Thursday, June 25, 2009

The concrete jungle: bullying and grace

Like most parents, I'm crazy about my kid. Since we graduated from the challenging toddler years, every day--even a tough day--has one or two moments when I see our daughter for the miracle, the grace of heaven, that she really is and get lost in that love.

It's been a joy to watch her blossom academically, at play with friends, in her voracious reading, in her creative activities. There have been struggles in each area, yes. Especially on the school playground.

Beginning in second grade, three girls began bullying her in that nasty way females sometimes do. With girls, it tends to be called "relational aggression," because they don't act physically aggressive as often as they try to take the wind out of another girl's sails. "Your shoes are ugly." "Andrea says your dress is ugly." "Sarena says you're a loser."

Never mind that none of that is true, that she's doing very well in school and has plenty of friends for playdates and lots of cute, non-show-offy clothes for school. I'm being totally honest when I tell you that worrying about the next day's playground time has kept me up at night off and on the past two school years.


We've found some ways to bolster her self-confidence in these situations (although progress here seems to proceed at a glacial pace), and things have gotten better. So it was with a feeling of wonder that I listened to her account of her first day at summer daycamp this past Monday.

She said, "A girl was being really mean to Jasmine today. She was being a bully to her." I remarked on how unfair that was and asked if she had been the victim, too. She said, "No, Savannah and another girl just picked on Jasmine, but I told her I was on her side."

Can I tell you that at that moment, my heart swelled? It wasn't that long ago that someone told me that the challenges my daughter has faced from the mean girls at school were only going to build character in her, that she's a strong girl who "gets" what's going on and she'll be fine.

But it's so hard to look at these situations long-term, when you're living your day aware that in ten minutes it's recess over at school four blocks away and hoping that this is a good recess and that you won't hear an upsetting story after school that you push away until it wakes you up at 2:00 a.m. and lose another 90 minutes of sleep...

So when my kid told me that she told this poor bullied girl that she would stand by her, it seemed like the most profound kind of grace. For her, for her new friend. I'm not one of those people who has a Bible verse for every occasion, but I know in my bones that this is Romans 8:28 in action: "All things work together for good to them that love the Lord," and I told my daughter that, and she smiled a powerful little smile.


ginabad said...

Wow, you go mama! That is an awesome response from your daughter, kudos to you on some outstanding parenting. Got tips? :-)

MarcomMom said...

Thanks, Gina. It's a long road, but thankfully we're both learning...! :)

MarcomMom said...

As for tips, I may do another post about that separately, but I highly recommend some kids' books: "Simon's Hook" for littler ones, and "Bullies are a Pain in the Brain" for kids who are maybe third to sixth graders.

Julie@Momspective said...

Wow. That surely is something to treasure. I'll be having a talk about this with my son tomorrow. Thanks.

ML said...

One of the prayers for my sons is from Ecc.4:12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. and 4:10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up

I'm not a great bible quoter, but I have prayed for my sons that they have friends who help lift them up when they fall down. It looks like your daughter is one of those beautiful blessing friends.

I've discovered that when your own children are bullied, how you talk to them determines whether they'll be compassionate and stand up for others.

It sounds like you taught your daughter beautifully how to handle these challenges.

MarcomMom said...

ML, thank you. What a powerful metaphor. I'll discuss that with her, as well. My sister suggested some verses on bearing one another's burdens, which I went over with her last night and seemed to really sink in.