The phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a lie from the pit of hell.
Can we please agree on this?
"What are you looking at, ugly?"
He was very popular.
We stood amid bright blue lockers at my high school.
As the locker doors clinked open and shut, I wanted to melt into the brown carpet.
A wave of hot anger chased by cold fear zipped through my spirit.
Do you know how many kids heard what he said?
I wished to die, right then and there.
Who hasn't been called a name?
Who hasn't had their heart ripped out because of someone else's cruelty?
Maybe your big ears or growing nose was the butt of the joke?
Maybe your overly hairy arms were the object of scorn?
Maybe your feet grew before the rest of you?
Remember how much that hurt?
To be noticed for all the wrong reasons?
Do you know what hurts worse?
When it happens to your flesh and blood?
When the occasional word lobbed between kids doesn't end but turns into an uncontrollable volley?
Like words that turn into food thrown at them in the cafeteria?
And then, “we … were … joking” doesn't pass the smell test?
Or, what if a kid you knew was savagely embarrassed in the high school lunchroom? And that kid fought back but was given detention because they fought back? Crazy, right? Wrong-headed nonsense. Imagine being punished for fighting back.
I felt sick writing that. But you and I both know it happens. In our “let's be fair” society, fighting back is perceived as being immoral, or worse, than the initial incident.
To me? That is wrong.
What would you do if your kid was the one who was made fun of at the ballet bar under a mean girl's breath? The girl who had perfected the art of whispering, just out of earshot of the teacher?
Or what if they're poked fun on the sideline of whatever sport they play? Just out of hearing of the coach?
What if your child wants to die because the kids try and figure out what race your family is? And they won't leave your kid alone about it.
Or, when one child turns an entire class against your child?
Then the school investigates and finds out that your child did tell the truth about the entire incident?
But she's on the outs.
And now you understood why she would not get out of your SUV to go to school.
What to do?
After weeks of struggle and buckets of tears?
What do you do?
Hold on to your kids.
It's both a book title and advice.
Gordon Neufeld & Gabor Maté, M.D., in their book, Hold on to your kids, write that studies unequivocally show that a strong attachment to parents is the best protection against suicide.
Neufeld said, "Part of my job was to investigate the psychological dynamics in children and adolescents who attempted suicide, successfully or not. To my absolute shock and surprise, the key trigger for the great majority was how they were being treated by their peers, not their parents. My experience was not isolated, as is confirmed by the increasing numbers of reports of childhood suicides triggered by peer rejection and bullying. The more peers matter, the more children are devastated by the insensitive relating of their peers, by failing to fit in, by perceived rejection or ostracization."
Our influence still matters.
We are still the ones to whom our kids turn when they are crushed.
We are still the ones they text when their friend wouldn't stand up for them in the lunchroom or on the back of the bus.
We are still the ones they reach out to while hiding in the bathroom stall because the tears won't stop.
It's still us.
So, it has to be us who teaches them to stand and to be strong, even as their knees buckle.
It has to be us that teaches them that no weapon formed against them shall prosper.
That what man intended for evil, God intends for good.
And that there is one who can bind their wounds and meet them at their sorrows because we have a great high priest who understands.
And he is the one who will never leave them or forsake them, even when friends, yes even close ones, leave.
This knowledge is what imparts true strength even in the face of disaster.
And horrible words. And painful circumstances.
It’s this knowledge, the knowledge of the holy, that sends confident children on their way.
And it's our job to impart it.
Amie Beth Shaver is a speaker, writer, and media commentator. Her column appears every Wednesday in 1819 News. Shaver served on the Alabama GOP State Executive Committee, was a candidate for State House 43 and spokeswoman for Allied Women. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to[email protected].