Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sticks and Stones...

Last Thursday, I was talking to my little lady about her day at school, asking the usual questions...what did you learn, who did you sit with...and somewhere within my line of rapid fire questions, she mentioned that when she tried to go to the block center that morning, two of her little kindergarten pals said 'Go away, Bella- We don't want to play with you."

It's almost shocking how quickly that mother bear/Incredible Hulk instinct kicks in...It took all of my self-restraint (and most of next week's reserve) not to grab my car keys, do 90 MPH over to these kids' houses and give them a verbal smack down that would prevent them from ever even looking at my pint-sized princess in the wrong way again. A few deep breaths later...

Me: "What did you say to them?"
B: "I told them that they weren't being nice and then I went to the math center."
Me: "Are these kids always mean?"
B: "No."
Me: "What else did they say to you?"
B: "Nothing."
Me: "Should I call Mrs X?"
B: "Can I have chocolate milk?"

Translation? She was completely over it...but I wasn't anywhere close. A thousand thoughts ran through my overly-neurotic brain. Was she being treated badly at school? Was she being picked on because she's short? Did she sit with other kids at snack time? Did she have a date to the homecoming dance? I was a Sarah Palen for President sized disaster.

I had such a pit in my stomach over our conversation, that I couldn't even bring myself to repeat it to my husband until hours later. Being the Yang to my Yin, he assured me that our girl is one tough cookie, can handle herself (and did so that very afternoon) and that sadly, not everyone is going to be nice, 100% of the time.

I am no stranger to the world of mean kids. When I was in 6th grade, I had short curly hair (think little Orphan Annie, without the cool dog and freckles), huge glasses a la Sally Jesse Raphael, and a mouth full of metal. Glasses, braces AND an Afro? Jackpot!!! Not for me, of course, but for the two future comedians who sat in the back of the bus. Everyday I would get on the school bus, and hear them..."Hey Medusa! Is that your face, or did your neck throw up??" It was the same stupid joke, every single day.

Did I cry? Did I ask my parents to drive me to school? Did I even tell my parents? Honestly, no. I remember it all happening, but I really don't remember having that strong of a reaction to it. I had a great group of friends, a loving family, and good grades, despite the nasty and totally non- clever remarks coming from the rear of the bus. Life went on, and I guess, for me, ignorance was the best policy.

These 22 year old memories, had been buried deep down in my brain, somewhere between the grade I got on my 5th grade state report (a 72...it was on North Dakota- boringest. state. EVER) and the color of my junior prom shoes (blue with silver buckles AND rhinestones...awesome, I know), UNTIL this August, when I was mentally preparing myself for Bella's first school bus ride.

I was a complete wreck, trying to come to terms with how I was supposed to watch my baby board a huge yellow box with wheels, commandeered by a complete stranger, and just drive away. What if she doesn't click her seat belt correctly? What if she can't find a seat? What if a 4th grader calls her a baby? (God help that kid!!!) My mom, successfully having raised four children of her own, reassured me that everything would be just fine. She made the point that all four of us took a bus to school, everyday, for ten years each, and we all survived. That's when I started to share my horror stories from junior high, of the dumb boys on my bus, and the Queen B in my class, who once stood up, and loudly announced to everyone that my hair bore a striking resemblance to a wasp's nest that one of our classmates had brought in for a science project. I remember everyone, including my teacher (a topic for a different day!) laughing, and me wanting to crawl under a desk, or inside the infamous wasp's nest.

My poor mom. She stared at me, completely confused. "That didn't happen!" she said, "Why wouldn't you have told me about it?" I had no answer, other than much like Vegas, what happened at Van Wyck Junior High School, stayed at Van Wyck Junior High School. I think it all boils down to the fact that deep down inside, I had too much self-confidence and worth to allow ridiculous insults get me down. For that, I thank my parents, who always praised us, made us feel important and valued, and armed us with the tools needed to confidently navigate our way through the world...from that first school bus ride, to freshman year away at college, to purchasing a new home, and becoming parents ourselves.

As I look back at that conversation with Bella, regarding "Block-gate"a week later, I can breathe a little easier. This chick is going to have countless similiar situations with other kiddies over the next twelve years she is in school, because that is life. As her mama, it isn't my job to fight her battles, but it is my responsibility to equip her with the confidence, fortitude and spunk that she will need to fight them herself.

A little hair product and some fabulous shoes will go a long way, too.


  1. Jen, I would have reacted the same way!! (and am going to be thinking the exact same way you did when K has to get on the bus for the first time - ps, I'm already contemplating driving her to school every day of her school career - yeah, I know, probably won't happen, but these are the crazy thoughts!)...I love the way Bella reacted to this too, she had total confidence and was so over it! Kudos to you and Chris!