School starts again in just over a week. My oldest daughter will be entering grade two this year, and my middle daughter (who was my baby for so, so long) is off to kindergarten …
And my back-to-school angst is settling in … hard … some of the angst stems from the madness of a school and extra-curricular schedule, hairy mornings, and having to have food in the house for packed lunches every day. Some of my worries are small … like how will Madilyn EVER finish her lunch in just 15 minutes? Will she be able to manage carrying her big backpack? How much stuff will she forget at school? Will she learn to “slow down” in the classroom?
My worries for Mackenzie are much bigger. Will her reading continue to improve? Will she develop a good relationship with her teacher? Will they still be using “base ten” in math?
Beyond all of this though, I worry, I mean REALLY worry, about my daughters’ feelings getting hurt at school or on the bus … I wrote a post about this yesterday on my FB page (https://www.facebook.com/leannehintzlifewelllived) asking for advice on how to help my daughters manage insults, teasing, or being excluded, but no one really responded (except the bus driver who encouraged me to tell the girls to come to her if there was something going on). Am I really THAT alone in my worrying about this? Or is this subject just a little too touchy? Or does it bring up too much pain for some? Or were people just too busy to respond?
I KNOW my oldest daughter has been subjected to A LOT of tough stuff already (and she’s only just completed grade one). I also KNOW that my oldest daughter has become a part of the, “I won’t be your friend anymore, if you don’t …” or “you’re not coming to my birthday now” culture. She’s been excluded. She’s excluded. People have said hurtful things to her, and she has said hurtful things to others.
I KNOW the impact that this kind of culture (repeated day after day after day and year after year after year) can have on a person, because I lived it. My school years were the same. People being mean to me. Me being mean to other people. And sometimes it wasn’t even the same people that were being mean to me … and so it goes. I’m now 35 years-old (almost), and it still makes me tear up to think about it … especially the fact that I was so brutal to others at times (more on that here, if you’re interested). Years of being “beaten down” slowly with insults, with teasing, or being excluded changes who a person is … who a person is capable of being. This is no secret. Soon, people (like me) become completely NOT okay with themselves. And their feelings of inadequacy are affirmed day after day after day at school. Their self-esteem plummets, and they lose the ability to function, to take risks, to pursue their passions. They struggle with things like eating disorders or alcohol or drugs (not me, thankfully). They find themselves in intimate relationships … far too soon, as they become desperate for even ONE person to love them. I KNOW this is all worst-case scenario stuff, but it DOES happen.
“I spent my twenties working through all of the issues I acquired during my school years.” This from a newly acquired friend at the park one day, as we pushed our daughters on the swings. Of course, we had gotten on the topic of school (it’s a passion of mine) … Her words have stuck with me … go ahead, and read them again, “I spent my twenties working through all of the issues I acquired during my school years.”
What … a … waste … having to spend such a big chunk of your life sorting through all of the “junk” you’ve acquired in your school years. If my friend did get it all sorted out in her twenties though, she’s actually probably one of the lucky ones. Many people carry their school “issues” with them throughout their entire life, into their future relationships and into their roles as parents, and I think I am proof of that as I find myself worrying (A LOT) about my own daughters as they begin school next week.
I truly hope that my readers today don’t feel like I am casting any blame here … remember, I AM A TEACHER. I KNOW how sneaky and underhanded said cruelty can be. I KNOW how crafty children can be to ensure their nasty words are NEVER heard by an adult. I KNOW that children hurt others because THEY are hurt. I KNOW how terribly difficult and challenging it is to change this sort of culture, because it’s the sub-plot … because it’s “underground.” I KNOW that when teachers (and bus drivers) SEE or HEAR the kind of meanness that I am talking about, they address it, but we don’t ALWAYS see or hear it.
I so desperately want something DIFFERENT for my daughters. I don’t want them to go through what I went through. I don’t want them to NOT be okay … with who they are, with what they love, with the way they look, with their bodies … I just so desperately want my daughters to be OKAY … just like they are now … I want them to be healthy … just like they are now … in this moment, at the end of summer, before another school year starts.