Saturday, July 30, 2005

Staring at Myself

My daughter is almost three years old and prefers to keep me within arm's length. I told my husband today that if she were my boyfriend, I would break up. I need more space. I am totally not kidding.

She stands on the bathroom counter while I dry my hair and put on my make-up. Mostly, she peers at herself in the mirror, scrunching up her nose, pursing her lips, baring her teeth, flirting with herself. Today she was posing, a la Paris Hilton.

Then she noticed I was looking at her and she stopped her self-examination and grinned an embarrassed grin at me.

Sometimes, that's how blogging feels to me. I started my first blog as an experiment with a few friends. "We'll share our journals," we said, "And see how the others live."

The first time a stranger commented, I freaked out, a quiet, private little freak-out. Another time, I emailed a commenter to demand, "Who are you? And why are you commenting on my blog?"

Most of the time, though, I write with abandon, pretending I'm alone. I feel a little self-conscious when it's all about me, me, me--but only when I picture the whole Internet watch me as I stare at myself.

And when I catch you looking at me, sure, I feel bashful for a moment. But I'm going to pretend that it's just me here, and fifty of my closest friends who understand and won't laugh at me behind my back.

And now I will commence the navel gazing.

All I have to say today is that I feel deflated and bummed out that my twin 12-year old boys are so often the target of bullies. Why are some kids such cruel brats? At the pool today, my husband noticed several boys mocking my twins during a game of water-basketball. He intervened, but was incensed afterward. A little later during "Adult Swim," I walked to the grassy area to see what was going on--a cluster of kids had gathered out there--and just then, I heard a bony girl with bucked teeth say to my son with a sneer, "I don't even know your name." Then her cross-eyed brother said, "He's stupid." I strode up to that kid (the same boy who last year slapped and pinched my youngest son--but I'm too tired to find that post and link it) and said, "EXCUSE ME? DID I JUST HEAR YOU SAY SOMETHING UNKIND?"

He shrunk back and denied it. Then I said, "Good. Because we would not want to say unkind things here, would we?" That group of kids broke up and I told my son he should move away. And as we walked away, I told that skeleton of a girl my son's name, not that she even realizes what a snot she is.

My boys just don't seem to read social cues with any savvy. It's disheartening, but at the same time, a week ago at Vacation Bible School, they did a great job of interacting with younger kids and adults, too. They were volunteers with excellent attitudes, so I have to hope that they will ultimately be fine, despite the bullies who dot the landscape like dog doo left behind by inconsiderate dog owners. Sometimes you have to scrape your shoe off and watch your step so it doesn't happen again. I hope I can teach my boys that lesson eventually.

In the meantime, we'll continue schooling them at home, away from the stench of people who have nothing better to do than pick on other kids.


Blogger Donna said...

Mel, you're brilliant. That's all.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Doesn't it seem that there are more bullies out there than there used to be? I grew up with only a couple of well-known ones, and they weren't even all that bad.

There are probably so many different and complex reasons why so many children are cruel. And why does everyone deny that their child is a bully?

I'm sorry the twins are targets. That must be hard on all of you. But I think you are doing a great job, Mel.

I have never laughed at you behind your back. I always let you know about it! ;)

8:26 AM  
Blogger blueyedtracy said...

Two very insightful and helpful books on the subject of boys/bullying/adolescence:

"Speaking of Boys" by Thompson
"Raising Cain" by Thompson and others.

The years of growing up that your boys are going through are so tough. I wouldn't go through that time of my life again for anything. Sounds like you and your husband are doing a great job being there for them.

1:28 PM  
Blogger blueyedtracy said...

Two very insightful and helpful books on the subject of boys/bullying/adolescence:

"Speaking of Boys" by Thompson
"Raising Cain" by Thompson and others.

The years of growing up that your boys are going through are so tough. I wouldn't go through that time of my life again for anything. Sounds like you and your husband are doing a great job being there for them.

1:28 PM  
Blogger ...just-rambling... said...

It's unfortunate that nowdays there are more bullies than nice kids. Unfortunately, the adult "bullies" are increasing in numbers too.

1:54 PM  
Blogger ...just-rambling... said...

PS: I think that is so cute about your youngest daughter following you around. She loves you and wants to be just like you.

1:56 PM  
Blogger weorwe said...

I still hate trying to read social cues.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Christi said...

Yet another reason I've also decided to homeschool. Kids suck!

7:12 PM  
Blogger Reloaded said...

I don't think kids suck. I think mean kids suck. And mean people in general of all ages.

And bullies come in all ages, not just 17 and under. I recently transferred out from under a dominating boss - some would call him a bully.

But I also still believe that people are good in general, and bullies are the exception.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Angi said...

bullies make me want to scream!!!!!!!!!

Two of my boys would be targets for bullies, which is yet another reason we homeschool. Kids can be so mean to each other.

Bullies ruined my high school experience, and then after high school, one of them apologized, telling me she was just jealous of me back then...ummm, ok.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Cris said...

Aw Mel, let the boys know that inspite of the bad behavior of some, there are others out there who arent bullies and jerks. Unfortunately, I can't hold the kids 100% responsible for their bullying, their parents have to take some of the rap. I do not understand bullies.....I don't get what they get out of being mean to someone else, I guess it is a power thing, and then I start to wonder why children find themselves needing to be in power over someone else....and then my mind goes bonkers with the possibilities.
You handled it beautifully, gave your boys a good example to learn from.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Eyes said...

Do you ever wonder if homeschooling is what makes your boys stand out more?

They aren't exposed to the differences of the world, and children right away pick up on that. Instantly.

I was different as a kid because I had a jersey accent in the Midwest and a European mother in America. It didn't fly!!

If I were a parent, as much as I would hate the stench too, I think I would want my children exposed to all the diversity of the world early so later on in life it wouldn't overwhelm them.

Just a thought.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

Eyes for Lies . . . the boys have only been schooled at home for one year. Previously, they attended our local public school for six years (through fifth grade). We've been going to the same pool for 4 years now. This is not a case of my boys being strange because they are homeschoolers, but a case of kids being jerks because they are allowed by their parents to be so.

But it was a good theory! :)

9:27 AM  
Blogger Diddy-Win said...

...even when you scrape dog doo off of your shoe, it still stinks up your shoe and your car if the shoe comes in...

10:35 PM  
Blogger Gem said...

I wondered how long until someone ventured the homeschooled/lack of social skills theory. My thought is that kids who are bullied or are socially awkward at certain ages are a certain personality type. They would be whether homeschooled or not. The difference is, you were there to help them through it, while if they were in school you would only know about if they told you after school or if the school called once they'd been beat up.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Tina said...

The boys are at such a hard age. There is no one answer that is going to make everything better. I think it is great that you do all you can, rather than look the other way. They will be fine, because of what you do for them.

9:53 AM  

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