her I didn’t have the answers when I was in school, that I never quite found the middle road. However, I tell her we’ll always try to be there for her, by backing her up in school, and lending an understanding ear at home. But I understand it doesn’t feel very reasurring now. I try to remind her that not everyone in her life has been a bully, and she’s bound to find it more true as time passes.
Although I beleive those words are true, they feel a little empty leaving my mouth, and I can see they don’t always help much.
Well, something happened this morning. Beth was going through her backpack, getting ready for school, and found a folded piece of paper she didn’t put there. She didn’t risk reading it. She handed to Cheryl instead. Cheryl glanced at it, then read it aloud:
“Beth, don’t let others make you feel bad, you’re special just like you are.”
She handed it back to a surprised, smiling Beth. There were three sets of initials signing the note.
Beth left for school today with renewed enthusiasm.
Never underestimate the power of your words.