Sara is reading a fabulous book called "Stand Up For Yourself & Your Friends". It is an American Girl book about dealing with bullies. Did I mention that my daughter is in the 3rd grade? Call me old-fashion but I thought I had a few years before all the drama and angst started. Like sharks smell blood and attack, 3rd grade girls smell fear and insecurity. Being the youngest girl in the class, Sara is an easy target. Terrified of the further bullying that would result from telling and getting the girls in trouble, Sara keeps quiet about it until it boils over in her or a teacher sees it or a friend reports it for her. And we are talking sneaky, psychologically sophisticated emotional warfare. The queens of the playground jungle decide who plays what games. They decide who is cool on what day. They decide who gets to sit with them. And so on. Sara is at the bottom of the playground food chain. And everyone knows it. Sara has a couple good friends and she is afraid to approach anyone else to play. Most days, she doesn't even try. She plays by herself so she won't get rejected. She has been yelled at, grabbed, excluded and run away from. And I get to sit on the sidelines and watch. I know this is an integral part of growing up. She needs to learn that not everyone likes each other. She needs to learn to respect herself. She needs to learn when to walk away and not react. More importantly, she needs to learn the difference between bullying and someone just not liking her. A hard lesson to learn. An even harder lesson to watch your daughter learn. Bullying is about power and control. Sara has sacrificed her power to the queens of the playground and they use it against her daily. At school, she feels like she has no control. She knows she does not fit in. She knows they do not like her. She keeps trying to change herself so they will like her. This book is teaching her that she does NOT need to change. If they don't like her, that does NOT mean there is something wrong with her. Hearing the same thing from mom and dad does not carry the same weight.
She has been learning a lot from this book. She is learning who her true friends are. She is learning to stand up for herself and her friends. The other day, an older friend was fighting with a girl in Sara's class on the bus. I was proud of Sara for trying to stand up for her older friend. But she also needs to learn when to butt out. She is also learning when to walk away and what to say to a bully. I want her to hold on to her power but never use it against anyone else. I want her to stay strong. My heart aches because she feels hurt, lost, pushed around and alone. I want her to know we are there for her. She is strong. She is not alone.
On the flip side, she needs to figure out what bothers the other kids. She needs to respect and consider the needs and wants of her classmates. She needs to understand that she is part of the bigger group and not always the center of the universe. I've met adults who have not made this discovery. They are not fun to be around. I want her to learn this at an early age so life doesn't beat her down. I want her to have a full life with friends who love and support each other. But, she needs to learn what it means to BE a friend.
I am hoping this book will help her understand what we have been trying to teach her.