21

When Mean Girls Grow Up into Mothers…

When you become a mother, you change. I don’t know a single Mom who would disagree with that statement. I’m not talking about the obvious changes like the lack of sleep, and feeling less put together. I’m talking about the less physically obvious changes. It changes your soul on some level. Your child becomes your focus. You’re very attuned to their needs, and wish there were someway to prevent them from ever feeling any sort of hurt or pain in their lives.

This is impossible of course. Everyone feels this way at some point in their lifetime. The first time you are dumped, you feel pain. The first time you are made fun of, you feel pain. The first time you fail, you feel pain. Though there are some people who get it worse than others. Some people are picked on so mercilessly that every day is painful. For a brief span in my school days, that person was me.

Grades 6 though 9 could only be described by me as hell. I never had a problem making friends. I always had lots of friends for as long as I could remember. In the 4th grade I moved schools and was very nervous about the change I would be encountering. After the first day, however, my fear had quickly disappeared. I met great friends almost immediately. One in particular who I would call my best friend. We were inseparable, and spent every single day together. Until one day I showed up at school to face a wall of girls who were supposedly my friends. They had all been talking behind my back, and just decided collectively that I wasn’t cool anymore, and was no longer best friends with “her”. I tried to ask for an explanation and was simply laughed at, mocked, and ridiculed as they all turned away from me to form a circle and exclude the girl who was now the butt of the jokes. Overnight, my world changed…and I hadn’t done a single thing.

Every day for four years, I was the girl on the left.

Every day for four years, I was the girl on the left.

There was still one girl though, who continued to be friends with me despite what the cool girls said. After a while though, those cool girls made it their mission to take away the one person I had left. They didn’t like that I had a friend. One friend to call my own. So they went into my desk, took my eraser and wrote her name on it. Then they scratched it out and wrote a rude comment next to her name. Next thing I know I’m being confronted by my one last friend asking why I would write something so nasty about her. I was dumbfounded and had no idea what she was talking about. She showed me the eraser, and I knew instantly it wasn’t my handwriting. It was too loopy and pretty. But how do you convince the one friend you have left that the eraser with the mean things on it she was shown (by the mean girls) in your desk wasn’t written by you? You can’t. The result? My one friend was gone.

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Looking back it sounds like such a silly thing. When you’re 12 years old though, it is psychological warfare. I was now isolated. I dreaded recess. I dreaded lunch hours. I dreaded the walk home from school. The summer before entering Middle School for about one week they all talked to me again. They were scared about starting a new bigger school and thought if we showed up in a big group it would look better. So I was included again and thought (naively) that it was my chance to show them all I really wasn’t the freak they made me out to be. It didn’t last, and life went back to being hell.

Thankfully, once I hit High School everything changed for me and I separated myself completely from the girls I used to know. I made friends there who I still keep in contact with, and who are genuinely amazing people. I’m glad I made it through those years, and that it was before the days of cyber bullying. I fear if I had to go through this in this day and age at the tender age of 12, and had to deal with internet bullying as well, I may not have made it to the High School days.

Which made me think…

I was remembering all of this as I was driving my daughter to my Mom’s this morning. I was wondering how I could ensure that my daughter would never have to go through feeling isolated and made to feel like she isn’t worth the dirt on the bottom of someone’s shoe. Then I realized – a lot of those “cool girls” are now mom’s. They have children of their own, who have just started, or will soon be starting school.

Like I said before, becoming a mother changes you. So I wonder if now from a mother’s perspective, they ever look back at just how awful they were as kids. I wonder if they realize what pain they made another girl feel. I wonder if they’ve ever thought to themselves that maybe the adult in them should have reached out and apologized? I wonder if their kids will end up being the mean girl, or the sad girl. I wonder if they wonder….

I do know that they can’t claim to be oblivious to the pain they caused me to feel. It was a daily occurrence for four years, and subtlety was not their forte. They liked getting in your face about it so that they had front row seats to the soul slashing. It seemed to give them a rush when they could see someone suffering. I was not the only one they did it to.

Now I have a daughter, and bullying hasn’t stopped. If anything, it has become more rampant, and harder for children to escape. It makes me wonder: Do bullies grow up to raise future bullies? Where does the cycle end? If they themselves were the bullies and not the bullied, how can they have the proper perspective to teach their children about the damage their actions can cause? Do they even feel a twinge of guilt when they say to their kids “Oh don’t do that, that’s not nice”, knowing that they themselves were the not nice kids?

Motherhood has changed me.

Has it changed them?

 

 

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32

Motherhood, bullying, and “being pretty”.

I am raising a daughter. A daughter who, without being taught or prompted, has turned into the girliest girl I know. It seems to come naturally to her, and has left me to think – should I be worried?

Before I get started, let me give you a few examples. Keep in mind, she’s not even quite 2 years old yet, and won’t be until October.

– When I get her dressed in the morning, she will run over to the full length mirror and check herself out. She will pose, turn from side to side, and say “Ooooh”. I have never taught her this, nor do I “Ooooh” at my own image in the mirror. Usually I barely have time to get myself ready at all and am lucky if I catch a sideways glance at myself as I’m walking out the door.

– On the very few rare occasions I actually decide to put on makeup for work, she takes notice. She demands that I kiss the top of her hand and leave her with “kissy lips” for the day. She stares at that kiss, makes the “mwah” sound, and kisses the kiss for hours.

– She is obsessed with all things pretty. Necklaces, earrings, purses, scarves, accessories.

– She twirls and spins, and makes her stuffies give each other kisses.

These are just a few examples. While they may not be in themselves something to worry about, I do worry that at such a young age, she seems to be enamoured by them. I wish her to be able to focus on more than just “pretty things” as she grows up.

Looking back to my own childhood (from what I can remember) I feel as thought I was a pretty good mix. While I thrived at more girly activities (dance in particular), I was also one who had fun out playing in the dirt with the boys, playing with tonka trucks, and had more male friends than female for many of my school day years. I found that a lot of females while I was growing up were so catty, and too obsessed with the superficial aspects of life, and not things with substance.

The thought of raising a daughter in today’s day and age terrifies me. News reports are rampant lately, with stories of teenage girls who ended up victims of gang rapes, and cyber bullying. Girls who drink too much in order to “fit in” and then pass out and are taken advantage of by groups of boys who are no longer taught in school that “no means no”, and that a girl who is passed out is not compliant. That’s right. They are no longer taught this in school. When I went to school, sex ed and learning about what constitutes rape was taught. These days, it is out of the curriculum because some parents think it is inappropriate.

Is it more appropriate for our kids to be participating in unsafe situations because you were too uncomfortable with them being taught facts? If you’re not going to be active in teaching them as their parent what is right, what is wrong, and how to stand up for themselves and others, who will? Nobody, if you’ve gotten it out of school curriculum.

Too many of our kids are committing suicide due to bullying. And I get it. It seems there is no way out. I myself was bullied horribly from grades 6-9. It was awful, and I dreaded waking up every day to go to school. Dreaded it. I can’t tell you how many times I faked being sick, or told the gym teacher I wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t participate to save the humiliation of being the only girl nobody wanted to be partnered with – simply because one “popular girl” decided I wasn’t cool anymore.

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(photo from Chatelaine.com)

The only thing that got me through, was dancing. It was my outlet, and the friends I had there were my saviours. Thankfully, I had that outlet and made it to High School, because it all turned around there, and I have made friends that have lasted a lifetime.

But what about those kids who don’t have that outlet? That safe zone, and those friends? These days it is hard to escape bullying when the school bell rings, because the internet follows you home. Kids these days are cruel. Much more cruel than they were when I was young.

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(photo from http://www.sidedooryk.com/cyber-bullying-by-james-fox/)

What terrifies me, is how much value my daughter already seems to place in “pretty”. What may happen to her down the road if people keep saying to her “Oh you’re so pretty” and not “Oh you are so smart, and valuable”. What may happen to her if some bully down the road makes her feel so badly about her appearance, and she’s left feeling she’s got nothing else to fall back on. What may happen to her if she feels the only way to be pretty and popular is to drink too much and pass out with people who aren’t taught right from wrong?

My job as a mother is going to be a hard one. I must teach her the lessons that are no longer considered important enough to be taught in school. I must teach her that although she now knows right from wrong, and that “no means no”, not all people have been taught the same. I must teach her that if she decides to go against what I have taught her and drink alcohol, to NEVER leave her drink unattended, and to always know she can call me at any hour and from any location, and I will always come and pick her up. I will never get mad at her for calling me late, and will always be proud of her for phoning me, rather than getting in the car with a drunk driver.

I must teach her that “pretty” doesn’t last forever, and while she is gorgeous, there is more to life than that. I must teach her the value of her intelligence, her creativity, and her talents. Be an example in her life, and not obsess over my body – which as any Mama who is post-birth knows, is not an easy feat.

Above all else, I must try to establish the type of relationship with her that is open. One where she feels comfortable and safe to talk to me about anything. Where she doesn’t feel judged. I feel this will be the hardest one of all, and am already anxious about how I will manage to do it. I’ve been a teenage girl. I know that usually, the last person you want to talk to is your mother. I hope that it won’t be the case with my daughter.

All these thoughts and anxieties, and she’s not even two. But this is how my brain works, and what goes through my head.

If I don’t start now, it might be too late.