I know I’ve told you about the nasty note that I got when I was in 3rd grade. It was from my friend Becky, and while she wasn’t actually mad at me, it was kind of mean. I may never remember my phone number properly (also: bite me Topamax), but I can tell you that her note read:
I like you a little bit, but it grows smaller every day.
That she signed it “Love, Becky” proved that she didn’t really mean it and we were friends again within a couple of weeks, because that’s life when you’re 8.
Throughout the years there have been plenty of people who didn’t like me, and mostly, it hasn’t bothered me. I took great pride when I found “BECKY SHERRICK IS A BITCH” written on a desk in high school, because who wouldn’t? I mean, I consider that sort of high praise, which is probably what the writer intended, since it was written on the desk I always sat in.
Occasionally, my ass will chafe when I’m accused of something I didn’t do or someone will blatantly say something they don’t think I’ll see (note to Twitter: @-ing me means I see it). But if you don’t like me, well, that’s well within your right. I don’t have to like you either.
But I’m 29, not 8, and having people be MEAN to me isn’t something that ruins my day.
Turns out that my kid, my sweet autistic 8 year old, the kid who was born without a mean bone in his body, is being bullied again. And that, well, that chaps my balls and makes my blood boil.
Perhaps, I wasn’t suited to be the one to have the conversation with my son.
Aunt Becky: “So what’s this punk doing to you?”
Ben: “He’s trying to upset me. He’s mean to me.”
Aunt Becky (rifles through empty brain cavity trying to match this with a solution): “Okay, so here’s the thing with bullies: you have to figure out what they’re trying to do, okay?”
Aunt Becky: “You know, if they’re trying to make you cry, or make you feel bad, or make you mad or whatever. Right? Because he’s trying to get a reaction out of you.”
Ben: “OKAY! I get it!”
Aunt Becky (thanks God for having an older brother and therefore frame of reference): “Once you figure out the reaction, DON’T GIVE IN TO IT. Don’t bother getting upset. That doesn’t do any good. Being mad? What good does that do? Nothing. Crying? Solves nothing.”
Ben: “Okay, so the first step is to figure out what they’re trying to do.”
Aunt Becky: “Yes. Then, don’t do it.”
Aunt Becky: “Then? You get even.”
Aunt Becky: “Not like, being mean BACK, but by telling the teacher or telling your mom, or telling the playground monitor, or telling an adult. You can’t let him get away with it! You have to stand up for yourself, Ben. You HAVE to.”
Ben: “Step one, figure out what he’s trying to do, step two, don’t do it, step three, get even. By telling an adult!”
Aunt Becky: “Yes.”
Ben: “I got it!”
Ben scampers off to play with his siblings.
Aunt Becky: “So I told Ben how to deal with his bully.”
The Daver: “Oh yeah?”
Aunt Becky: “That bullshit our parents always spouted about ‘walking away’ was such crap. I mean, it never helped us learn anything about handling conflict. Kids can be such assholes.”
The Daver: “No shit.”
Aunt Becky: “So I taught him ‘don’t get mad, get even!'”
The Daver: “WHAT?”
Aunt Becky: “Well, yeah.”
The Daver: “Becky, you didn’t.”
Aunt Becky: “Not like with a machine gun. More like as a catch phrase. ‘Don’t get mad, get even by telling the teacher.’ You know Ben, he won’t tell the teacher anything.”
The Daver: *phew*
Aunt Becky: “Besides, he can remember phrases like that.”
The Daver: “Good call.”
I also put a call in to his teacher and am waiting on a call back. You know, this is the kind of stuff I always want to tell the new parents I see worrying over the car seats in the baby aisle at Target. Like, ‘ENJOY THIS!’ because it gets so much harder.
Colic was bad, but this, this hurts your soul and there isn’t jack you can really do to make it better. There’s no zantac for the heartbreak.
So Bully-Kid, wherever you are, you’d better lay the fuck off my kid. Because I don’t care what weakness you smell in him, he’s a thousand times stronger than you’ll ever be.
So back off.