Birdie has a best friend. These girls are amazing, playing together for hours without over-bossing each other or getting into a tiff. Mind you they boss the crap out of each other, just not past their tolerance levels. We will call her Rianne. They even tolerate LaLa playing with them to a certain extent so Rianne is welcome in our home anytime except for naptime, because hey... four year old girls are incapable of restraining the high pitched squeals that come out of their mouths when they get into close proximity to each other. Like they have this internal Geiger counter, and their girlfriend is the motherload of all uranium deposits.
They are so dang funny, Birdie and Rianne will spend an entire afternoon putting on sparklies and dress-ups and having this mutual admiration party.
"Oh, Birdie... you are SOOOOOooo pretty! You are a pretty princess in that dress!" Rianne will say breathlessly.
Birdie coyly looks at herself in the mirror and bats her lashes, "I am, thank you!" Then she turns to Rianne, taking in her Snow White dress and 80's hooker pumps, "why, Rianne you are the most beautiful Snow White!"
"Thank you! Do you think I'm pretty?"
"Yes! You are so pretty! Am I pretty?" Then they switch outfits and so it goes ad nauseum, ad infinitum.... eeeeesh!
This would probably become intolerable, except when they get tired of the dress-ups they gather up mounds of books and spend the next hour reading books to each other. Yowza! Party on, sez I! Plus I really dig Rianne's mother. I finally learned the fine art of not waiting till I can get the house perfect and I just invite the two of them over for lunch and a play date no matter what the state of chaos is. This saves my sanity. Friends are good.
A few days ago while the girls were bulldozing Rianne's room Kari (her mom) told me about how for the longest time they had not finished unpacking because of the problem with bullying in the neighborhood. Her son who is now about eight years old was taking it in the pants on a regular basis from some of the local boys, and then in first grade there was a bully who picked him out for special treatment. I guess it's not a shocker, her boy is a sweet and bookish fellow who is a touch high strung. Exactly the kind of kid who got the short end when I was a kid. But the neighborhood boys? I know them, for the most part they are pretty fun and likable kids, but I could easily see how they would turn on a quieter boy who was not into giving as good as he got. I only can see it based on my child hood experiences... I don't understand it. And I know their parents. I just don't understand bullying.
I have been thinking alot about bullies... there has been some internet hoo-rah lately with some flamers and trolls on one of my favorite blogs, so the author turned off her comments for the time being. I respect her decision, and more than understand why... I just hope they don't stay off forever. I have found a number of friends and some sweet blogs via the comments people leave. Apparently there was also a to-do in regards to some pretty unkind "blog awards" some blogger decided to hold. Don't bother looking for it... it either got permanently slashdotted, or more likely the blogger holding the awards just folded up shop. I understand that some very bad e-mails and threats got sent to her. Lots of hurt feelings and bad blood.
I know that in Real Life I've taken it in the pants a few times, in High School there was an entire group of "New Wave" boys who would laugh hysterically and point at me every time they saw me in the hallways. It troubled me and it hurt, but it did not destroy me. Nor did it, I suspect, hurt as much as they thought or hoped it did. Frankly it was a little too over the top with the knee-slapping and doubling over howling. One day during classes I saw the ring-leader walking across the quad by himself. No one else was around and we were walking right toward each other. He was looking down as he walked and I felt very strongly that it was to avoid my eye. That gave me heart to do a thing I have always been amazed at in retrospect. It changed my life. I walked up to him and said his name. I asked him point blank why he and his friends would laugh and point at me in the halls. He mumbled around for a bit, and then told me that I was too sensitive... too soft for this world and that they were "toughening me up."
"Toughening me up? Toughening me UP? Who the "eff" do you think you are to "toughen me up?"" I know that I started yelling... I was MAD! I mean I could understand if they thought I was ugly or laughable or dumb or just wanted to mess with me. I believe that he really did in some way think he was doing me a favor. I ended up by telling him off and telling him to not "worry" about me because I was just fine. It stopped, and the ring leader guy and I ended up becoming friends of a sort in our Junior year . To my knowledge he never tried to "toughen" anyone else up.
I have never knowingly bullied or tried to "toughen" anyone up... and I don't really understand why kids do it... or adults. The main thing that I am saying is I might just die if my own kids bully. I'm not talking about toddlers pushing each other down or normal kid stuff. I'm talking about intentional, on-purpose hurting of others. Their feelings, their bodies.
I'm asking people to weigh in... how do you raise kids who don't bully. How do you bully-proof them from the unkindness of others?