I know you’ve heard the term a lot lately, and it makes you cringe. I know you shake your head or click your teeth when you hear a particularly terrible story. I know that maybe you even experienced bullying as a child, and you look at your own child and think, “No, not mine. I’m not raising a bully.” But the thing is, most childhood bullies aren’t “bad” kids. They don’t come from “bad” homes. They have good and normal parents, just like your kids do. Parents who don’t mean to raise a bully. But you have to do more than not mean to. You have to mean not to. See the difference?
I know your 4-year-old insisted on pouring her own glass of milk and your knee-jerk reaction as you watched the waterfall of white cascade upon the kitchen floor was to yell. And you did. I know your preteen’s bedroom is disgusting and no matter how many times you’ve asked, he adamantly refuses to clean it up. I know that when you dared to enter his dungeon of gross, you found him not only not cleaning but not doing his homework, and you didn’t want to threaten him, but you did.
I know your husband forgot to tell you that he’d be home late, and it hurt your feelings. I know that when he peels off his dirty socks and tosses them in the middle of the living room floor, it is a personalized brand of disrespect you just can’t shake. I know you didn’t want to call him lazy or stupid in front of the kids, but you did.
I know you called your best friend en route to your toddler’s play group to gripe about the other mums and that you didn’t hesitate to mention that the Queen Bee has packed on about ten pounds. I know you get a little kick out of dissecting with your gals who is the prettiest Kardashian or which celebrity needs to keep closer track of her husband. I know you understand this high school brand of cattiness is as inappropriate as it is natural, but you can’t always help it. I know.
But there are a few things we all have to do more than know — we have to remember. We have to remember that these little sponges we are bringing up don’t understand everything we do yet. They hear yelling and they learn that a raised voice is how we express frustration. That threats are a valid form of retaliation for perceived wrongs. That name-calling is a reasonable method of expressing feelings. That speaking ill of other people’s character or appearance is okay as long as they’re not around.
We need to do better. We need to show them better. We need to watch the milk spill onto the floor and calmly suggest a more careful approach next time. We need to put consequences in words so our teenagers get that they’ll be held accountable. We need to drag our husbands outside and get our feelings out within the sound-proof safety net of the car. We need to make sure the kissing and making up happens in front of the kids. We need to keep our nasty comments about other women to ourselves. We know it’s wrong, we know it’s not nice, we know it’s not fair. But still, we do it anyway. If you must get it out, put it in a text and delete it immediately.
Don’t let your kids see the tiny poisonous part of you that you know is necessary to survive adult life. Don’t let them into that world — they’re not ready for it. Don’t show them that shouting, threatening, name-calling, or trash-talking is okay. Don’t let yourself down. And please, please don’t raise a bully.
A Mum Just Like You