inclusion via respect
Parenting brings so many challenges and the myriad of corresponding advice columns to go with it. Who possibly has the time to read it all?! My friends are kind enough to curate these, unconsciously of course and I see them in their social media feed.
I loved this particular article and here are some of my thoughts gathered from private discussions with some of the same friends (ES & SG).
It seems that the ones who relate to such article have often been the ones who were at the receiving end of bad behavior. If someone has never met a mean girl or mean boy in their life - there is a very good reason why, and it has nothing to do with good-ol' southern charm ;)
These articles speak to me so clearly, because I too was one of those "odd" ones in school - bullied in both 5th grade and then utterly tortured and tormented between 9th through 12th grade. No one knew my very real fears or demons; or the resulting horrific, intense depression I was spiraling under, not my best friends or even my parents. The bullies were not just girls; there were some awful mean boys and mean adults too. I did not imagine them to be mean, they were. They saw every lowered gaze, every glistening tear, an emotional moment or sigh, the slightest pinch self-doubt or attempt to protect myself - as an opportunity to attack, and sadly, the first ones to attack - were the ones who were closest to me.
My first low point was at 13 when I tried to see what it was like to end the pain, to die – I tried to choke myself, nearly passed out and then told myself I was not brave enough. As though holding a painful past was not bad enough, I told myself that I was not good enough for anything in life. I tried it again at 21 and stopped just in time, for the sake of the few people that I would never be able to hug again.
One could say that it was perhaps my selfish cowardliness that saved my life.
A few close friends were unconsciously part of my healing, but my husband became a big piece of it because he saw that to be with me meant that it would take a relationship of mutual respect to drag me out of that dark abyss. It has taken many years of internal healing, introspection and reflection to come to this space in my life - where even though there is hurt when other adults do this to me - I know it is better to move away than to engage, because I would rather exclude that behavior in my circle, than want to be included in it. I know it is better to be me, than to aspire to be someone else’s version of me.
I was able to talk about one of those triggers only about 10 years ago with someone very close to the situation and they are still trying to get me to forgive them and others who came along the way. I find it painfully difficult - because thanks to those bullies who came in the guise of friends - I lost about 15 years of my youth (which was basically all of it) and then spent the next 20 learning to respect myself again. Valuable time I cannot get back.
Mean girls and mean boys existed in 1985 and they exist now. My daughter was bullied by someone at age 8, only a few years ago. She was subjected to intense emotional trauma by excluding adults who could not see how their ways were detrimental not to one but two young adults - creating and perpetuating a behavior in an impressionable young adult who did not know the difference between right and wrong, and scarring another to question whether their 'probationary status' was deserved. \
My daughter is still learning. I hurt for her each time she comes away disappointed that someone did not live up to their word, keep a promise or follow through. This is when I remind her: it is ok to be disappointed, but not as a reflection on her abilities or desirability as an individual or friend, but on the inability of others to see and respect her for who she really is. She needs to learn to choose better, and I can only be there to help her through it.
It is my belief that excluders are born out of feeling of callous entitlement, where there are no tangible consequences, where parents take the easy way out and say 'let us pick our battles'. A conscientious parent does not find the easy way out, or pick and choose how to mould or model good behavior instead intervenes and prevents their off-springs from becoming social hazards! If a movie can come with a PG-13 label, should school come with a PG-13 label too . . . parents strongly cautionedl?
It is very easy to gloss over any individuals’ insecurities or shortcomings (adult or child) that are manifested in the form of bullying and color them as bold, overconfident or anything else. Aggressive behavior, whether active or passive - is just what it is – aggressive, and when it is destructive, it is unwelcome in my book. My fundamental requirement for any relationship (parent, spouse, sibling, friend, and colleague) is respect. No one needs people in their life who don’t respect them for who they are. The phrase: Who died and made you King of the Universe”, seems appropriate here.
Young adults, boys and girls alike everywhere needs to hear this from anyone who they will listen to - their parents, their peers, friends and teachers, that it is necessary to be an includer, not only because it surrounds them with good people, but also because it means respect. Respect cannot be manufactured or imposed and although it need not be taught, if an individual is willing to accept another for all that they bring – they will understand and appreciate respect. With respect comes understanding and love - and beyond that, no other form of PDA is necessary.
Respect transcends gender, age, race and ‘isms’, it transcends space and material worth, instead accounts only for pure, intrinsic moral worthiness. Is that not what we desire most?