She had long auburn piggy-tails; a reflection of her tender age. Her build was more than slight and her skin as ivory as the soap itself. One might see her as frail - and in many ways her health was – but to know her spirit, was to know strength and resilience.
It was the school principal on the phone. Again. With a bit of a snicker, she announced that my sweet daughter beat up three boys during recess. She said she would have preferred to handle it between the kids but one of them ran home and cried to their mother. After speaking with the boy’s parents, she had no choice but to expel my daughter from school. I thanked her for the call, took a deep breath and headed for the elementary school.
When arriving, the three boys and their parents were in the office conference room and my daughter was waiting in the chair outside the principal’s office. She was clearly upset so I sat down next to her and asked what happened. "Mom, it's just not right! Every day these three boys tease Barbara. They call her whale breath, fatty fatty two by four, and so many other mean things", she huffed. I stroked her brow gently and told her to calm down so I could better understand her.
A tear rolled down her cheek and she went on to share with me that kids in school can be so mean; they find where we don’t fit in and they drill deep into our hurt. She explained further that every day she tells these three boys to quit being mean to other kids. She has also talked to the playground duties, but they just tell the boys to move along.
During morning recess, she decided to play tether-ball. When she arrived to the court she could see Barbara curled in a ball against the school wall and the three boys standing over her. They weren't touching her so they weren't hurting her with their hands, she said. But Mom, I could tell they were hurting her with their words.
It appears that my frail little girl went over to defend Barbara. When she arrived the boys were speaking very quietly so they would not be heard. As my daughter neared, she heard Barbara crying and one of the boys saying, "Beached whales don't sit, fat girl, you need to lay down"! My daughter cut between Barbara and the three boys and told the boys to knock it off and go away. Unfortunately for them, they responded, "oh yeah, well make us"! And yes, that sums up the rest of the story.
Now, this was in the day before the awareness of bullying in schools. And, I'm sad to say the three boys returned to class and my daughter came home with me. The principal’s logic was that they were just teasing and my daughter chose violence. I disagreed, and explained that the type of teasing they were doing was more violent than my daughter standing in for someone indefensible. The school did not agree.
I could not punish my daughter as she was standing up for what she believed to be wrong. I sought to give her options on how to handle the situation better in the future, but I would not cut into the building of her core values, the roots that would establish who she was and what she stood for. We have to know what we stand for, and we have to be brave in our defense of what we believe.
My daughter...she is still not afraid to stand up for her beliefs, but thankfully, she doesn’t kick butts anymore!