Maybe by teaching my girls not to care what others think I’ll finally be able to learn it for myself.
Last month my daughter skipped up to her classroom wearing a panda mask. Happy-go-lucky until we got closer and someone said, “Lookit!” while giggling and pointing which made everyone laugh. My daughter ripped off the mask and broke into tears, thinking they were laughing at her. It hurt my heart because I don’t think they were making fun of her, I think they thought it was funny, but it didn’t seem that way to her. It saddened me knowing she’s going to have many moments like this because, as we know, kids are cruel and we all deal with some sort of bullying at one point or another.
It took me back to my sixth grade bully who said I stared too much, which I still do…and that I needed to get a tan, which I still do. I now realize that staring was just my way, part of my process of writing and observing the world around me. And the tan thing, yeah, I’m naturally pale, this skin freckles and burns, it was not intended for the sun. While my pint-sized bully may have just been stating the obvious, he was trying to hurt me, however, I knew that his opinion never really mattered. Maybe this was because I had older brothers who teased me anyway so I was used to empty, lame insults, or maybe it was because my parents instilled a strong sense of self from an early age.
We all get picked on, we all get our feelings hurt, but it’s what we do with it that’s most important. My daughter is still young so to explain all this to her would’ve been overwhelming, but I wanted to do the right thing, tell her the right words so that the next time she feels this embarrassment she’ll be able to laugh it off and not take it to heart, but all I could do was hug her and act like it wasn’t a big deal.
I would’ve reacted the same way. It’s taken me a long time to be able to laugh at myself and I still struggle with it sometimes (just ask my husband who has been glared at more than once for me misinterpreting his laughter). So when I picked her up from school I told her that the girls were laughing because her mask made them happy and they thought she was being funny not that she looked funny.
I love that she wore her mask. I want her to embrace her silliness and individuality and have the confidence to do what she wants and to stand up for herself when anyone tries to make her feel small. So, in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, I ask her to shake it off. I guess it’s never too soon to learn that the haters are gonna hate so never let them see you sweat…or burst into tears.