I was teased as a kid. By today's standard, bullied is probably what it was, but where I grew-up, we simply didn't call it anything.
"The boys are all saying they can feel the gym shake when you jump up and down." The "friend" who relayed that message wasn't a friend. But what did I know? I didn't cry, but I am 39 years old, 25 years have passed since that was said to me and I could tell you every detail of the moment when that exchanged happened. I could tell you who said it and who laughed. And I bet not one of those people would remember their involvement.
Sure, I was overly confident for a chubby kid. I had my own insecurity issues and looked for "love" in places where it never would be found. I didn't choose friends wisely, but when you are a default member of the popular crowd because your brother is super cool and your parents are friends with cool girls' parents, you just take it as it comes, regardless of what comes your way.
I remember the night when during a sleepover, we were all changing and I was last to get dressed and as I walked into the den/family room where we were all going to huddle to watch a movie, I heard "You guys, we have to be friends with her. Maybe she'll fall asleep first so we can draw on her face." I won't forget a single word of what I heard, who said, where it was said or when. 30 years later and it still makes me sick to think about. And yet, I walked into that room after having heard that and didn't shed a tear. I never did. But I didn't tell anyone. Not until I'm telling all of you right now. Because something in me was weak enough to not choose something better, but there was something about me that was strong enough to know that these girls wouldn't break me.
I hadn't thought about the way I was teased until my son started Kindergarten. Not until I sent him into a school where he walked in by himself and would have to navigate his relationships in a much different way than in preschool. Off he went. God, I hope I did enough to make him brave, strong, compassionate and kind.
I realize, as a adult who hasn't fully let go of the past, that it's not just about being teased, but it's how you process it that makes the difference. While I didn't cry about it as a kid, I also didn't deal with it. And because of that, I've never been secure in friendships. I have met extraordinary people and spent years being close to dear friends, only to later walk away from those friends. Never out of dislike or ego, but it was my self-defense. I left friendships like people leave parties -- on a high note. The girls who turned on me as an adolescent were people I thought were friends and I carried around the baggage of the hurt and betrayal for decades.
But I don't want that for my child and this is where I have to do better. Be better. For my kid. I feel like in many ways being a parent forces a person to take a personal inventory, whether you like it or not, and think about the things you hope to pass on to your child and the things you hope to make better, do better, role model better, for your child. This is when parenting is hard work. Not the sleepless nights, hours spent on the infant circuit of feed, play mat, bouncer, nap, feed, play mat, bouncer, nap, etc. But for me, in helping my children understand their feelings, process, articulate and manage emotions, and to live with self-awareness to know what Mary Mihalic said, "Nobody's better than you and you're no better than anybody.” And while that feels like a tall order, that's not even half of what I hope and want for my child.
One of the most surprising things about being a parent is that I am willing to face issues for the benefit of my children. Things I've spent years pushing down, shoving into a proverbial box, I'm now elbows deep into that box of feelings trying to make sense of it all. I'm not analyzing everything I've experienced or living with regret of every mistake, but those things that I've compartmentalized can't stay there if there's something to be learned that will benefit my child. Things I haven't faced or processed now feel like wasted experiences - hard, dark, deep and scary - they are my truths and there is something to be learned from them.
I entered parenthood knowing there are are both things that I do and don't want to pass on to my children. There are situations they will face where I feel confident in how I can support them and there are situations when I know I will need advice. But I didn't realize how firmly my feet would have to be planted in my own identity in order to be fully present for my children. I can't be the person who feels vulnerable in relationships if I'm the one who should be role modeling them for my children. I can't be the one who feels insecure about my appearance if I want my children to be proud of their own.
With that I realize that my want for my children to be brave The Land strong is something I also want for myself.