This year we are facing somewhat of a challenge with a new boy at school. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even assholes. I really do. The mantra that I mutter to myself often is ‘be kind, you don’t know the battles someone else is fighting’. It’s not original or even slightly creative, but it has served me well. This new kid is testing my patience and my mantra.
I have two daughters. One is nine and in Grade Four. The other is twelve and in Grade Seven. I have taught my children to be kind and treat people with respect. We don’t have to be friends with everyone we meet, but we need to be respectful and treat everyone the way we would like to be treated.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I am under no delusion that my kids are perfect. They aren’t. They can be complete jerks to each other. Total and complete. But one thing I can say with confidence, is that while they can rain proper shit down on each other, they are kind and respectful to teachers, adults – who are not their own parents; and kids – who are not their own siblings. I have heard it enough to believe it to be true. Like to the point that I think people might be mistaking my darling angels for other kids, but I digress.
I have never gotten a call from school saying my kids are being jerks. I have gotten calls saying they are the first to step up to help kids who need help. It’s the small victories that make me proud.
The first week of school, the new kid pushed my eldest daughter down and punched her in the nose.
The third week of school, during CPR Training, he told her she was fat and tipped her off a stretcher into the mud. I figured that one out when she came home covered in caked on mud. So ya, I’m basically like a detective.
The school assured me the matter was being dealt with. I assured the school that if they didn’t deal with it, I would have a word with the child in my quiet, but scary voice somewhere in a quiet corner of the playground.
The Principal laughed nervously and mentioned a pesky school policy which frowns upon parents taking matters into their own hands. To which my reply touched upon the ‘kids not being allowed to hurt other kids at school’ policy that seems to not be being strongly upheld at the moment. So I wondered aloud if these policies were mere suggestions. She assured me they are not. Good to know.
Then last week happened. The boy roundhouse kicked my daughter right in front of a teacher. And that’s where things got interesting. You know what the teacher said to my daughter?
“Take it as a compliment. Boys do stuff like that to show girls they like them”.
Cue the record scratch!
I was instantaneously filled with white hot anger and knock me over with a feather shock. I was shangry. I quickly checked the calendar to confirm that we somehow hadn’t suddenly gone back in time to 1950. I was filled with mixed emotions once I confirmed it is indeed 2015.
A female teacher had told my daughter to take being bullied and assaulted as a compliment. My first thought was to go kick the teacher really hard and tell her “it’s a compliment because I just like you so darned much. You. Are. Welcome”. But I didn’t. As all good mothers do in 2015, I took to Facebook. What I was even further shocked to learn was that lots of my friends had similar stories to tell. I felt sorry for our generation. We credit ourselves with coming so far and yet we are stuck with this caveman mentality.
As a child, I remember these sage words of advice from well-meaning adults. “If he’s mean to you, it means he likes you”. Back then, this message confused me and left me powerless. There I was being bullied and grownups were telling me to be grateful. What a confusing time it was.
Yet, here we are, 35 years later and still teaching our girls “if he’s mean to you, he likes you…oh and while you’re at it, be sure to thank him so he doesn’t think you’re a bitch”. In this age of rampant cyberbullying, body shaming and teen suicides of epidemic proportions, authority figures are still telling our young girls to be grateful when somebody hurts them. The message is so devastating on so many levels to girls who are just developing their own sense of self and just starting to find their way in the world.
When a female is told that being hurt is a sign of affection, it not only undermines her power to properly deal with the incident, but flies in the face of everything we try to teach them about standing up for themselves. If a boy, or anyone for that matter, makes them feel bad about themselves and/or physically hurts them, instead of trusting their own instincts to flee, they start to assume they are just misreading the situation or being overly sensitive when really, shouldn’t they be just ‘taking it as a compliment’?
So, what, you may wonder, was my wise advice to my daughter about handling this situation? You may want to write this down, it’s pretty complicated. “If he touches you again’, I said ‘it doesn’t mean he likes you. It means he’s a big jerk. If he hurts you again, and the teacher does nothing, punch him in the face and I will come to school and defend you”. Before you judge me, please know that I realize this advice was not very mature of me. But I meant it.
Because I have raised my girls to be decent people, I know she won’t do it, even though I secretly wish she would. I need her to know that she always has an escape option if she needs to use it. Always. I will always have her back and will defend her if she cannot defend herself. Always. Finally, my girls will always know that abuse is not love. Always.