Parenting Blog

The Ballad of The Bully, The Smart Cookie & The Nimble Parent

Normally I’d crack wise about busting up the little fucker and cartoonishly exaggerate my right fist pounding into its opposite palm, but this time I…okay, well I did exactly that BUT I also quickly pivoted to gentle tones, listened more than I got pissed off, and comforted more than I began harboring weapons of mass humiliation to destroy the 6-year-old dickwad who’s making my Mouse’s daytimes crappier than they ought to be.

Mouse loves school. Always has. Until two weeks ago when we saw a crack in her armor. And then there was that day she came home, and collapsed crying into her over-sized stuffed animal bear. He’s named Barbaloot, but that’s not important right now. She looked up at me, eyes puffy, the color of pink Valentine sweeties, and said, matter-of-factly: “I hate school.” What I did in response surprised me, and, I think, both of my girls. Maybe it was because I was on the phone with the Mrs. at the time all of this went down, because being near her, even if it’s only our voices and the space occupied by our intermittent pauses that share a proximity of closeness, makes me want to be a better man and a legendary father.

I got down on the floor to lay next to Mouse, who was by then completely under and engulfed by the plush bear. Seeing me on the family room carpet, something of a rarity these days, instantaneously made her want to be nearer to me, to be made warm, protected, and loved immensely. We talked, both of us underneath Barbaloot, about how the things the asshat boy was saying to her — that she is stupid / that he is the smartest kid in the class — are not, in reality, him talking about her at all, that she is just the one he is saying these hurtful things to right now at this precise moment in time. But last year, at the other school he went to, it was someone else and next year, someone else again. He’ll go on projecting his own fears and insecurities outward, because he doesn’t actually believe that he is smart or safe or loved or has any prospects of ever being a productive human being capable of feeling honest emotions for another person. Okay, maybe I am taking it too far, it wouldn’t be the first time…or last, but you get my point. I hope. And I think she did too. I hope.

I went on to say that if she felt like she could, that she might want to embody, not exactly verbalize mind you, a “whatever, dude” ‘tude when the stooge spews his bullshit again in her direction or in the general direction of her buddies. Mouse said that she’ll try and added that she knows she’s very smart, that, in her heart, she doesn’t believe what he says about her.

Mouse deserves way more from this one boy and from every single person she’ll meet from here on out. I’d like to think that I’m being of some assistance as she starts to realize this fact, and begins to demand better from those with whom she shares space in this world.

*An edited version of this story has also appeared on The Huffington Post.

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