Yesterday someone told me I was ignorant, right to my face. To make sure the point was clear they repeated their assessment of my mental capabilities. All because I didn’t agree with their perspective on something. I sat there as the rage, embarrassment, and surprise washed over me. Moments later I walked away.
Scenarios played out in my head. “I should have said this” and “I should have done that” and “why didn’t I do such-and-such?”. To compound the issue I started questioning my competency, trying to understand the other person’s perspective and where my thinking was off. As I’m learning while listening to the Audiobook of Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” , I can’t help myself. Regardless of how outlandish or accurate an observation is, my mind snatches it up and gnaws on it, dissecting the words and intent.
I was fortunate. My mind took a break from the hamster wheel instrospection when I had the pleasure of a mid-day visit with Penelope. As I looked into her smiling face I kept asking myself “How can I prepare her for the insults and attacks?” The question looms large as Jenn and I research schools. Based on our observation of Penelope with other children in classrooms everything should be fine. But what will she do if someone says to her “You’re ignorant”, or the kindergarten equivalent? As a father how do I prepare my daughter for this? Especially at a young age.
Right now we’ve only covered the topic of bullying through the lens of Anna Dewdney’s “Llama Llama and the Bully Goat“. For those unfamiliar with the children’s book, Llama Llama and Nelly Gnu get sand kicked on them and play time disrupted by a disgruntled billy goat. Rather than walk away or cry, Llama and Nelly stand up to Bully and say they’re going to kick his ass if he doesn’t check himself.
It doesn’t really play out like that, but how amazing would that be?
Llama Llama and Nelly Gnu tell Bully Goat he’ll have no one to play with if he keeps being mean. Llama and Nelly tell the teacher and Bully Goat sits in timeout. A page later the whole class, including the ornery goat, are singing and having a great time.
This is not how I remember childhood. It’s now how I remember bullies being dealt with.
Ultimately the bullies of our childhood grow up and get a chance to bully some more. At work, in restaurants, and anywhere the opportunity arises to push someone around. Maybe it’s as small as stealing someone’s parking space. Maybe it’s insulting someone’s intelligence. Or worse, physical violence.
I don’t know the answer at the moment. But I’m thinking about it.