I’ll never forget the first time that my oldest daughter experienced firsthand the cruel and wicked world in which we live. She had just started Kindergarten a month before and was off to a great start at her new school. She would come home and tell stories of her new friends and all the great things they were learning. Everyday, you could just see how excited she was about school; about learning and making new friends.
One day, after school, we were headed to soccer practice and I noticed she was unusually quiet in the back seat. She was gazing out the car window with her cheek pressed up against her fist. I asked “Are you ok?” and, with a simple nod, she assured me that she was. As we parked the car at practice, I reached back to touch her leg and again tried to find out if she was ok or not. She nodded her head again, but I wasn’t convinced. She was ALWAYS smiling and happy to go to soccer. She would always tell me about school but today was different. Today, she did not. When asked if she “felt ok”, she said “Yes”. When asked “if she was ready for soccer?”, again, she said “Yes”.
So what could it be? What had my daughter, who was always smiling and vibrant and full of life, so down and out?
“Did something happen in school”? I asked.
And there it was. She boldly nodded her head up and down and tears began to fall down her face. I quickly got out of the car and rushed around to get face to face with her. I asked “What happened in school?” Through her forceful tears, she replied “People are making fun of me”.
My eyes watered immediately, trying to keep from letting her see me cry. Not now, not at this moment. I knew what it was before she even mentioned it. I knew EXACTLY how she felt because it was my one fear for my children growing up… the color of their skin. With their mother being white and their father being black, I knew this day might come. I just didn’t expect it to happen this early; in Kindergarten.
As I continued to get more information, my heart was pounding and anger set in immediately. “What are people saying to you, babe?”
“They made fun of my skin and my hair” she said. “They said that my hair is weird and I should cut it off and they keep asking what am I?”
I was upset and hurt. I was mad. I immediately told the girls to go play on the field for a little bit as I stepped off to the side. I called their mother and, despite the panic I was feeling, I did my best to tell the story. I could tell that she was tearing up but was trying to remain calm. We agreed to stay on top of it and reassure our beautiful daughters that they are gorgeous, smart and funny girls; that they are uniquely made and created, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with their hair or skin and that millions of other people share the same appearance as them.
It was tough.
Frankly, it was gut wrenching.
To see my 5 year old crying because a few kids teased her in school about the way she looked? Also, it was tough to think about how to get them to understand that people are mean, something that they still struggle to understand to this day.
That night, my daughter and I looked in the mirror and we talked about the things that made her special; the little mole under her lip, how people pay money to get hair like hers (Hahaha - hey, it’s the first thing that came to my mind!), how her skin is so pretty and how her smile lights up any room she enters. We laughed, we smiled and we hugged. “Don’t worry about what people say, baby girl. There will always be someone that doesn’t like you... and that will never be something you should worry about.”
A few weeks later, the sweetest thing happened. She told me about how she had explained to a boy in her class how she was made. She told him that “God grabbed a mixing bowl and put my mommy and daddy’s skin in it and mixed it all up. He then took it and painted me and my sister." I couldn’t help but smile. That’s my girl!!
Since then, she’s never mentioned the kids at school making fun of her again. In fact, she tells me how the girls always want to play with her hair. I know there will be a day when she is called a name or told she isn’t pretty. Inevitably, there will come a day when she may not feel her best or think she looks good enough. My hope is that, on that day, she’ll handle it as gracefully as she did the day she boldly explained to her classmate how she was made.
This month is National Bullying Prevention month. The bullying from the youth in our world has to stop. No young child should be told they look weird, walk funny, have strange hair or that their clothes are ugly. It starts at home. Have the conversations with your kids about bullying. Help them to understand that the world is beautiful because of it’s differences and that it’s differences are what make the world beautiful. Show them to love others and to care for other people’s feelings. Teach them to accept change. Everyone needs to understand that bullying is not acceptable. Spend time talking to your kids about bullying. Keep a close eye for signs from your child that they may be bullied at school.
Do your part to help stop bullying in our schools and communities.
No one is making it out of this world alive, so let’s be kind to each other... and lets teach our children to do the same.
Linell Greene II