I know that technically yesterday was Spirit Day, but we were out and about rocking our purple all over town, so this post is coming at ya a day late. Either way, the message still matters.
When I was very young (6), I was moved up a grade while at a small school, and much like a small town, everybody knew your business. I went from Kindergarten to second grade, and while it sounds like a small enough leap, it was big enough to label me an outcast. From that point forward, all the kids knew that I "didn't belong", and I was labeled throughout elementary, middle, and, unfortunately, high school, as "too smart", or "too small", or "too flat-chested" - you get the drift. Being a year younger doesn't sound like much, particularly now, but when you're in the throes of puberty, it's a big difference, and as we all know, even the smallest difference in school can make you a target for name-calling, bullying, and loner status.
Though twenty years have passed, the ridicule I experienced during my school years has stayed with me, and most likely will remain forever. I second-guess myself in certain situations, I feel nervous and unlikable in groups with new people, and only as a college student did I really come into my own and figure out who I was and where I belonged. Man, I loved college.
To this day, I am proud of myself for joining not one but TWO mom's groups. I have showed up places where I knew no one, Ava in tow, to make friends for both of us and hope that I'll be accepted for who I am. Again I feel I'm at a disadvantage, now due to my marital status as opposed to my age, though sometimes I am the youngest and I instantly feel panicked.
I fight back anxiety at times that can only be attributed to what I went through as a child. And once children decided that I should be the target of their hatred, they found lots of things about me they didn't like. I didn't have much money growing up, so my clothes were also off-brand and behind the trends. My hair was naturally curly, and went every which way, particularly in our humid climate. My parents didn't bother to put me in braces, which I needed. Children teased me and humiliated me and said hurtful, hateful things to me. And now, I am an adult who is always put together in clothing that is expensive, or brand-name, or trendy, and who has perfectly straight (I corrected this myself, to the tune of $6,000 at 19 - it was THAT important to me) teeth and straight, smooth hair that I fight with my Chi on a regular basis. It may look like the wounds have healed, but clearly, they have not.
In light of all the recent teen suicides due to bullying, whether it's due to sexual orientation, financial circumstances, racial or ethnic identity, physical or mental handicap, or whatever little thing people can pick away at you for, I implore you to put an end to bullying and inequality in our world. As a mother, I am afraid of many things, but little is as sickening to me as the thought that children will damage Ava the way that they damaged me. While I can do my best to prepare her, to make her strong and resilient, and to do as much as humanly possible to ensure she's not an obvious target, it is up to ALL of us to teach our children to be loving, tolerant, accepting human beings. Won't you join me?