The public conversation about bullying has opened up to include friendship benches at schools and campaigns for inclusiveness. As the Indian child of immigrants who grew up in the southern parts of America, I heartily support both.
Bullies are going to happen, whether on the playground or the workplace; they are a ritual of childhood as much as the joy of a driving license.
When confronted by three four year olds, hands over their ears, laughing when your child enters the room, your mettle will be tested.
When I realized where their glances were going, I let the boys know if that ours was too loud at any point, they could ask him to stop. I asked them to please put their hands down. One out of the three did. The other two carried on.
In that instant, two ideas crystallized:
1. I cannot protect my son from negative events in his life.
2. Not everyone is going to like my child.
I diverted his (and my) attention away from the ones who still had their hands over their ears.
“Who’s excited to see M today?” I asked the class at large, gulping past a lump in my throat that no one would reply. Thankfully two other children raised their hands.
“What’s your name?” I asked a dewy eyed girl who bounced in her chair.
I redirected my guy towards her.
Yet the brief incident stayed with me on my thirty minute drive to the office. I called my husband; we discussed our concerns and also the opportunities.
As an adult I am someone who is comfortable in her skin – even if this means other people are put off by my frankness.
I didn’t have an ideal childhood but that worked in my favor as I grew older: disappointment, hardship, and tragedy did not pull me under as it did some of my other more sheltered friends.
While my heart still twinges when I think back to that moment, I am thankful for this incident. How we react to adversity shapes our character from a very young age. Even as early as 4.
As much as I want to protect them, I want to give our sons resilience even more. What other people think about you is a reflection of them, not you.
I thank those three four years for helping me formulate my parenting strategy toward adversity.
What are your thoughts? Have you had to deal with bullying?