Inspired by a tweet I read from Sweetney, I tweeted this, which began a conversation between Mrs. Gryphon (who fucking rules, btw) and me about the importance of giving our children the tools to navigate through the bull(y)shit not to mention, successfully raising healthy, happy children during a time where self-hate has become a social epidemic. (Bullying is not an epidemic. Bullying is the product of self hate and fear which has become not only normal but expected of people).
So much has been brought to our attention as of late about bullying, specifically gay youth and although we live in the city of West Hollywood where the cop cars boast rainbow flags and many of Archer's classmates' parents (and our friends) are same-sex couples we cannot assume that bullying isn't just as rampant in our community as anywhere else. Because the truth is? It doesn't matter if you're gay, straight, white, purple, pink for breast cancer awareness, geeky, the most popular girl in school; any child can fall victim to bullying. Anywhere.
I've written at length about my struggles with my own happiness. About the guilt I felt growing up, the bullying and heckling in high school from older girls who went out of their way to make my life hell, with their driveway chocolate syrup penis drawings and death threats andandandand.... etc, specifically my sophomore year of high school. It went on and on and ON and didn't end until the older girls graduated. (And by end I mean "end" because, let's be honest, bullying doesn't stop, it just becomes more nuanced.) I digress. More than half of my high school life, I lived in fear. No matter how involved my parents were, teachers, even school staff, there was nothing I could do then to make it stop.
The truth is that I'll never be able to defend Archer and Fable from the inevitably insecure, the fearful trolls who lurk in their own personal hells, desperate to take the non-assuming down with them, but I can teach them to build their own shields. How? By modeling self love and respect. By being honest with them about my own experiences, the struggles and the triumphs and truths. I can help them nurture their strengths as individuals, help them tone muscles they will forever have on them to flex.
For me, I had my writing and on the days when I was afraid in real life, I was fearless on the page, confident in a world where nobody could find me. I wasn't in hiding so much as I had found within me a place to seek. That has never changed. Even now, here, today. Even with anonymous Internet meanies and their chocolate syrup penis drawings in my comment box. Even in rejection letters and failed projects to be continued or not so much.
In the end, it is my responsibility as a parent to raise confident kids. But it's going to take more than my love and support to do so. Compliments and praise can only do so much. And perhaps paradoxically, too much praise has the capacity to hinder more than it helps - causing dependency on me for attention and love instead of looking first to themselves.
It is one of my goals as a parent for my kids to take pride in their good behavior just as I expect them to understand the ramifications of messing up. To see the beauty and wonder in themselves instead of trying to prove those things to others. Because others are ephemeral. Even us, the parents. Someday our kids will live under their own roofs with their own mirrors.
Because telling Fable "you're beautiful" is great but asking "aren't you beautiful?" and then hearing Fable respond unwaveringly with, "YES, mama" is better.
Regardless of whether you agree with my fishing analogy proverb what-have-you, I believe it is our responsibility as parents, not only to our children but to everyone they come into contact with in their lifetime, to do everything in our power to change the trajectory of the self-loath-athon that has taken our society by storm.
By giving our kids the support and opportunity to excel in areas that excite them, we are offering them a refuge, a place to build confidence that NO ONE can interfere with. An identifying outlet.
By teaching our kids to love themselves (regardless of how great their successes, failures) they won't have to hate. And by setting an example of how best to do that is the greatest gift we can give not only them but ourselves.
Give a child a compliment and she'll smile for a day. Teach a child to compliment herself and she'll smile for a lifetime. Okay so maybe not every day. Some days are unequivocally shitty. But, you know what I mean, close enough.
Halfway through writing this post, yesterday, I dug up a lil' book I made in my 10th grade English class. It's long so I'll spare you the mortifying photo montages of ex-boyfriends and keepsake love letters but some of what was in there is worth sharing. Or maybe it isn't. (But I think it might be.)
Most tellingly, this was the last page:
A-fucking-men, 10th grade me. Go forth.