Violence IS the answer

ejlemptyMe, 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?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“BECAUSE.”

“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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  • http://www.elizabethaquino.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth Aquino

    We’re talking about revolution over here, so I’m with you.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      *fist bump*

  • Jennifer Clark

    Now, see, we have a little shithead bully in our neighbourhood. I’ve tried talking to the kid (all I get is the blank stare of the sociopath). I’ve tried talking to the mom (“Boys will be boys” she chirped). I’ve advice my girls to stay away from him. But the tiny terror lives close and won’t go away. So, finally, I said to my Wee Lassies, “OK. If Logan (his actual name) hits you… hit him back.” And one Lassies got very excited and said, ” Oooh! Can I wallop him in the nuts?!”

    I confess I was at a lost for an answer. But if one of my girls DOES wallop him in the nuts, and his mom comes to talk to me about it, I’ve got my snappy comeback ready! “Girls will be girls!” I will say with a sunny smile.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Sociopaths are very hard to talk to. I know because I’ve dated most of them. ;)

      Sometimes, a girl’s just gotta stand up for herself. Unfortunately, nuts can be collateral damage.

  • Heidi

    I think this is a really well written, awesome post. Thanks for writing it :)

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Thanks for taking the time to read it!

  • Lillian

    “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.”

    ^ This segment and some of your other recent posts have made me think a lot about a quote from a favorite book of mine (Perks of Being a Wallflower.. juvenile, I know, but still very good). And I just wanted to share it with you:

    “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
    ^ and to pair that, I just want to tell (remind) you that you deserve the world. It sounds like you’re doing an awesome job of teaching Cal this.. and just wanted to give you a reminder that it applies to you 100% too :)
    Harv is right in telling you that he doesn’t give up on you because he thinks you’re worth it.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Oh, I’ve wanted to read that book for some time and you’ve just given me the push to do it. I mean, how many hours a day can I devote to memorizing rap lyrics anyway? xo

  • Sheriji

    “The more time you put in, the more money your kids have to give you when you’re old.” I did not know this. I’m wondering if my children do.

    :-)

    My daughter’s dealing with some adult-bullies in the form of her 7th grade teachers. I don’t know why “challenge class” means “pile on the homework” rather than “teach higher-level concepts.” Meanwhile, they belittle and scold and are basically teaching her to hate school and learning. Grrrr.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I really have to restrain myself from telling Cal to just quit school and hang out with me at home. It just seems to be a lot of pressure, both from teachers and kids who are constantly comparing grades and accomplishments.

  • http://www.livecollarfree.com/ James Schipper

    “Be nice. Until it’s time to not be nice. ”

    Am I the ONLY one who knows how to do everything, anymore?! How complicated does this parenting stuff need to be when Dalton from Roadhouse already taught us everything you need to know? All that zen crap that can be applied equally to redneck dive bar bouncing as well as parenting.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I will quote this right before I push someone in the face next time.

      Props, homie.

  • Kait

    We have always told our kids that being mean (either verbally or physically) is unacceptable BUT that defending themselves will always be supported by us. I think more adults are bullies than we even realize. When we went to conferences for our kindergartens this past week, the teachers had pulled in the principal to talk to us about how our kids aren’t getting their homework done. I felt like they were trying to intimidate us with the principal’s “power” but I stood my ground – after eight hours of school each day my children will not be sitting down to do worksheets at home. They will be playing and spending time with their family. If those worksheets are so important, incorporate them in to the school day. But when my five year olds are exceeding grade level expectations you are not going to bully me in to forcing them to do silly homework.

    I really wish punching them in the face had been an option at that point.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I had a teacher pull the “get the principal involved” move once. And even though I was scared as shit (cuz of my own school years and principal fear) I had to hold my ground and fight for my kid because standing up for my kid was just too important to let anyone (adult, child, animal, inanimate object) corner my kid.

  • Erin@Mommyonthespot

    I think this is one of my favorite post you have ever written. You describe bullies so eloquently. And the part about adult bullies – spot on. Thanks for sharing. Bookmarking this when I need to be reminded about bullies.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Coincidentally, YOU are the one who has taught me so much about setting appropriate boundaries with family, friends, and just errrrybody and errrrything. I love you for that. Much appreciated, homegirl.