Friday, January 15, 2016

Letters to Eila: On Bullying


It is so hard to believe you'll be hanging out with us in just seven weeks. There are a lot of people who are extremely eager to meet you! If I teach you nothing else in this life, I hope this lesson resonates - no bullying. I was never bullied per se. Well, at least when I was a kid, I thought bullying was reserved for little boys on the playground or people being shoved into lockers like Saved by the Bell. I do recall that people were mean to me around 4th or 5th grade. You see, I was what you call an "early bloomer." I was 5'1" by the time I was in the 4th grade, hormones were kicking in and I battled acne. My hair went from stringy straight to frizzy mess. I'd try my first attempt at makeup (way before anyone else was) and looking back, I had no idea what I was doing. I first shaved my legs as a ten-year-old because a boy made a comment at school. You get the idea that I was a walking state of awkwardness, flannel shirts and all. A few people liked to make comments in the hallway about what I was wearing or the way that I would walk. I don't remember being inordinately upset by it, but I remember it today (so it must have impacted me). Even as an adult, people have made comments about how I walk down the hall, and I have no idea what they are referring to. If you saw my Facebook, you know people make unsolicited comments about Diabetes or the size of my growing belly. Make no mistake - I am not equating any of this with modern-day bullying. You can get bullied in 5-seconds on social media and it can be published to hundreds of people. And, Eila, people are downright mean. Sometimes people are mean because they compensating for something. Sometimes people are mean because they are jealous of something. Sometimes people are mean because that's the group dynamic they are in (you know, what the cool kids are doing).

Here's the deal I will make with you: I will raise you to have a strong self-image. I already think you can conquer the world. I already think you're beautiful and we haven't even met. I know you're going to work hard. Your dad and I will try our best to teach you to believe in yourself and surround you with people who will lift you up. If, in event you are ever bullied, you will have four uncles, two grandpas, a dad and many friends who might prefer vigilante justice. They mean well. But you have to learn to quiet the negativity in your own mind and filter it out and rise above. A strong self-esteem is the best armor to mean girls. The second best armor is unyielding kindness. If someone bullies you, it is not your opportunity to bully them back. Your world and priorities are so much bigger than that, and the discipline of engaging in kindness with people who seem undeserving will disarm the bullies. In return, I ask you never to be the one bullying. Women can be downright cruel to each other, Eila. Some are subtle and some overt in their tactics. Don't let this be you. Don't let me get a phone call that you've made someone else's little girl cry or feel left out. I don't know if compassion for others is taught or innate, but to the extent it is taught, we won't stop teaching it.

Growing up is fun. You make friends, use your imagination and navigate a lot of new experiences. I don't want that to be marred by bullying in any capacity. Be kind. Fearlessly kind. The goal isn't for the whole world to like you - a concept I often forget; rather, the goal is for you to like yourself. Mean girls are out there. Inevitably, you will come home upset some days. I am not telling you your record will be perfect. I am not telling you you are going to be nice 100% of the time, but I do want you to remember that one of the largest reflections of your character is the way you treat others. You will treat others more kindly the more comfortable you are in your own skin. Don't worry if you didn't retain all of that today, we've got a long time to go over it.

All my love,


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