When I became a mother, I had all these hopes and dreams for my children. And as they grew, those changed. When they started school, one of those was for them to be liked. To have friends. To be accepted. I didn’t want them to be “popular” per se, but I prayed for an easier time than I had.
What do I do when that doesn’t happen? When my son comes home crying because he is never picked or always picked last? When no one wants to sit by him? When he is called fat and ugly? When he isn’t athletic, light on his feet, and super outgoing? What if he is slightly clumsy, slower, and socially delayed?
My mother’s heart aches and weeps. I want to don my Mama Bear armor and slay the dragons. But I can’t. They are just kids. And my son has to bear this hard time.
Kids are cruel. I know because I was one. Grades fifth through eighth were brutal. Living in a small town, going to a small school, I didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to friends. I had limited options and couldn’t escape what came my way. My looks, my personality, my athletic ability—all were under scrutiny and added fire to the jokes, taunting, and laughter. Emotionally I was bleeding, physically I was safe.
And now it is my son’s turn. To walk through these hard years. Different from the rest of his class which is full of athletic, strong-willed boys. My sweet, smart, and slightly awkward boy is fumbling with his changing body and now having his eyes opened to how the world can be.
We teach our kids about bullying. We chant the words “be kind.” Is it working? Sometimes yes. I do believe it does. And people are mean. It’s part of that broken world we live in. Kids at this age are struggling with so much. Changing bodies. More responsibilities. Overscheduled lives. Awareness of others and differences. They are becoming more influenced by society and parents. Less innocent. Our kids are growing up. And growing up comes with ups and downs. Joys and pains. Triumphs and failures.
I am watching it, and oh, how my heart is breaking. I can’t shelter him from this all. I can’t stand up to those other kids for him. I can’t keep his heart safe. The worry and anxiety over this has me in knots. I don’t know what to do. And can I really do anything? Or is this a right of passage? A really sucky one. But one he must endure.
Parents, are we doing enough? Are we asking our kids the hard questions? Even if our kids won’t answer them truthfully, are we making them aware of how actions can impact others? Do we mirror “be kind”? Or are we saying it and doing the opposite? I am looking at myself as well. Kids see and hear everything. Even if we think they don’t. Especially on social media. Which is another beast I am terrified of.
One thing that is different from my experience is the open and honest communication I am creating with my children. They know they can come to me with anything. I will answer their questions and concerns with my best ability. I listen to them. I hold space for their tears. I didn’t tell anyone about my struggles. Although I am sure my mom knew. And she saw that I was just as mean to others. A cycle I am trying to break now.
We are at the beginning of this hard stage of life. It may get worse before it gets better. I don’t know how to handle it. As the mother of a kid being bullied, I feel like I am failing my kids. And I know I would feel the same if my kid was the bully, which I know they will be at some point.
So here we are. My hopes and dreams changing for my kids once again.