I made it almost 10 years… Almost 10 years without my children experiencing bullying.
It should have been longer.
9 years old is too young to be torn down by other children. To feel the sting and the pain of rejection, humiliation, and deep sadness.
But it happened. And while it was really the first time one of my children experienced bullying, I am positive that it won’t be the last time.
A few weeks ago, my oldest son came home from school and just looked a little “down.” When I asked how his day was, he burst into tears.
A couple children had gathered around him at recess and made fun of him. They called him names, made fun of the his hair, the way he looked, how he ran, how he played, and other verbal bullying.
The phrase that my son kept repeating was… “They called me, gay.”
As a mom, I am always working on my reactions. I have seen over and over that my children will react almost the same way I react. I can control the amount of “crazy” and emotion in situations by keeping my cool and calm.
I did NOT want to stay calm! I wanted to march to the school the next day, have my son point out those kids, and I would give them, the teachers who didn’t see what was happening, and those children’s parents a piece of my mind! My mama bear inside of me was rearing it’s head, but I caught it just before I let it go off.
Instead, I gave him a hug, found a quiet spot, and looked into his eyes as I talked to him.
“Do you know what gay means?”, I asked.
He shook his head. He didn’t know.
This was an opportunity. An opportunity for me to teach my son about how we treat other people. A perfect lesson where he can learn to see the names and words we call people and the way we treat those around us is so important. This was a chance for me to show him how he could choose not to let words have power of him.
I took a few moments to explain to him what gay meant.
You know how Jimmy doesn’t like cheese, but you love cheese?
Okay. Since Jimmy doesn’t like cheese, but you do, does that make Jimmy a bad person?
What about since you love cheese, does that make you better than Jimmy?
Gay is a word that describe people who like things different than others.
Do you like girls? (His response was an enthusiastic nod yes!)
Well, if someone is gay that means a boy likes a boy or a girl likes a girl.
Does that make them bad or dumb or make you better than them?
Nope. It just means that they like something different.
I could see in his eyes as we had this conversation that he was processing all of this. It wasn’t scary, or wicked, or shocking… It was information, knowledge, understanding coming through his brain and into his heart.
So, you see buddy, when someone uses the word gay to try to be mean, they don’t know what they are saying. They are the ones who are ignorant. They think that this word is a bad word. It’s not. And you can choose to see those kids as being uniformed about the words they are using to try to hurt you and other people. You can choose whether you are going to give them the power.
The conversation continued into a beautiful discussion about how he could stand up for people who were different and how he would never choose to participate in hurting and bullying other people who were different than him.
Jayden at one point interrupted me with the most sincere and sweetest words.
What if someone who was getting picked on like me was gay? They would be hurt even more than me, mom!
**INSERT tears filling my eyes!!!**
I pray this simple conversation will be a pinocle point in his life. I hope he will be able to remember that first time he was bullied, called names, and how he felt when others were cruel with their words. That he will think back on our calm discussion and decide not to act the same way as those other children when the opportunity arises (which it will).
If your child has not experienced bullying, name calling, or cruelty, unfortunately, it will happen. And while we wish and hope that they won’t have to experience it, they will.
We can’t stop it, but we CAN educate our children about how bullying hurts others. We CAN love our children through the hurt and reaffirm how amazing they are and how those words that were spoken so meanly are not true or not even words that should be taken as “bad words.”
Let’s help our children take away the power of words to be mean. Tell them the real meaning of the words they hear. Explain to them in simple terms that we give words power over us and others.
I can’t promise my son that he will never be called names and made fun of again, but I hope that from this first conversation he will remember that he can choose to NOT listen to those untrue words that don’t even mean something bad. That he can walk away, talk to me or another adult and remember that he is someone special.