Me, back in my thuglet days
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Even though violence is a lot easier, I still try to use my words. But that rule only applies to me. Words Before Shoving is the exact opposite of what I’ve been teaching my daughter. We’ve had multiple conversations about what bullying looks like and why it’s unacceptable for anyone to shame, violate, or exert pressure over another person with words or actions. When Cal asked for an action plan to defend herself, I told her to punch that motherfucker in the face and then run to the nearest adult. If the bully is a tall adult, her reach could be an issue, so I offered other options like a shin or a kneecap.
Cal didn’t thank me for my tips. Obviously, our next serious conversation is going to address her appreciation skills. Instead, she asked if adults really bullied kids. “Come on, mommy, be real.”
“Adults bully everybody.”
That totally didn’t sound right. I can’t use my fists and, clearly, words aren’t really my thing, so I’ve been thinking a lot about relocating. To a cave. “Wait, back up. What I meant is that you shouldn’t accept cruelty or abuse from an adult just because they are an adult. Some adults aren’t nice to anyone, including kids.”
“If I hit, doesn’t that make me a bully too?”
“I don’t think that counts as an answer.”
When a situation becomes too confrontational, I take a moment to step back and gain clarity. I have to do that a lot with Cal because children who ask too many questions make parenting extremely difficult. You know what? I’m not giving up because I’m not a quitter. Also, I’ve already put in fourteen years, so I might as well just go the distance. The more time you put in, the more money your kids have to give you when you’re old. I’m not going to stop shopping at Whole Foods just because I turn 80 and/or Harv dies, so I let the eventual cash reward be my motivator.
The more I thought about Cal’s questions, the more I realized how difficult it is to explain the intricacies of conflict and reaction. I wish I could write resolution instead of reaction, but I reserve resolution for matters that have a clear ending, a solution that either brings peace of mind or, at the very least, enough closure to move away from the situation.
Sometimes, when we are faced with a bully, all we can do is react.
I am very familiar with conflict. Someone once told me that I am to blame for all of the conflict in my life. That every single badness I have ever crossed paths with is my own doing. That I have experienced more pain and drama than most people my age because I allow broken people into my sphere and tether them to my own darkness. I do not disagree.
Those words affected me deeply, but I understand now that bullies are paralyzed by their own brokenness. The density of their self-hate makes it impossible for them to shine, so they don’t want anyone else to sparkle either. He wanted to keep me dull and jagged and rough…I ain’t about that life. Checkmate, bitch.
As a kid, I didn’t question adult bullies because I thought that adults could do whatever they wanted and it was, like, totally legit. I didn’t use my fists OR my words with kid bullies when they threw gum in my hair or ching-chonged their way past me. Bullies always seem to know who to target because water seeks its own level. Weakness can always spot weakness.
My weakness turned into rage. I overreacted to everything and everyone because I was never, ever, ever going to let anyone fuck me over again. And…I became a bully. I just want to take this opportunity to apologize to the barista at Starbucks on Beverly Dr. for that time I lost my shit cuz it was dairy instead of soy. I’m so sorry.
I couldn’t condense all of these thoughts and experiences into one simple answer, so I sat with Cal and shared the unedited version.
I repeated over and over again that violence is never the answer. Except for those times when it is. “So I’m pushing them away with my hands more for a boundary than to give them a black eye?”
“YES. And if you did give them a black eye, at least it would match the color of their soul.” I didn’t say that last part even though I really wanted to. Part of using your words is knowing when to shut up.
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