To my almost nine-year-old daughter,
It started with your long sleeves. Do you remember that? It was September and I couldn’t understand for the life of me why you insisted on every day wearing long sleeves too school even though it was 90 degrees out. You finally told me it was because of them. Those kids who had started calling you names, pointing to the hairs on your arms and making you feel ashamed. I shook my head, reminisced about my own childhood and told you that kids could be mean.
I didn’t think about it further.
Not too long after, you were so mad. I walked into the kitchen, home from work, and it was like the levees burst. You told me about the shoving. You told me about the names. You told me how these kids kept finding you in the hallways, in the quiet moments in class, in the lunch line and told you, you were ugly. That you were stupid. That they wished you weren’t there.
We told your teacher, she spoke to you, to the kids, and we thought that was it.
One night you asked me what bitch meant. Your dad and I sat there stunned. Why do you ask? You told us how during writing that day a girl had sat next to you and in her sparkly pink notebook she had written “Thea is a bitch” and then proudly showed it to you. You knew it was bad. You were so upset.
We told your teacher, we asked for a meeting.
But before then someone wrote on the bathroom walls. Mean things about other kids and they signed your name. Then told every child that wanted to hear it how you had done it. You were so angry, I didn’t think you would ever calm down again.
We told the school, we got our meeting.
An investigation was started and yet it continued.
You learned to not bring anything special to school because it would be taken.
You learned to not walk by yourself in the hallways so that you would have a witness.
You learned to move when some kids sat by you.
You learned to calmly tell a child that you were not those things they said you were.
You learned to hold your tongue when all you wanted to do was lash out.
And yet, we felt your anger. And also your fear; do I have to go to school, Mom?
Then one day, dad picked you up and you were in trouble. Some kids had called you the “B word again” and this time you had had enough, you had pushed one of them. Our sweet girl pushed another child.
We told you no way. We told you that was not how to handle problems, and yet at the same time, we wondered, what could you do? Because following the rules and being nice had done nothing.
And we waited for news from the school. What did the investigation find?
Last night you told me that someone whispered to you during carpet time that you were an ugly fucking bitch. At dinner, I had to tell you that no matter what another child says to you, you are not ugly. You are smart, kind, beautiful and that we are so proud of you.
The school finally told us that there was a clear case of bullying and that there would be serious consequences. And yet, does that really matter? Because the same day as the kids were told to stop bullying you, one of them kicked you as you walked by. “On accident.” How many more on accidents incidents will you have to put up with?
This morning, you asked me to keep you home. Please don’t send me to the mean kids. I told you to keep your head up high. To report anything that happened. To interrupt the teacher if you had to. That the adults know. That they care. That they are trying.
And yet as I sit at school, I wonder if I told you the truth? Can we really stop it?
Your teacher is trying. Your principal is trying. We are trying. And yet, is it enough?
So I write this to tell you again that those kids with those words don’t matter. That you are perfect just the way you are. That we will continue to fight for you just like you will fight for yourself.
So to my almost nine-year-old daughter; you are enough. You are everything to us. You are perfect just the way you are. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.
PS: So many people have sent their love and support to Thea since I wrote this. Thank you, because as much as I want to say it has ended, it has not. If you would like to send her a note of encouragement, you can mail it to her through me. My address at school is:
Oregon Middle School
601 Pleasant Oak Drive
Oregon, WI 53575