Why playground bullies still frighten me

Kids can be so cruel.

From my experience of growing up I know this to be true. I have not only taken some pretty hard knocks, figuratively, from other children but I’ve also doled them out too.

Having friends is so important when you’re growing up. You don’t have to be the most popular kid in school, even having just one BFF is enough to get you through the hell of adolescence.

But still the knocks will come and I think teenagers particularly can suffer horrendously at the hands of bullies in their peer group. A throwaway mean comment that was mindless fun for one child could be devastating for the one it was aimed at and leave a scar of doubt for life.

Now that I have two children of my own I feel a sense of dread at the thought of sending them off into the big and scary wide world where other people can cause them hurt. I want to wrap their feelings up in cotton wool and never see them shed a tear because a boy called them ugly or a girl called them a nasty name.

Worry is part of the deal when you become a parent. It keeps me on my toes, I suppose, but I do use up a lot of time and energy worrying about my girls. When parenting paranoia sneaks in, it can be hard to ignore!

The worry is accompanied by thoughts about the worst case scenario.

What if she gets picked last when they’re choosing teams in sport? What if the other kids laugh at her for not getting an answer right in class? What if one kid takes a particular dislike to her and directs barbs at her every chance they get?

Then there is the fact my two are girls. I think girls can be particularly cruel. Mean Girls could have been a documentary shot at any school.

If only I held infinite and complete power over the universe I would make it so that no one ever does mean things to my kids. I would make it so that only my opinion and what I say to my children stays with them, so that they remember at all times how amazing they are.

But I am powerless to control the actions of others. And sadly the bad things people say to us stick out like a sore thumb next to the good stuff.

I must accept that my children will get hurt. They will cry. What I need to remind myself is that the knocks and the setbacks are what make us stronger. They can make us fight harder and push us in a direction we never thought possible.

Encountering nasty and rude people as children prepares us for adulthood so we can be better judges of character and make better decisions about who we let into our lives.

I want my children to be strong and independent. In order for that to happen, I cannot wrap them up in cotton wool.

I will not hold my children back and so I must accept the possibility for hurt as a result.

So I must be strong too. When they come to me crying I will be there to listen and remind them of everything that makes them amazing.

And I hope that one day that reminder will be more powerful than anything the cruelest of kids can dish out.


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