Sneezing Out Your Belly Button

Momservation: Teaching your child to stand up for themselves shouldn’t include teaching them, “If my dog was as ugly as you, I’d shave its butt and make it walk backward.”

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Rules of engagement: Stick up for yourself

Rules of engagement: Stick up for yourself

Beware of girls with braids in their hair. Or ponytails. Or headbands. Straight and curly hair too.

Actually, just look out for girls in general.

They’re mean.

My nine year old daughter, Whitney, has been the repeated victim of bullying on the blacktop recently. This is surprising to me because she is no wall-flower and she’s a tough cookie. Just ask her older brother who has the cuts and bruises to show for pushing his sister too far.

But, according to the principal, this is an ongoing problem with girls. The boys are easy. Fight, get over it in two seconds, continue with the ball game. But the girls – they’re sneaky and they go for the emotional jugular. They tell you you’re dumb, say your clothes are ugly, and that you’re the only one not invited to their birthday party.

As a parent, besides wanting to storm the school and take out these girls Rambo style, my first instinct is to give Whitney some of my best lines to shoot back at these bullies in barrettes.

Like, “You may think my shirt is ugly, but I can change my shirt. You can’t change your face.”

Or, “I refuse to have a battle of wits with someone who is obviously unarmed.”

And also, “You may think I’m dumb, but I can go to school to get smart. You’re out of luck. You can’t fix stupid.”

But of course, I hold my tongue and do the standard parent mantra about sticking up for yourself:

–          Did you use your words to tell them you didn’t like what they said/how they were treating you?

–          Did you ask them to please stop?

–          Did you just walk away and try ignoring them?

–          Did you tell a teacher/yard supervisor if you felt like you needed an adult to step in?

–          If you’ve tried to solve the problem yourself and it isn’t working, would you like me to step in?

The first time, after Whitney couldn’t solve the problem herself, I went to the teacher and principal. The girl and her parents were talked to and, surprisingly, instead of dealing with a parent who thinks their perfect child could never do anything like that, the parents had the girl apologize and promise to leave Whitney alone. And she did. No retaliation. Happy ending – but truly the exception and not the rule to bullies (and their parents).

This most recent episode Whitney took care of herself. It went like this:

A girl cuts in front of Whitney and other kids in the tetherball line.

Whitney: Hey, you just cut. You can’t do that.

Bully: So. Whatya going to do about it?

Whitney: You know, you’re not going to have any friends if you treat people this way.

Bully: I can see you’re just as annoying as your brother.

Whitney: Hey! You can insult me all you want, but you can’t talk about my brother that way!

Bully: I can see you’re just as stupid as your family (when Whitney told me this account she spelled out S-T-U-P-I-D because she’s not allowed to use that word).

(This next part, Whitney prefaced it to me by saying, “I don’t know if you’re going to like this part mom, but I said it anyway.”)

Whitney: If you don’t shut up (which she’s also not allowed to say), I’m going to punch you in the nose so hard you’re going to be sneezing out your belly button.

Okay, first I tried not to laugh. Then I tried not to high five her. Then I tried not to say, “Now THAT’s how you take care of business!”

Instead I asked, “So what happened then?”

“She left and went somewhere else,” Whitney grinned triumphantly.

“Was that an original line?” I asked trying not to fist pump.

“Got it off TV,” she said.

“Effective,” I nodded. Then after a momentary pause I felt it my parental good example duty to ask, “You weren’t really going to punch her, were you?”

“Nah,” she said. “It’s just a line I’ve been wanting use and I finally got to use it.”

And one I couldn’t have said better myself.

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