This past week my middle school girl was in quite a pickle. An incident occured at the end of the day on Monday which left her convinced that she was going to be the laughing stock of the 7th grade. She was in tears on the way home in the car, and was miserable all night long. I was miserable right along side her.
I can remember times growing up when I did not want to go to school because I knew I’d be ridiculed. Like when I had horribly chapped lips in the 4th grade, or when I accidentaly cut my bangs ridiculously short in 10th grade. Those were days where you just kept your head down and prayed for the minutes to tick by swiftly.
My girl has some problem with bullies, and it wasn’t making facing the next school day any easier. She was sure they were going to pick on her and felt helpless and defenseless. I have to admit, I cried for her a few times that night. I woke up at 1 am and could not get back to sleep imagining the day she had ahead of her.
And that’s when I decided to arm her in order to disarm the bullies.
Who remembers the episode of the Brady Bunch with Buddy Hinton? He was picking on Cindy’s lisp and Peter stood up for her. In the end they wound up fighting it out under the advice and training of Mr. Brady. These days Mr. Brady’s advice would put my little girl in suspension, or worse, expulsion.
I had always told my girl that when a bully says something to put her down, you have to zing them right back with some clever little quip. Problem is, like George Constanza and the jerk store, she can never come up with a good comeback when the time strikes. And I knew I had a mission.
I got up early the next morning and did some research online. Seems there are entire websites devoted to snappy comebacks to bully taunts. And the consensus on many of the advice columns on how to deal with bullies suggests that zinging them back works. I had a renewed hope and enthusiastically began jotting down some of the better ones.
My favorite was “how many times do I have to flush before you go away.”
Why didn’t I know that one in high school? There were quite a few girls I would have loved to use that one on. Another good one was “If I throw a stick will you leave?” or “how many times did your parents drop you?”
But these were all a bit too much for my girl to memorize in the hour we had to get ready for school. She begged to stay home, but I knew she had to go to school – to face the music – get right back on the horse. I also pointed out to her that she might hear absolutely nothing. Sometimes when folks know you’re really bummed about something they lay off. The rest of the morning was one big pep talk for her.
I told her not to cry – not to give anyone that said something nasty to her that satisfaction. I told her not to back down, to look the antagonist in the eye and calmy say something back. If she couldn’t remember any of the zingers, just saying something like “aren’t you just so clever” or “did it take you all night to come up with that one?” would put them off their game.
On the drive to school I could see she was close to tears the whole time, and I knew I had to get her out of that mind set. So I looked at her and said, “You know what you need to do today? You need to have an ‘F-You’ day. You need to walk into that school with your head up and think ‘F-You’ to every person who passes you by. Don’t let anyone mess with you. You’re too good to be messed with, but if they do? You strap on that ‘F-You’ attitude and tell them where to go and how to get there.
I was so proud of her when she got out of the car and headed into the school building – she was being brave, facing the unknown. But I felt like we prepared her the best we could. She also knew that if things got bad, really bad, she could call us mom or dad would pick her up…and schedule a meeting with the principal.
I spent a very tense day at my desk with my cell phone by my side. At noon I took it as a good sign that I hadn’t heard from her. By 1:30 I knew we were over the hump. And when she called me after she got off the bus she said that nobody had said much of anything to her. Some girls sniggered in homeroom, but didn’t say anything to her directly.
What a relief.
But just because she didn’t need to use any of our advice that day, I don’t want her to forget them. There are a few kids in her grade that take pleasure in saying nasty things to her, and I want her to know she doesn’t have to take it lying down. I may have felt the need to arm her in the face of an onslaught, but those tools will work just as well in a smaller skirmish somewhere down the road.
She needs to remember to zing back, and maybe every now and then, to have an “F-You” kind of day.