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Big or small, old or young, I’m letting them all have the fun.

Just a short message from me today.

There has been so much discussion, blogs, and articles about the appropriate age for trick or treating. When are kids too old? What’s the cut off age?

Well, isn’t it funny how we constantly point out that the kids today seem to be leaving childhood behind so quickly? Whether it’s how they dress, use social media, are exposed to sex and violence, etc.

So on this holiday of fun and child’s play, let’s let the kids be kids. Whether they are 5 or 15.

If someone comes to my house in a costume and politely says ‘Trick or Treat” I will give them candy. If they look like they probably drove here with their friends in their dad’s car, that’s okay.

My kids are 11 and 14. Our neighborhood is one of those neighborhoods families drive to to take their kids door to door. It’s busy and bustling, kids and families are out in packs. My kids are trick or treating.

Emma, 14, is heading out with a group of her friends. And I’m certain that because they will handle themselves appropriately, they will get candy at every door they knock on.

Owen is with a bunch of kids age 11 to 14. They will go door to door as well.

Because they are all still kids!!

My friend Jen over at Real Life Parenting said that when a teenager comes to her door without a costume and seems to expect candy, she tells them they can have the candy but after they sing a song or do a dance. It makes great entertainment around their friends!

I love that idea. Remember the old, old, old days where Halloween was more tricks? Kids soaping windows, building bon fires in the middle of the town square, throwing flour on folks? Okay, I watch a lot of old movies and Little House.

So I’m letting the kids be kids. Everyone gets candy here.

Of course, it might be some leftover Easter candy or last year’s candy, but hey- Tricks on you!

Happy Halloween.

Be safe.

Frugie Halloween Let the kids trick or treat

 

Why I regret spanking my child

We say it takes a village to raise a child.

It can take a fleet of people to bring home a new baby. Grandparents, neighbors, best friends are all helping the new and bleary-eyed parents with their unfamiliar and exhausting schedule. The dinners are pre-made in the freezer, the laundry folded by a kind grandma, neighbor or mother-in-law are absolutely life savers!

There are countless instances where the village kicks in:

A ride to the pediatrician with your best friend can help you with that cumbersome stroller you’re still getting the hang of collapsing to fit in your trunk…I’ve been there.

When your oldest is sick and you can’t pick up your youngest from school and that helpful neighbor offers to do it for you.

But when it comes to issues like discipline that border on child abuse, we can turn a blind eye and say that how you discipline your kids is your business. What goes on behind closed doors is your business. How you treat or mistreat your spouse is your business.

It’s a Pandora’s Box of taboo topics. A minefield of gray that most of us would rather leave to each his own.

However, if it takes a village to raise a child, why do we neglect one of the parts that is so critical to a child’s psyche and molding in how he or she will perceive violence, corporal punishment, and power?

In the case of NFL player, Adrian Peterson, he took a switch, a small branch from a tree and hit the child repeatedly for interfering with another child’s video game.

This is an old-fashioned form of punishment. Probably one our grandparents endured. I think my dad did. We’ve seen it on episodes of Little House on the Prairie when the school master disciplines a student with a switch or stick. Nuns did this in Catholic schools with rulers, headmasters with paddles.

The difference between those situations and the Adrian Peterson situation is the boy’s injuries and wounds look like they were inflicted out of rage and lack of self control.

Discipline should be carried out judicially. Not in a fit of anger.

This is why I can say I regret some of the spankings I gave my daughter. I know that I reacted in the heat of the moment when I gave her the swat on her diapered backside. Read more

 

Why I regret spanking my child by Frugalista Blog for Bonbon Break

A kid’s guide to how to ask your parents for a hamster

 

A kid's guide to how to ask your parents for a hamster by Frugalista Blog

My daughter knew her father would be a tough sell on getting him convinced she could have a hamster.

We have a cat and a dog and despite my request for a houseful of kittens, he says that we have all the pets we’ll ever have.

Emma is a pretty clever kid.

So she knew that if she left the gate with just, “Dad, can I have a hamster?” the answer would be “NO”.

She decided to come up with a plan.

First- clean your room or bathroom, wherever you plan on keeping the little furry rodent’s dwelling.

Second- don’t ask for anything for awhile and come across as very low maintenance.

Three- have ovary surgery where they rearrange your insides.

Okay, that’s not fair. Not every kid can pull the surgery card, but it does work well if you do have it in your deck.

Find a time when dad isn’t stressed or just came home from work, isn’t distracted by a World Cup game, watching the NBA draft, or finishing his roster for coaching your brother’s soccer game. Yeah, if you understood that sentence, that means there’s very little time dad isn’t stressed or distracted.

Have a whole bunch of your babysitting money saved up so you don’t ask your parents for funding this furry venture.

Once you’ve accomplished all the above, sit down with your dad casually. Probably while he’s chilling with a beer.

And then in your sweetest, yet direct on mature, but not too mature voice, ask, “A lot of my friends have gotten them, and I know it seems weird at first, but I think you’ll consider the idea, can I get a belly button piercing?” Then hold for dramatic pause.

Then when he looks at you in shock, appease his worries with soft laughter,

“Ha ha, I’m just kidding.” “But rather, actually, can I have a hamster?” Then look him squarely in the eye and smile.

Ha! See? It’s the old ‘bait and switch’ tactic!

Once the shock of the thought of his little girl getting some kind of ornamental piercing hanging from a part of her body that he once bathed and applied ointment to the first few days after birth to ensure it healed properly, he can wrap his head around a furry little friend joining your home that pees and poos in a cage of wood shavings.

If at first he gives you the no answer answer, which goes like, “Oh, a hamster, ha ha. I get it. Hmmm…”  and then goes back to his beer and laptop, don’t fret. That’s not actually a ‘No’. It’s a non-answer that just hangs in the air.  What’s critical here is not to press him. Just go with the flow.

If you’re mom is already on board and supporting you with the decision, then let her do the closing.

Do your research and maybe mention a few people you know who have experience with hamsters as pets. Stress the low maintenance feature. Dad’s appreciate this.

It doesn’t hurt to take a trip to a few pet stores and scope out the one you want to get.  Once you find the one you fall in love with, bring back these anecdotes of how you held the cutest, sweetest hamster of the bunch and we wouldn’t want him to get purchased by someone else.

Have your mom approach him casually with, “well, Emma’s gotten all she needs for her hamster and we’ll head to the pet store tomorrow to bring him home. It really was the cutest one and it liked her immediately.”

When your mom helps convince your dad, you’ve hit a home run.

Bring that fur ball home and congratulations! You are now the owner of a tiny rodent.

Oh, and the pee and the bedding do stink. I’m not gonna lie. Be sure to tidy it daily, and clean its shavings weekly. If the smell overwhelms your parents, you’ve failed at the hamster parenting task and they’ll never trust you again.

For part two of this story, stay tuned on how to retrieve your hamster from the floor boards when you lose him behind the bathroom cupboard. That was fun. (sarcasm font)

 

 

 

Little Frugie on the Prairie

I would kick ass as a prairie woman! Okay, except for the outhouse part. And the working from sun up to sun down. And maybe the fact that there was no WiFi in 1888.

BUT, still, I think I would rule the homestead.

I took the children and my friend and her children to a place called Pioneer Farms. It’s in the Ohop Valley in Washington and is a good one hour drive from my house.

Of course, this involved a Starbucks stop and a potty stop on the way. Obviously we weren’t embracing the accurate means of covered wagon travel to get to this pioneering homestead.

So with our iPhones and Galaxy S4s charged up for plenty of pictures and Instagramming, oh, and not to mention lots of hand sanitizer and sunscreen, off we went to experience the life of the pioneers. (sarcasm font)

Upon arrival, of course, I had to pee. So the outhouses they have on the site, are – outhouses. Yep. No Honey Buckets especiale here. These babes haven’t been emptied in at least 50 years. I’m guessing they put some enzyme in them or something so that the waste doesn’t actually climb out and meet you on the freeway. I had been to this farm when I was 9 and the outhouse was in the same location. So if you think they dig a new hole every ten years, then you’d be wrong.

How nice that I’ve dedicated an entire paragraph to outhouses. But the point is, they’re awful. They stink. And anything down wind stinks too. So enjoy that in the middle of the night when your bison fried steak disagrees with you.

We got to see a school house where the rules were made clear that girls got more lashes than boys for having something misspelled or a math problem wrong. Too bad women’s rights would be another 30 years and then some.

The homes were pretty small in those days. I guess since you built them yourself with only your wife and 5 children under the age of 5 to help you, granite counter tops, bonus rooms, and bay windows were kind of hard to come by.

With that said, the homes were really small in those days. So apparently bedrooms and privacy were nil. Personally, I would just make the house bigger if I’m the one building it. But having 7 family members in 100 square feet of space is cozy.

Children did major chores by the time they were 4. And not just gathering eggs from the chickens or kneading bread dough. They cut wood. Can you imagine giving your 4 year old a saw?  Ha ha ha! I know, I know, I know. There was a necessity to make them work so young. I’m not stupid. But still. A saw. Owen can barely butter toast. If I was waiting for the wood for that morning’s breakfast and Owen was in charge of bringing in the wood, we’d be eating at noon.

Our tour started in the barn. We got to milk Daisy the cow and gather the eggs and the children did an excellent job of picking up the chickens to gather them in the coop. The goats and pig and sheep were super cute and friendly. Every kid got a ride on Jake the horse. I would have ridden him too, but I was wearing a skirt and flip flops so that would have been silly if I did.

We would all have been screwed in 1880 without our Zyrtec. We all started sneezing from the hay.

My question is, would I be lactose intolerant back then? Hmm… that would make things a little awkward since coconut milk was not at the General Store.

For your entertainment, here’s all the chores and farm activities I got to do in pictures:

Little Frugie on the Prairie

I’m a po’ down trodden woman. Look how pitiful I look. The bonnet is a nice touch, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frugie on the Prairie

That shirt was like a piece of cardboard after drying in the sun all day. Can you imagine wearing it?

 

Frugie on the Prairie makes horse shoes

Yeah, so that’s a 2000 degree forge and Owen and I are just you know, heating up metal to hammer and shape for horse shoes. Despite my protective eye wear, I did not feel confident. A flame retardant suit and giant Ov Glove would have made me feel more safe.

Frugie on the Prairie shaving wood

This was one of the jobs a 4 year old would do. Apparently, I’m not as skilled as a 4 year old. It’s the process of shaving down a piece of wood for an ax handle or something. It was quite difficult.

Look Ma, I’m shaving wood!

I caught this chicken and then made it into soup. Just kidding. I didn’t make it into soup. Actually, I didn’t catch it either. Emma did. Notice the photo bomb?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get your children to listen to you in public

How to get your children to listent to you in public by Frugalista Blog

My friends. This is easy. If no one has taught you the value of how to humiliate your children in public, then you’re doing it wrong. **

You see, I have a very high tolerance for my own humiliation. I’m pretty much fair game. Have you seen my Spanx post? Right.

Once upon a time, my children and I were at the mall.

We went to the Lego store to look around.

We spent a lot of time looking, putting together some pieces, sitting on those tiny stools they put at those tables, checking out the million dollar Millennium Falcon. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Legos are cool and Star Wars Legos are even cooler, but I was thirsty. And hungry.

Honestly being hungry and thirsty in a Lego store isn’t fun. There’s not even any lip gloss or shoes to distract me. So when it’s lunch time and mom is ready to go, it’s go time.

The children did that thing where when I say, “Okay kids, let’s go get lunch!” and I’m super positive and all happy parent on them, they are like, “Just a sec mom.”

Uh huh. I know ‘Just a sec’. It’s the classic stall. My husband does the ‘Just a sec’ when I tell him to take out the garbage. And now the children have mastered the ‘Just a sec’ as well.

Tick tock. Seconds are going by and my stomach is rumbling.

“Okay my little kidlets, this mama hen is hungry and it’s time to feed the chicks. Let’s go.”

“Wait mom, this is so cool, did you see this?”

“Yes, I did honey. Diagon Alley is awesome when it’s made from 15,000 pieces. But there’s a burrito in the food court calling my name. Let’s GO.”

“Sure mom…”

And then it’s like they turned into turtles. The Slowskies are now my son and daughter. Seriously? Like how cool can bricks of plastic be?!

“Hey kids, if you don’t come when I count to 5, I won’t let you have ice cream later.”

Them- “….”

“Hey kids, if you don’t come in the next two seconds I’m just going to start dancing right here in the mall.”

“MO’OM, Right. You’re just kidding. Just a sec.”

You did not ‘Just a sec’ me a second time.

“Okay here goes. OOOh, I love this song. Reminds me of high school. How do you do the Running Man again?”

I proceed to do some version of the Running Man. I’m outside the Lego store and the kids can see me through the glass wall.

“Hey kids, I’ll stop as soon as you join me.”

Kids come running.

“Mom that was SO EMBARRASSING!! How could you do that? Oh my gosh, like people were watching!”

“And from now on, you come when I call and I won’t break out the Cabbage Patch. Deal?”

“Deal.”

Seriously. It’s worked ever since. Which is good, because my Cabbage Patch is worse than my Running Man.

 

**No children were harmed in the sharing of this blog

 

When your 5th grader goes to camp

Sending your 5th grader to camp by Frugalista Blog

When your 11 year old goes to 5th grade camp and you miss him, he might not miss you as much as you thought he would. Which is probably a good thing. Fly little birdie fly. (sniff, sniff)

Owen just finished 48 hours away from home at 5th grade camp. This was his first camp-out without his dad. He’s done Cub Scouts before but always with his dad. And dad always had a cell phone. So I would text and check updates, looking for Facebook pictures or statuses.

But this time, no dad. No cell phones. It felt weird.

I completely trusted him in the care of his teacher and the other adults there. But I wondered if he was missing me. Did he let tears fall on his pillow at night when the cabin was dark and he heard every little creak and hum? When he could hear other campers snoring and he felt far from home and alone did he muffle his cries in his pillow? Okay, so that was me when I was 11 at camp. Not that I’m trying to impress my experiences on him, but I did have a certain empathy for what he might be going through.

Camp is an exhilarating and exhausting rite of passage for kids this age. A bonding experience with classmates that if you’re lucky, you’ll have camp memories 30 years later with those friends and you form Facebook groups.

I even remember my camp songs, the Smokey The Bear award, the film canister survival kit I made, the weird ‘hamburger surprise’ dinner that was served that first night.

I remember crying while saying good bye to the friends I made from other schools. We wrote letters to each other for probably the following 6 months and then lost touch.

Owen said there were no tears shed. He said the food was awful but they still cleared their plates.

They measured their ‘ort’ or leftovers, for their table. Only take what you’re going to eat. I love camp. Sharing the value of limiting waste! He said by the last meal his table had zero ort.

He shared the songs his cabin sang when they had to line up for meal times. A different one each time, they would line up, sing their song or chant, and the cabin with the best, got to go in the dining hall first. A sample of one of them to the tune of Selena Gomez’s, “If You’re Ready Come and Get It”- “Lunch is ready, come and get it, nanana na na na.” He said they won pretty much every time.

They performed a skit and won the trophy for best skit. Or something like that.

He told me about a tumble he took off of some tight rope. That didn’t sit too well with me. But hey, he’s fine. It’s camp, not Navy Seals. Or Meatballs.

I was disappointed to hear there was no Square Dancing. How do you not have Square Dancing? We had Square Dancing. What is camp without the humiliation and exhilaration of having to touch a boy’s hand? Hoping he won’t know that yours are sweaty.

O Johnny O Johnny O was my favorite. I can do it for you if you’d like. Maybe a YouTube video?

I have to at least teach Owen. Do si do-ing and going to your ‘corner girl’, THAT is what camp is!

So Owen got off the bus looking exhausted but happy. He smelled of camp fire and hair gel. He asked for Starbucks. Then he went home, changed his clothes, grabbed his iPhone and was out the door to a friend’s house!

Wait just a minute.

Where was my chit chat over tea and scones? I needed to hear every detail!

Hmm. It wasn’t going to happen at that moment. I needed to let him go and let him run off his antsy feeling of connecting with the friends that didn’t go to camp.

Eventually, he shared a whole bunch over a game of 2 square in the driveway with me. Trust me, I will keep drawing camp details out of him as the days go on. I’m guessing there will be several rounds of Foosball, 2 square, and hoops to get him to talk.

I’m okay with that.

 

“It’s Not Fair!” a guest post over at In The Powder Room

I’m featured over at In The Powder Room today.

It’s funny. It’s about penises.

Go over and read it. http://www.inthepowderroom.com/parenting-penis-envy/

It's Not Fair- A post about penis envy by Frugalista Blog

Birthing a teenager

When you have a baby your thoughts are surrounded by this little bundle of joy. Wait. Scratch that. Bundle of joy? Bundle of crying, pooping, difficult to latch on toothless beast. That’s more like it.

Emma is 14 today. I remember when she was born and the soft skin on her back felt like I put my hand in a vat of warm butter. I had no idea what to expect. I could barely wrap my mind around the number of cells that divided and divided over the 39 weeks bringing me this fleshy, peach fuzzed, pink child.

The sense of overwhelming duty to feed this human was daunting. Everything hurt. My boobs were sore beyond imagine. I couldn’t get her to latch on. Her cries of hunger brought me to tears. Like Pavlov’s dog, her squawks sent chills straight to my nipples. I wanted to run away. But I also wanted to love her and never let her go.

Then a thought occurred to me, somewhere in that first week of having a newborn. What if I don’t like her when she becomes a teenager? What if we clashed and hated each other and didn’t speak? Maybe she would rebel against me. Maybe she would slam the door in my face every time I attempted to connect with her.

When babies grow to be 3 year olds, everyone says, “Wait until they become teens. Then you’ll really have your work cut out for you.”

Guess what? Everything I feared, hasn’t come to fruition. Yet.

I find myself loving and growing with Emma more and more as she enters womanhood. We bond over gross things like tampons and body hair! She tells me about her friends. Her fears and her loves. We still ooh and ahh over Disney princesses.

We have frank discussions about sex. She asks me questions, and I answer. Always trying to wrap it in a context her young mind and heart can relate to. But trying not to sugar coat things to unrealistic proportions. I want her to be a strong, sexually independent adult female. I want her to gain her own claim on her boundaries, intimacies, and relationships.

Radical? I don’t think so. I think one of the greatest hardships we face as parents is letting our children actually leave the nest. I don’t want her to leave. But I want her to. You know what I mean?

She has the spirit and poise and intelligence to do wonderful things. Could she be a UNICEF ambassador to developing countries? Sure. Could she travel the country in a Broadway production? You bet. Do both of those scare the shit out of me? ABSOLUTELY.

But I can’t let her know those fears. I think what scares me most, is if she DIDN’T try those things. If she limited herself and succumbed to her own fears and shut herself in to just stay close to home, and follow the simple path.

Don’t get me wrong. Her happiness is based on her choices. If she goes to junior college and finds a nice job, gets an apartment nearby, and is happy- then perfect.

If she decides to live in Belgium? Then perfect also.

Where am I going with this? All of a sudden I’m breathing in a paper bag realizing I have four more years before she is emancipated in the eyes of the state.

Back to the little girl I’m raising. None of the things I feared have come true. Her door is open, our conversations flow. We’ve had words, she’s rolled her eyes at me. She’s stomped up the stairs and looked at me like I had two heads. But in the end, we connect.

And that’s all I can ask for.

Dearest Emma, I truly want your heart and mind to soar to its fullest potential. To find love and content within yourself and the people you surround yourself with. God bless you and keep you.

xoxo

 

You and me girl. Let’s keep it goofy always.

My son got a loft bed. And then my heart broke.

My husband doesn’t build things. He is handy. But he doesn’t just start crafting things in his wood shop. I mean the crap pile of tools and things that need to go to Goodwill that makes up our garage. However, he had promised Owen a loft bed and he was going to build it. Like Noah. Just kidding.

Owen has been so excited for his new bed. He’d been talking about it for months. He and James drew up the plans together and he was so anxious for it. It was promised for the new year and I really didn’t think it was going to come to fruition.

Well, long story short. James built the loft bed. And he did a great job! An entire weekend he spent sawing, measuring and drilling in the garage. This was weeks ago and there’s still saw dust everywhere. But that’s beside the point, right? Right.

The frame was immediately up in Owen’s room as soon as it was assembled. It’s about 5 feet off the ground. The kids and the dog, wasted no time checking it out. The cat does too! Both Emma and Owen are enjoying the bed above the ground, and the space under the bed for sitting and reading or playing games. I join the fun too and heave myself up the little ladder. Nothing makes you feel your age more than having to climb a ladder and expertly swing your leg over on a bunk bed without getting your arms and legs in a tangle. Holy crap, I was never meant to be a fire fighter.

Was it weird to have my son suspended from wooden 2×4′s 5 feet off the ground that my non-carpenter husband constructed? Yes. But the amount of bracing and bolts in the thing assured me it’s not going anywhere.

That night Owen is more than excited to go to bed and try out his new sleep digs. All his bedding is ready. He’s lined up his stuffed animals and pillow pets along the wall and railing as an extra barricade.

I don’t bother climbing up there. One, I’m scared my weight will be the tipping point for the wooden slats to bow without yielding. Two, it’s just really hard to get up there.

Owen doesn’t care. He’s snuggled in and ecstatic to go to sleep! I get up on my tippy toes and he leans to the railing for me to give him a kiss. He kisses me on the cheek. “Love you, good night, sleep well.” Is what he always says. I kiss him on his cheek, and steal a kiss on the top of his head, I rub his head a little extra and fluff his hair. Giving his arm a squeeze and leave him as I turn out the light and shut the door.

And then it hits me like a curve ball. No more can I lean down and kiss him goodnight or kiss him good morning and lean in to smell his head and put my nose in the curve of his neck. How did I not see this coming? Had I remembered this, the last night in his old bed, I would have done extra snuggles. I felt completely blind-sided. I hadn’t prepared for this stage of the parenting game.

My heart was broken. A little something died in me.

I know that sounds melodramatic. But he is my baby. My very tall, gangly limbed 10 year old baby. He’s a mama’s boy. And a little piece of his childhood went away with that old twin bed he’d been in since he was 2.

With all the excitement of the new bed, the wondering if James was really truly going to build this thing, I had forgotten about the sentimental aspect of what the old bed meant.

You always think of the transition from crib to Big Boy bed. It’s a huge deal. And seeing that crib disassembled and all packed up off to a Craig’s List recipient gives your heart a start, of course.

But I didn’t think of the Big Boy bed to No Longer a Boy but Almost a Teenager bed.

I see the horizon already of puberty and adolescence with Owen. His moods are changing. His sleep habits are evolving to where I need to wake him for school and he’s no longer MY alarm clock. He gets angry easily and pouts more often. A sign of the surging testosterone in his body. Oh help us. We braced ourselves when Emma went through this hormone tornado, and is STILL going through this. But the first couple years seem to be a different storm.

The cusp of child to pre-teen is even more difficult than full blown teendom. It’s confusing. It’s vexing. He’s a little boy still, you think. How can this be?

I’ve noticed a few changes over the months. Less cuddles on the couch. XBOX and hanging with his friends has replaced our sessions of Harry Potter movie watching. A trip to Barnes & Noble or a coffee shop for a treat with mom is not as fun as getting to play Halo at the neighbor’s.

For some reason, this has been harder than when Emma approached teenage-hood. She was always independent. Ditching me at a play place or preschool to go off with her friends or make new friends. Owen was my apron string clinger. Mild mannered, even tempered and my little shadow.

Funny, what I would pay today to get one more session on the couch of his chubby cuddles watching a Harry Potter movie. He’s all angles and corners now! No more baby pudge anywhere! He’s all his dad. Lean, tall and not an ounce of fat anywhere.

My takeaway from all this – I’m climbing that stupid ladder to his bed to kiss him goodnight. Sometimes I’ll lay next to him and give him an extra squeeze. He lets me. It’s not a pretty sight watching me arrange myself at the top, but I figure, while I’m able- I will climb it.

In a blink he won’t let me up there anymore, I know. He’ll be hairy, deep-voiced, and all hormones and in high school. Let me put it this way- I won’t WANT to be up there.

So I take what I can while it’s there. Parenting is so much hindsight. Well, here’s some foresight for you from me- breathe in the backs of the head right at the neck when you wake them up in the morning. Or, ha, realistically, when they come in to wake you up!

Oh, and if you think I’m climbing up there to change the sheets, no way. Owen knows that’s his job now.

 

 My son got a new loft bed. And my heart broke.

Bullying. Who’s to blame?

If you blame the times we live in, such as social media, the Internet and reality television, on why there’s a lot of bullying today, you’re missing a whole bunch.

We know bullying has been around for decades. We hear about it more now, sure. There’s new ways of bullying, this is certain. Or I should say, new ways of targeting a victim. But it has been around since original sin, I’m guessing. At least since Ralph from A Christmas Story, Nellie from Little House on the Prairie, or more poignant tales, like Judy Blume’s Blubber. Most recently famous, the movie Mean Girls had a burn book- a tome of hate-filled vengeance. No internet or social media there. Just old fashioned nastiness.

I just don’t want parents to turn a blind eye and think that because they shelter their children from outside aspects and influences, their children will not fall prey nor be perpetrators of bullying behavior.

 

Let me tell you a story about someone I know.

There was a little girl with special needs. She was developmentally delayed since infancy. Her life was a struggle of therapists, doctor appointments and medical mysteries. Milestones didn’t come easily for her like other kids. She didn’t learn to walk until she was well past the age of 2. She wouldn’t speak until the age of 5.

When it was time for junior high, she went off to school like all the other girls her age. But something about her was different. Special Ed kids they called them, or kids that rode the short bus, were easy to pick out. They had Down’s Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy or some other disability ‘more obvious’. Not this girl. This girl looked mostly ‘normal’ on the outside, but was developmentally delayed on the inside. It was hard to place her. Administrators would integrate her with mainstream kids as well as offer her special education.

Socially she was awkward.  She seemed immature for her 13 years now that she was in junior high. But her parents did what parents do. You send your kids to school and you want them to get an education, to acclimate to their peers, to socialize.

Well, sadly, this girl was the target of many other girls, and probably boys too. Mean girls. Such an easy victim to taunt, make fun of, point and laugh at. She didn’t know how to speak up for herself. She probably had her pants pulled up too high, or her shirt untucked, or her sweater askew, things that weren’t ‘cool’ to the other kids. She had terrible teeth. Gray from medications given to her as a baby. The awkward teen years were accentuated by braces and glasses. She seemed to walk somewhat duck like. Her legs never getting the gait and stride my parents hoped for her.

Maybe she said the wrong things in certain situations. Maybe she picked her nose in front of the other kids or chewed her finger nails.

She wasn’t fashionable, or good with hair and makeup. She tried, but it was especially hard. School was hard. Just understanding the material was difficult sometimes. But navigating through puberty and the hazing of her classmates was devastatingly hard.

There were no cell phones. There was no Internet. No Instagram or SnapChat. But there were their laughs and snide remarks. Their late night prank phone calls. Their locker room taunts. Notes written on paper. Pranks behind her back. Like the obscene word written in permanent marker on the back of a brand new winter coat. I think that was devastating to those parents and their hard earned money as it was for the victim, blindly walking around school like that.

Who is this girl? This girl is my sister. Leslie. Today, she is a 49 year old developmentally delayed adult living with my parents. She needs care and an appointed guardian. She can’t live on her own, drive a car, or have a family of her own.

The time I was speaking of her childhood was in the 1970s. I was too young to know what was going on. I’m 8 years younger.

But I knew there were struggles. I knew when my mom was furious communicating with administrators. I knew when she intercepted rude and cruel phone calls. I didn’t understand the pain.

There was no Anti-Bullying Awareness in schools. Sometimes the excuse, “kids will be kids”, was used.

My point is this- If you think bullying is a problem in this day and age because of all the technological tools that are out there, and that if you keep your kids from cell phones or reality television that they are less of either becoming a victim, or becoming a bully themselves; you are sadly mistaken.

Bullying is a problem today because of shitty human nature.

Yeah. I can’t explain it like a psychologist could. But that’s really what it comes down to.

Kids can be mean. Grown ups can be mean.

My suggestion-  Watch what you say about other people around your children.

If you are critical or degrading about strangers or celebrities and your children hear you, they could model that talk for themselves.

Using deprecating words like wuss, slut, lazy, slob in your home vocabulary can also rub off. Don’t make things like hairstyles, weight or clothing a focus of judgement when you’re around your kids. Do you get mad at other drivers while driving with your kids in the car? Do you yell at players of sports teams when they lose the game? Or maybe you’re the opposite. Everything is sweet and kind but you’ve stuck your head in the sand when it comes to recognizing what kind of kid your kid actually is.

Be nice. Kids might learn to be assholes if you’re an asshole. Usually bullies are bullied somewhere else in their lives. I’m not saying that the parents of the kids that bullied my sister were total assholes. Who knows? I bet the majority of those young people have grown up with children of their own, and have done a decent job raising them. I wish I knew.

I would love to show them that while they are off living their lives of independence, the weak and helpless teen that they thought was fun to make fun of; uses a cane and leg braces, has limited hearing and mobility. Still relies on her parents to get her places.  Has had two brain surgeries. Is that funny to you now? I didn’t think so.

Pay attention to your children and their relationships. The dynamics that they engage in around their peers. Monitor their phones and computers- absolutely. But spend time with them around other kids. Observe and don’t assume.

Kids do stupid stuff. Help them to be empathetic, compassionate people. With or without technology.

October is Bullying Awareness Month. I wanted to tell Leslie’s story. I think all the stories need to be told.

Mother Theresa says the most important thing we can do as a person is to be kind. Yes, yes it is.