“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Whoever came up with this saying was probably the one doing the name calling, because certain words can definitely hurt you. The recent incident of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide after allegedly being taunted and threatened by a group of her classmates, should be all the proof we need that words can, and do, hurt and harm. This is a tragic story and my heart and deepest sympathy goes out to her family. This story resonated with me, because one of my children has been the target of name calling and bullying since the beginning of the school year. I give credit to his school, because they have been quick to deal with all instances and at this point we are on the same page, thank goodness. As if his problems at school were not bad enough, the name calling has now moved into our neighborhood.
As a mother, I will unequivocally do everything within my power to protect my children. This protective instinct runs deep and is a powerful thing. Last evening, that instinct was brought out by a group of teenagers in my neighborhood. My daughter was outside when some of her high school classmates drove by yelling out derogatory comments about my son to her. I happened to be sitting on our back patio and overheard them, but by the time it registered and I made it to the driveway they were gone. With every fiber of my being, I wanted to hunt them down and kick their teenaged asses. Instead, I cried. The echoes of their words broke my heart. My heart ached for my son, because I knew how much this would hurt him and how much the school incidents have hurt him. I know exactly how bad it feels. I was the target of name calling when I was a child and it hurts deeply and chips away at your self-esteem word by word. It is difficult to explain to a child that the name callers are simply ignorant. My saying they are ignorant is not name calling, it is a statement of fact, my friends, as ignorance is defined as “a lack of knowledge, education or awareness.” I try to remember this fact when I get so upset over these situations, but it is hard. Last night’s incident, coupled with the school issues, sent me reeling towards the edge and I confess that my anger and frustration caused me to call these kids a few choice names. I was so angry that all I knew to do was pray that the animosity I felt at that moment for someone else’s child would be replaced by grace. It was a scary place to be and one I do not wish to revisit.
Honestly, I do not know where I am going with this other than to say that words can hurt. As parents and human beings, we need to remember that. I am not perfect, my children are not perfect and I do not expect others to be perfect. I am willing to bet that most, if not all, of us are guilty of name calling at one time or another. I guess the message I want to convey is that if your child is taunting, name calling or bullying another child; do not stick your head in the sand. Acknowledge the problem and deal with it. While we cannot control everything our children do and say, we can teach them that respecting themselves and others is always the right choice, kindness is the right choice. You never know the fragility or limitations of an individual. Maybe the child being picked on has a disability that is not visible, but is there nonetheless, and maybe that is the reason that certain behaviors do not fit into the realm of “normal”, whatever the hell that means. As you can probably sense, I am still angry today…really, really angry. I will continue to pray for the grace and guidance to deal with the situation with my son. I would like to ask you to pray with me…not just for me and my son, but for all the children and adults whose lives are made miserable by the ignorance of others.
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