By Chanda Alicea
This week I’m going to talk about something that I don’t really want to because it’s a topic that hurts my heart. I’ve gone back and forth about sharing it because it’s still so fresh, but I feel like it’s something that we all need to take the time to read and think about. The POWER of words.
2 weeks ago I had to have the one conversation with my daughter that I was hoping I could put off as long as possible. We had to talk about bullies due to an incident at school that happened to her that she had been sitting on silently for over a week. For whatever reason, my sweet baby girl didn’t want to tell me what happened to her. And even though she thought in her 8-year old mind, that she was hiding whatever was wrong, but in reality there were physical hints that told me that there was more going on than the sprained foot that she had.
Here is what happened, the incident took place at school when she tripped over a soccer ball and fell at recess. Something so simple, but yet complicated because no one likes being embarrassed (As a woman who has fallen and embarrassed herself plenty throughout her life, I am kind of an expert on this).
And if being embarrassed and worried about being laughed at wasn’t enough for my sweet sensitive girl, the feelings of anxiety and self- doubt were exacerbated when some other 2nd grade boy from a different class decided to choose this time to take the opportunity and make her feel even worse by not only laughing at her when she got up and started limping, but also told her that she wasn’t good enough to be in a real soccer game and then takes the soccer ball away from her and puts it in the school’s equipment bin, and in case you were wondering just like I was, no recess was not over.
As you can imagine, this momma bear saw red. I can recall very few times that I could feel my blood pressure instantly rise due to the anger I was feeling. I was livid. Why the hell would some jerk kid feel the need to pick on my sweet baby? What is wrong with a second grader that they need to put someone down like that? As upset as I was, I had to hide that from her because the last thing I wanted was for her to think that I was upset with her.
Once she was finally able to vocalize to me what happened, it all made sense to me. The behavior change that I had been noticing since the time she fell. Let’s talk about that. All my mom instincts were telling me a week after she fell that she should not still be limping, so I put my detective hat on. Through this, I discover that her shoes are too small, so I tell myself okay, we fix this and the limping goes away. In theory, that is what should have happened, but it didn’t.
New shoes have been purchased, and here we are still limping when I know that she really shouldn’t be, so off to the doctor we go. She has a sprained foot. They tell me give it a week and she should be fine. So if you’re doing the math, you’ve probably figured out that this has been going on for almost the entire month.
It’s been a long hard road to get to the root of all of this. And if you have ever had to work through situations like this, you know how exhausting and mentally taxing it can be. We’ve now moved into President’s Day weekend, and for us it was a long weekend. Everything came spilling out after a lot of fights and me correcting her every time she was walking because she’s still limping but was essentially hurting herself due to the fact that she was walking with her foot flexed.
In addition to now having to physically fix this bad habit, I have to sit down and have a heart to heart full of tears and reassurances. My heart is broken because her heart was broken. My heart is broken because her feelings have been hurt. I had to explain how kids like that are nothing to her and mean nothing to her. They don’t know her. They don’t know how amazing she is. They don’t know what a kind, loving, thoughtful and sweet friend she is. They don’t know her and she doesn’t have time for their negativity.
The quote that I have included with this article is something I told her to make her understand what she has to do with those hurtful words that are said because she can’t keep them in her head because it’s not healthy. I asked her what we do with burnt pieces of popcorn that we may find in our bag. She said we throw them away and I told her that is exactly right. I told her that we don’t let a few burnt pieces of popcorn ruin the whole bag. We throw them away. And that when someone says mean and hurtful things to us, we have to treat those words like burnt popcorn. We have to throw them away because they aren’t Like I said I went back and forth about sharing this because it is still so fresh.
We are still working through it. But I think it’s important to show how powerful words are. This kid who has moved on doesn’t even realize that he made my daughter feel like she wasn’t good enough and that manifested into her trying to physically alter something that is a normal part of our everyday life. Be kind. And teach your kids to be kind. And be mindful about the behavior your kids are picking up by watching you.