Raising strong children in a world that can be unkind

It was at the young, tender age of four, when my girl had her first taste of bullying. Fortunately for her, that is an age where, thank God, she is still innocent to cruel jibes and taunts, and has no idea what ‘fatty watty’ even means.Unfortunately for the girl’s mother, it just so happened to be MY daughter on the receiving end of the bullying.  A big hell no as far as I was concerned.

I bit my tongue for a bit. I mean, I tried so hard to refrain. But after ten minutes of listening to this little brat chanting ‘fatty watty,’ while poking at my girls protruding gut, as well as waving and pointing a toy gun in her face, I snapped as politely as one person could possibly be expected to snap, considering the circumstances.

“Hey, hey. Don’t you bloody do that? How would you like it if I poked you in the stomach and shoved a gun in your face you wouldn’t like that would you?”

The brat had the cheek to look crestfallen. I thought I had used a really nice tone, even if there was an underlying threat in there. I look at my baby, who is giggling at the brat, and also chanting ‘fatty watty, fatty watty’ in a sing-song way. Then out of the corner of my eye, I glance at the mum, who is peering at both girls with what I can see is a tight smile on her face.

Uh oh.  I know I’ve offended her.

My baby prances back inside to her daddy, while the brat sits in the corner, staring at me as if I am the wicked witch of the north.

Meanwhile, I attempt to brush away the awkwardness that has all of a sudden permeated the air by picking up where we left off from our conversation. But I know I’ve blown it. I’m aware that the woman sitting across from me, whom I have only known all of three weeks, is not happy that I’ve just told her daughter off. Not happy at all.

This was a few years ago. I haven’t seen the mother since, and I’m not really surprised. I guess it can now be stated as fact that my tendency to blurt out things that I should maybe not say, or at least learn to re-phrase, is one of the many reasons why I find it hard to keep friends. I still say I wasn’t that harsh though. Or at least I don’t think I sounded as harsh as I felt. Additionally, it can also be stated that, lately, the FACT that I seem to lose friends at a rapid rate when I do this hasn’t been bugging me as much as it used to.

Which, I think, is a good thing

Anyway…moving on. Of course, when I say ‘brat’ I don’t mean that in a nasty, evil-ish kind of way, even though it sounds like it. I love kids. Let me just point that out. But there were two reasons why I told this girl off aside from the obvious fact that she was just being downright mean. One – no parent likes to watch their kids get picked on. If the shoe was on the other foot, I’m positive that mother would have done the same thing. Furthermore, if my daughter was teasing another kid in front of me, I would have told her off myself, as respect for others is something I hope to teach her, and teach her well.

The other reason why this brats antics got up my ally is…well, a bit more personal…to be completely honest with you.

I’ve been a victim of bullying. Being overweight and tipping the scales at ninety something kg’s at the age of twelve, as well as wearing hearing aids, AS WELL as being fitted with braces in Intermediate through to third form, made me a juicy target for schoolyard bullies. When I put it in perspective, I guess watching my girl getting prodded and teased brought back memories. And feelings. And painful ones at that.

My girl – she has always been on the chubby side. She was the type of baby that strangers on the street ooh-ed and ahh-ed over because her multiple layers of rolls and balloon cheeks were impossible to resist. Fast forward to a few years later, and she’s still getting the oohs and ahhs as well as the occasional side-looks that clearly say “oh my god, what does her mother feed her??” Her seventh birthday is in December, two days before Christmas, yet she constantly gets mistaken for an eight or nine year old. Clothes shopping is a mission. Shopping here reminds me of when I would walk my size twelve self into an Asian clothes store in New Zealand and feel like a giant because even just a fourteen was a tight squeeze.  Standard eight year old clothes are too small for my daughter.  Australian sizes. KIds here are too skinny anyway. But maybe I’m just making excuses.

It used to be cute, watching my baby get attention from strangers due to her overflowing chubbiness. What’s not so cute is listening to her breathing at night. Or watching her run (or attempt to run) after kids her own age. Previously, it made me giggle when watching her get her waddle on, but these days it’s about as funny as cancer. If there’s one thing I realised after witnessing my baby getting taunted, it’s that I don’t want her to go through what I did. Ever.

About a month ago, my girl came home saying something that hurt me deeply.  She told me some kid at school said that everyone hates her.  The manner in which she said it made me realize she was unaware of what it meant.  But I knew.  My rage was so huge, that I caused a bigger commotion down at the school than was probably necessary.  Everyone got involved at my insistence – right from the principal to the boys parents.  The boy was made to apologize and I check in with my girl everyday to see how her day has gone, and gauge whether she is being left alone.

It’s possible I am blowing this up into intergalactic proportions and over-reacting (what else is new?) For starters, baby wasnt even worried about what was said. The fact that this boy needed to be taught a lesson in respect was something that could have probably been dealt with another way.  Furthermore, its been some fifteen years since my school days. Yet this experience brought it all back as if it happened just yesterday.

My school years were hell.

It’s not the bullying itself that sticks out like a green bush in a brown hay-field. It’s the way it makes you feel for, like, yeeeeeears afterwards. Worthless. Hopeless. Not good enough. Not pretty enough. Never going to amount to anything…and the list goes on. As you get older, you don’t realise that bullying is a major contributor to self-doubt – the same self-doubt that has followed you throughout your life like a faithful lap dog.

Sure, I put on a show of being untouchable. Sure I chose to rise above it and keep on keeping on, because that’s what the experience taught me to do. But the pain, the anger and the resentment was always there, throbbing away underneath it all. It took fifteen long arse years for the rawness of that wound to heal, but at least it got better. At least I overcame it. Some people never do.

In a way, I’m grateful to my bullies from days gone past. Not just at school, but within my home life as well. The lesson I learnt here is this – that it’s the bad experiences that shape you into either one of two moulds. One, you become a bitter person. Or two, you become a better person, and I believe that this is what I am no matter what any tom, dick or harry may think. So I may not be on this brat’s mother’s favourite people’s list anymore? She’s hardly the first one I’ve pissed off because I’ve my tendency to be blunt. I’m probably on a lot of lists of ‘Most Unfavourite People’ and right at the top too. On the other hand, maybe I do need to learn to zip my mouth in the heat of the moment. But the important thing is I know I mean well, even if that is hardly ever obvious. I know my heart is in the right place. I know my intentions are pure. And I like to think that’s all that matters?

I’m proud of the head-strong and determined woman that I am today. Some things I never learn. Other things I’m still trying. But this lesson I learnt very well – that even though life can be utterly beautiful, it can also be a downright bitch. And it’s the bitch times that make you stronger. Still, despite all this, the whole point is I would not wish any of what I’ve been through on anyone, least of all my daughter. I’m probably being overly serious and possibly paranoid about something as trivial as some little girl poking my babies gut with a toy gun, trying to ‘pop her.’ But I can’t help it. Like most parents, I want my girl to lead a sweet charmed life, but that’s just not the way the world works. Times like this I just want to wrap her, tight and snug, in a cocoon and keep her out of harm’s way for all eternity.

But I know I can’t do that. I may not be able to protect my girl forever. And I may be looking a bit too far into the future here. But if there is one thing I hope to install in my daughter, it would be to have supreme and utmost confidence in herself so she can stand tall and proud in a world that isn’t always so kind. And isn’t that what we all want for our children???

Correct me if I’m wrong on that one.

In the meantime though, I think a lifestyle overhaul is in order for her. Because, after all this banging on, the truth is…yes, she is a fair bit overweight. So the brat had a point. Too much noodles and not enough physical activity. If I could chuck her on Herbalife I would, but I think I’ll chuck her on some kind of physical regime instead. I’m getting onto her health now. Honestly, its hightime I did something about it anyway.


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