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Mean Girls

Sometimes one or another of the children will go out into the world, come home and passionately say, “I appreciate you and Dad so much. Thank you for being my parents.”

Conversely, when I discuss my parenting practices with other adults, I am often met with glazed looks and shocked reactions. Apparently I’m a little outside the box on accepted methods. So what’s new? People thought I was crazy to nurse my kids for three years each, to never leave them with a babysitter, to co-sleep. I did what felt right for raising human beings. It didn’t feel radical, it felt sensible.

I grew up in the era before bullying was socially outed. Amazingly, despite presenting as prize bully bait, I have few memories of being picked on or singled out for any particular cruelty. I was blessed with the triple teflon armour of a willful, bossy personality, a supportive family who placed high value on self expression, and three very popular older brothers.

That is not to say I haven’t been on the receiving end of my share of nastiness. It’s just that my quota of being bullied has happened in my adult years. Furtive whispering, blatant gossiping, social ostricizing, bald faced lies told with a smile, anonymous notes in the mailbox spewing hate and judgement…yup. Turns out schoolyard bullying is also perpetrated by the parents.

Of course, there are some crucial differences between child and adult bullying.  Most importantly, I am not a victim. Children are easily imprinted with every manner of false beliefs when they are treated badly.  My experience has been the opposite. I have spent fifteen years uncovering false beliefs about myself; flushing them out with a whole lot of tears and a smattering of fury too.

Mostly, schoolyard dynamics left me confused.

Why would any grown up treat another so unkindly? How do folks live steeped in blame? Are people so addicted to misery that they need it to feel alive?

If you are immersed in or soon to enter the schoolyard culture, or if you feel bullied by other adults in any circumstance, here is my Guide to Surviving Schoolyard Drama; learned through vigorous self inquiry and the relentless pursuit of peace (listed in order of the quantity of tears shed in the learning process):

1) Let go of the need to be liked by everyone.  NOT gonna happen. Give it up and save yourself a whole lot of pain. Even my super social dog knows to walk away when another dog is socially inappropriate.

2) Let go of the need to understand why everyone does what they do. You can’t. People are inexplicable.

3) Separate what your children are experiencing from your own wounding. Children reflect your unconscious issues back to you. Count on it. Whatever is triggering you in your child’s experience is PRIORITY ONE for your own healing process.

4) When you catch yourself claiming your child “would never do that” or “isn’t like that” – Wake up!  Guess what? Good children do bad things, uncharacteristic things. On purpose. Then they lie to see what will happen. Don’t let lying to yourself be the thing that happens.

5) Seek peace. Friendship is optional. See #1.

6) Some folks are stuck in immaturity and there is a very good chance they are suffering. Imagine living your entire adult life with a grade eight mentality. Ouch! Don’t get dragged into the fray. Choose self-respect.

I am a different person than I was stepping into my kids’ schoolyard fifteen years ago. It took me four childhoods to grow up and become an adult – my own and that of each of my three children.

So to them I say,  “Thank YOU for coming and for choosing me as your mom. I appreciate you so much.”