It must be a pre-requisite for posting lately that I’m emotional when I write. The last week has been a very difficult one. V has struggled for the past 3 years with one girl at her school who seems to have an affinity to pick out everything that would upset V and tease her relentlessly, or say terribly hurtful things. One year it was her glasses, and her eye. Another year it was ostracizing V and excluding her and then reminder her that she has no friends. And this year, it is her weight. The unending bullying from this little girl has put me over the edge. I’ve gone to the new principal, written numerous emails to the principal, her director, that director’s director, and the assistant superintendent- with EVERYTHING falling on deaf ears it seems. This week has been a private hell; as a (plus-sized) mother I have had the hardest time trying to teach my daughter that she is wonderful just the way she is, while simultaneously struggling with my own self-image and the triggers that have come up while having to watch V go through this. The mean comments telling her she needs to “work out every day” or else she’s “going to be heavy and fat your whole life” have struck an extra loud chord with me. Never before have I felt so fiercely protective of my girl and her precious and precarious little self esteem.
Tonight a great friend of mine posted this video on my facebook wall:
I sobbed as I watched it. I thought about this mother- fearlessly stripping in public to prove a point. An incredible point: that the shape of someone does not define the depth, width, or size of their soul and the immense value each person holds. I thought about this poor little girl that is teasing V, and how much a void of love she must be experiencing in her own home. I remember that. My dad was very harsh on my mom, and his 3 daughters’ body images. And when I got divorced, I mustered the courage to tell him how detrimental this was to me. His explanation was that most “decent men” prefer “slender women”. And that as my father, he was only watching out for me, because if there were 100 men, only about 20 would look at a larger woman, and of those 20 there were probably only 5 that were worth having a relationship with. What sad logic used to devalue humans. That evening just a few years ago has shaped the way I parent my girls and the way I speak about myself in front of them. I never want my girls to ever feel that same rejection of their own body- whatever that body may become.
And so, here we are- much sooner than I’d hoped- dealing with body image in the 4th grade. Struggling with the school, in an all out war to get them to listen to me- not just to advocate for my daughter, but for this other little girl as well, who at 9 years old thinks that the worth of herself is how she looks. It’s been a huge challenge for me to not be irate at this kid. Who do you think you are attacking my girls- who are the sweetest kids, the most accepting souls, who’ve learned things the hard way in life already. Who are you to attack them?! And then I take a deep breath, and the advocate in me weeps for this little girl’s state of mind at age 9. The mother in me worries for her future and the struggles she will face if this is what she is taught about self-worth.
But just when I want to be angry again, life always shows up in the best of ways. SO many people have come to mine and the girls’ defense. I have two good friends in the media industry who have both listened and agreed to look into the possibility of covering this story. I have coworkers who ask every day how V is doing. I have a manager who lets me vent about whatever I need to- who has her own daughters and understands the struggle of self-love. I have friends who are my family and who brainstorm about how to deal with a negligent principal, an unresponsive district and one distraught little girl. I have an ex-husband who has supported me, found a voice, and stood for our daughter like he has never done before. And I have so many supportive friends that offer their love and encouragement from every corner of the continent.
Tonight as I picked the girls up from daycare, another mom stopped me. She said how much she just needed to tell me how much she loves my girls- and especially V, for how loving she is to her daughters, and how sweet and respectful she always is. I could have hugged this lady (who I see probably once a month in passing only). On a day where we are at our wit’s end with this entire ordeal, she takes the time out of her day to stop and tell me this and right in front of V. I looked directly at V and said, “SEE?!?! People love you honey! THEY DO!” And this sweet, kind and sensitive mom took the time to share her own struggles of being bullied with V and let her know it gets better. It was everything I had in me to not start sobbing-something I’ve done in private or the wee hours of the night all too often this week.
An hour later we were home, and daycare called. This woman’s husband wanted my phone number to have a chat about V and daycare wanted to make sure it was OK to give him my number. Within 5 minutes, he was calling to tell me that from the moment he met V, he was impressed with what a neat kid she is. And then he asked me if he could come over and talk to her. I was stunned, but open to it because at this point, anything I say to V is not enough to explain her worth. An hour later he was at my house, eager and excited to talk to V.
This man, this near stranger, stopped what he was doing- much like how his wife had earlier this evening- to drive to my house and read Max Lucado’s “You are Special” book to V- at times struggling to keep his own composure. And then he gave her the book to keep and told her about his own struggles- with being molested by a family member, with having a lazy eye, and being picked on when he was a kid too. All things she struggles with. He was sensitive to our non-religious household, funny, sweet with both girls, and no doubt missing at least part of his own little girls’ bedtimes to be with mine at that moment. He told V he was going to go in and talk to her principal himself. When he went to leave, he got choked up and told me what an amazing and precious little girl I have. Then he gave me his phone number and told me that if she forgets how much she is worth, to call him and he’ll come over and have another chat. He left her with some marbles and let her know that if she forgets to not let this bully bug her, that he’s coming back for those marbles. I sat in the background weeping at one point- much like I am now.
Again, I’m overwhelmed by the watchful, caring eye of something larger than myself. Something that provides when I’ve come to the end of my road of sanity. Something that injects just enough energy to kick start my hope and will to keep fighting. I loathe the definition and label of single mother- but there is a great deal of truth to the exhaustion that coincides with the title. And just when I think I’m ready to lose my marbles at someone because of all the stress, I’m swooped up in a storm of love and support and encouragement. I never cease to be amazed by the perfect chaos I am privileged to call my life.
Tonight I’ll lay my head down ever grateful for my able and incredible body, my ferocious and spectacular girls, and the life we are blessed to live.