There have been several things that have caught me off guard since becoming a parent. I now worry about scenarios that a few short years ago I didn’t even know existed. To say at times that I have felt unprepared in dealing with these issues would be nothing short of an understatement. One of the biggest “surprises” for me about being a parent is witnessing firsthand how nasty children can be to one another. These little bodies have no filters. Think it…..say it, regardless of the consequence. The other interesting associated observation is that the meaner the kid, the more popular they are. The reality of the situation is that those individuals that are feared for their sharp tongue are befriended by the insecure in an attempt to deflect any cutting remarks on the basis of “friendship”. The insecure then try to emulate their leader in an attempt to fit in. It is nothing more than a survival tactic. They build themselves up by tearing others down. It is with this preface that I write this post.
One day my youngest came home from school. Of all my children she easily has the thickest skin. I have watched her many times simply ignore the fiery jabs from the “mean kids”. However on this particular day I could tell someone had succeed in piercing her armor. I asked her my typical question, “Tell me the best and worst thing about your day”. This question typically provides me a quick overview of the emotional highs and lows of the day. She opened right up and said “I wished you had named me Kel instead of Mykel.” Inevitably whenever her name is called for the first time in a class, or for attendance of any kind her name always gets pronounced as Michael. The way her name is pronounced is “Ma-kel”. In fact the last time we were introduced at church I saw her leaned over in her chair repeating to herself “please don’t call me Michael, please don’t call me Michael”…..sure enough they called her Michael. I get it, I would probably make the same mistake if I were reading her name for the first time too. It turns out that the first day of school during role call the teacher got to her name and innocently called her Michael. The class laughed, and Mykel quickly corrected the teacher. But, like sharks with blood in the water, the mean kids saw this as a never ending opportunity to attack. As I sat there and listened to her I thought to myself “that’s it, they are calling you by the wrong name….things could be way worse.” This however was the unprepared parent in me because even though it didn’t seem like a big deal to me it was a huge deal to her. They were calling her a name and telling her that she was a boy. I told her to ignore “them”, weather the storm, “they” would smell new blood soon enough and “they” would begin to pick on someone else soon enough. This was uninspired advice. Weather the storm?? What was I thinking?? One of my favorite quotes of all time is “Don’t just weather the storm, learn to dance in the rain”, and yet my advice was to weather the storm. If I had that moment all over again this is what I would have said:
I’m sorry that you had a hard day. I’m sorry those kids decided to pick on you. I want you to know that I am so proud of you. I love that you accept others and always invite them to play. You have such a kind heart. You are as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside. This is a rare and special combination. When your mother and I were picking your name we knew that it needed to be something beautiful and special like you. We couldn’t just name you Kel because that didn’t seem complete. I loved you so much that I wanted the whole world to know that you were mine. You see you are not just Kel…..you are “my” Kel, and that is where the beautiful name Mykel comes from. There are going to be mean people around you your entire life. They unfortunately never go away. Pay them no attention. Stay kind and you will be happy.
Let us all speak kind words to each other……