Molly may have her daddy’s dimples and bright blue eyes, but she is definitely her mother’s daughter — a reality I find a little unnerving to say the least.
At just five-and-a-half years old, my Kindergartner embodies many of the same quirky mannerisms and facial expressions as I do. She also twirls her curly hair when she’s nervous, douses her eggs in ketchup and is slow to speak up if something or someone is bothering her. The last one has me a little freaked out.
Just the other day, she came out of her bedroom, obviously upset, from an altercation with her three-and-a-half year old sister, Zoe.
“She took my baby away,” said Molly, pointing her finger at her younger sibling who was beaming ear-to-ear while clutching the doll tightly to her chest.
“Well, why don’t you go get it back?” I asked, already knowing what her response would be. It is always the same.
“But mommy, I don’t want to make her cry!” she protested. “It’s okay; I guess I’ll just play with something else… ”
And then there’s Zoe — a real force to be reckoned with. My fiery redhead has no problem standing up to her sister or any of the older children on the playground, for that matter.
From talking to other parents, I’m convinced this is common for children who are second in birthing order. If anyone dares to take anything away from ‘little miss independence,’ she is quick to snatch it or seek vengeance if she is double crossed. Although Zoe is still so young, I feel I won’t have to worry as much about her when she is old enough to go to school. However, when I look at Molly I see myself – the reflection terrifies me.
In elementary school I was labelled the ‘awkward chubby kid’ who was always picked last during gym class. Although I eventually lost the prepubescent chub, the taunting didn’t end in elementary school.
I was 14 years old when a classmate stabbed me in the back — literally — with a pair of scissors during social studies. While it wasn’t enough of a jab to pierce my skin, it was enough to cause discomfort; leaving behind a little bruise. Instead of turning around and asking her to stop or reporting the incident to our teacher, I sat dead still in my seat. With the new mark on my body, I had been branded. I was a victim.
That same year I was shoved into walls for no particular reason other than walking the hallway, spit on by a student three years my senior and tormented by a group of girls in gym class — peers who mistook my shy nature as an open invitation to wage war on my sense of self worth. I could have spoke up, but stayed silent with my head down, hoping it would stop. It didn’t.
Despite the fact I had never even held hands with a boy, I was called a slut. I believed them.
Even though I enjoyed learning and excelled in English, I was called an idiot. I believed that too.
And when you are called a loser enough times, you start to agree.
Instead, I began to cut class and become even more introverted, more timid. Looking back, I realize I let my tormenters win.
I now realize that had I learned from an early age how to value myself enough to take a stand, I wouldn’t have had the burden of carrying a big fat bull’s-eye on my back for the vast majority of my childhood.
I’m not predicting Molly will have the same misfortune, but I do recognize that she does have the disposition that could make her easy prey on the playground.
While I don’t want to change one single thing about her — she’s pretty darn amazing, if I do say so myself — my husband and I will always be keeping a close watch for bullying and encourage her to speak up and take a stand.
Today, my two daughters, husband and I will all be sporting the colour pink – and not just because it is a dominant shade in our household. Like millions of men and women across North America, we will be wearing pink to show our support for Pink Shirt Day and to show our two daughters that bullying is by no means acceptable.