My Strong-Willed Child

He’s the child I never knew I missed.


I wasn’t quite ready…but you can see Vincent was 🙂

He’s the one that made us say, “If he’d been first…he might have been last.”


He loves to say “CHEESE!”

He tests my patience. Yet he fills my heart so full it could burst.

He wanted us to have “silly sticker noses”

I’d always heard about this thing called a “strong-willed” child. I thought, perhaps, I had seen glimpses in my other children. But I only learned how naive I had been when Vincent was born into our family. Because our experience with him highlighted for me that the glimpses of “strong will” we’d seen in the other children were just your normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill challenges of normal-tempered children at different stages. Vincent showed us that “strong willed child” means strong-will, all the time, every day, every minute, with every choice and every occasion.

Vincent goes all-out, all the time. Even in the beginning–I can look back to pregnancy and labor/delivery and say, “I should have known…”

Vincent was the one of my pregnancies where we checked progesterone early and often and it just kept plummeting. It was Vincent who wouldn’t cooperate at 12 weeks and let the doctor get a good heart beat with the doppler thingy and so he had to do a pelvic and jumble things around until we heard it and put my mind at ease. It was Vincent who forced his way to 27 hours of induced labor including 16 hours of “good” contractions before finally deciding to descend and be born in the matter of about 5 minutes. All on his time, you see. I joked with my doctor about whether this was a “5th child” thing — the kid taking his sweet time to be born (my doctor had shared that he was a 5th child…) Honestly, the newborn months are a blur (as they are with all the kids), but as we emerged into our new normal, Vincent still exhibited this all-out, all the time personality.

Three-and-a-half years in, I regularly acknowledge that Vincent is my strong-willed child. He’s wild. He’s loud. And…he gets what he wants more often than not.


He loves cars…so surely he enjoyed playing this game with his daddy.


I’ve tried to be a mother twho “chooses” the “battles” carefully. But I never had so many to choose from before Vincent! I never realized how blessed I was with the older four that “choosing my battle” meant just once or twice a week. Because with Vincent I am choosing between 6 or 7 a day (sometimes the choice between 6 or 7 happens between 6:15 and 7:15 a.m.!!)

The fact that Vincent is 3-and-a-half-years-old now only exacerbates the issue because now he can talk (and yell, scream, etc) and make sure we know what he wants and that he won’t back down. Sometimes I force my hand and he has to do it my way — and I’m rewarded with a screamfest for the ages. More times than I like to admit, I give in and decide it is not worth it to fight.

A mom often ponders whether she is doing a good job at being a mom. When the kids are older, you start to realize that each of them has a personality and temperament that determines how they behave and what kind of mom you are seems to have less and less to do with anything. With Vincent, I question even more, my abilities, than I did with the other kids.

He’s the first one that’s been in daycare for his whole life, we’ve had an awesome experience with our daycare, too. The woman who cares for Vincent all day is gentle, kind, loving and still firm — is his experience the reason he is so different?

Vincent is the first of my kids to reach this age without another child joining the family (on Earth) — does that motivate him to behave the way he does? I experience so much more of Vincent because I don’t have a baby on my hip, I’m convinced. Is my perception colored by this new and different experience? I am sure it is.

And perhaps my perception is colored, too, by the fact that I miss his little brother at times. Who knows what kind of child Vincent would be with Gregory tagging along…?

Sitting in the Darth Vader chair…hmmmm

While Vincent takes so much of my energy with regard to discipline and formation, he also replenishes my emotional stores faster than I remember it happening with the other kids. Vincent works hard and loves harder. He looks up to Dominic with a ferocity I haven’t seen in the other kids. He pays enough attention to his sisters that he knows which of them can provide him with what he wants when he wants it. He makes my heart melt when he requests a hug and a kiss before I leave the house or leave him at daycare. He doesn’t say “I love you” all the time like the other kids did when they first realized how much I liked hearing them say it. But he says it when I least expect it and I can feel his emotion reaching my heart every time he says it.

A strong-willed child is a special experience. Yes, it can be difficult and worrisome. But, at least in my case, it’s accompanied by such passion! I love that. 

It is only because Vincent joined our family, that I am able to experience it.

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Monday Mumbles – 74

Good Monday morning! Let’s mumble, shall we?

1. I got all five kids off to their various places today. First I dropped Vincent off. Ms. Robin shared my joy of having the kids back to school and then said, “Next year, it will be this little guy, right?” and I admitted that it is so hard to think of him going off to preschool. He’s gone to her three days a week for his whole life. I have just decided to remain in denial that the day he goes somewhere else during the day is coming. She’s been my partner-momma for him and I know he’ll miss her when it’s time to move on (and so will I!)

2. Last night I spent time blow-drying Dani’s and Helen’s hair and curling Helen’s with hot rollers. Only to have her wake up this morning with no curl. I guess I didn’t realize her hair was that fine. So, we heated up the curling iron and got those curls going again.

3. As we got into the car to go to school, Dominic asked why both his mom and dad were taking them. He said, “I can walk in BY MYSELF!” As happy as I am that he is beyond ready to start this adventure he calls “real school,” I still wanted to walk him in. So I told him that he could walk himself in for the rest of his life, but today, “Please allow Mommy and Daddy to walk you in.” 

4. Harumph. Kid is already marching off to college in his brain, I bet.

5. They had a “Boohoo/Yahoo” breakfast. We stopped in. But I didn’t want to stay too long because I wanted to head to CrossFit and get my workout done. I didn’t need the temptation of donut holes anyway! And I don’t drink Coffee. But Craig does, I think he liked the coffee.

6. I didn’t sleep well last night. I woke up around 1:00 a.m. as I had the part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movie where the voice interrupts Bill and Fleur’s wedding saying, “The ministry has fallen. The ministry has fallen. The Minister of Magic is dead.” and then it moves to a whisper of “They are coming.” For some reason that was going over and over in my head and I couldn’t go back to sleep. Very annoying.

7. It didn’t hurt my workout, though. Man it was tough this morning. I love the fact that I feel like such a badass after just about every CrossFit workout.

8. The kids only have a half day of school today, so I don’t get the whole day to play. But that’s all right. I can’t wait to go pick them up (in about an hour) and hear all about the first day.

9. Sarah went to a “Back-to-School Swim Party” hosted by one of the kids in her class Saturday. It is so weird to hear her talk about the game Truth or Dare. I don’t know why I ever would have thought kids would have moved on from that game by this generation. I guess there are certain constants. Anyway, here is how Sarah handled it, as I don’t think she was too comfortable with participating. She said whenever someone would say, “Who’s next?” she and one of her friends would back away from the group enough that no one asked them to do anything or to play, and then they just watched as the other kids would get asked a question or to do something, like jump into the pool or something like that. It all sounded pretty harmless/tame — it sounded about like what you’d expect from 13 and 14-year-old kids. I’m glad she had fun at the party!

10. Well, here’s the photo I know you all want to see — my kiddos, back at school 🙂

Individual poses…
These four at St. Andrew’s

I hope back-to-school has gone well for all of you.
Have a great Monday!!

Updates of Sorts

I haven’t done one of these in awhile. Sometimes it’s good to level-set and explain a little of what’s been going on in these parts.

One big thing that’s been going on is that we took Dani to see a G.I. Specialist at the Children’s hospital to figure out some things. You see, Dani has been constipated pretty much ever since she was a baby. It wasn’t a condition we really thought about much once we (the parental units) were no longer a part of the day in and day out activities in the bathroom for her. But a couple of years ago, she spent the entire summer telling me about how her stomach hurt all the time. I didn’t know what to tell her other than to lay down and it will go away. But we saw the doctor for her Well-child visit that fall and I mentioned it. The main thing I took away from THAT visit was that my doctor said, “When kids complain of abdominal pain, 95% of the time, there really is something wrong that needs to be addressed.” 

Hel–lo! That got my attention. At that time an x-ray revealed that Dani really did have a problem…we’ll say she was “backed up” because I’d rather use that than some other terms on my blog. We did a cleanse the doctor recommended and then a 3-month regimen with stool softener that was supposed to aid in getting her bowels moving again.

Well, fast-forward to March, April and May of this year when Dani was complaining of abdominal pain again. Took her back in to see the doctor, another x-ray and we see the same problem.

Now, I have a sister that has Celiac disease. One of the things that happens when you know someone in your family has an auto-immune disease, is that sometimes you think your kid might have it…or something similar. Well, the doctor ran tests that came back negative for that and a host of other issues he wanted to test for. So, he recommended we see the G.I. doc at the Children’s hospital.

THAT doctor recommended another cleanse, performed a bit differently and we have completed that. And she also recommended an ongoing daily treatment and gave us a prescription. The cleanse seemed to work pretty well at getting things moving. I learned that apples and bananas are binding so Dani really shouldn’t eat those, but every other fruit/vegetable was beneficial. We learned that pear juice moves things much better than apple juice, too. So, Dani’s been getting organic pear juice with her medicine twice a day (at least) and we’re hoping we can get this issue under control soon and just be on some sort of maintenance.

you see, some people just have slow moving bowels, apparently. And there’s really not much you can do other than help them along. So, I’ve asked Dani to keep a food diary, increase her water intake, and track her medicine doses (It’s Mirilax, in case you’re curious) and her movements so we have some good concrete information to go on as we navigate this maintenance.

Other than that stuff, Dani’s having a great summer with swim team! She won her heat in the 50 freestyle at last week’s meet. THAT was so cool!! (The pic is on Instagram — follow me 🙂 @michellephughes)

Sarah has accepted a position of middle hitter on a club team for the 2014-15 club season. They are having a 3-on-3 tournament Sunday morning along with pizza following for a social bit. I’m looking forward to it. There is a girl on her team that was in her class at the public school kindergarten Sarah attended, so that is kind of neat. Sarah has also been raking in the dough babysitting. I think she hopes to use some to get herself gel nails before our vacation. We’ll see.

Helen has been taking swim lessons. One of the nice things about having a bigger kid is that Sarah can walk Helen to the pool for her lesson and can be trusted to pay the instructor the money and then wait and walk Helen home when it is over. (I really LOVE this having-a-big-kid thing.) Sarah texted me during the lesson today to tell me that Helen was swimming front crawl all by herself with no hands by the instructor! I hope they get her swimming the full length of the pool. Helen informed me that she’s not crazy about volleyball and she really enjoys swimming. So maybe she will join Dani on the swim team!! 🙂

Dominic had a blast with his tennis lessons. Now the onus is on us (Craig/me) to get him to a court and practice with him a little bit. Other than that, he continues to amaze us with his reading ability/comprehension and his overall smarty-pants-ness. I can’t wait to see how he likes Kindergarten!!

Vincent is a blast, as usual. He still goes to daycare on his three days a week. He is talking so much more. One thing you learn when your kids are around this age (two, three years old) is how you sound to them. Because they will say things to you the way you have been saying things to them. And guess what I must say to Vincent an awful lot? I must say, “I TOLD you…” a lot. Because he often says, “Mommy, I told you, I don’t like that milk, I like this milk.” Or he will say, “I TOLD you I don’t want to wear that.” Whether he has told us or not…he says, “I TOLD you…” So. I guess I must say “I TOLD you, Vincent, …” a lot.

Craig and I are still crossfitting. I love the challenge of every workout. I’ve never done something like this and loved it so much for so long. I’m getting closer to doing a pull-up and I really hope soon I will be able to string together the toes-to-bars and not just do them one at a time. 

We go on vacation in a couple of weeks and I think everyone is ready.

So, there it is. A summer update on our household. We’re enjoying the World Cup, love seeing the Royals play good baseball, and look forward to seeing a couple Jayhawks taken early in the NBA draft.

PS: The corporate challenge swim meet is going on this week and I actually got a medal this year!! I took second in the 40-44 women’s 50 breastroke. I was pretty stoked. 🙂

Medal Selfie 🙂

7 QT about Summer Vacations, Achieving Goals, Running Races and A Giveaway – 81


A huge thank you to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting this Blog Carnival every week.

— 1 —


It’s been a fun first week of summer! My girls got to visit some friends they hadn’t seen (moved away) but had corresponded with over the past year.

Helen and her Snail Mail Pen Pal!
Dani and her e-mail buddy!
All of the girls together
Silly Picture!


It was a lot of fun for them.

— 2 —


They also got a treat of a day in The Windy City. That link will take you to Sarah’s Flipagram, I hope!

Basically, my girls got a vacation from their parents and got to hang out with grandparents all week. I hope they had fun hanging out together all week and I can’t wait to hear all about their week tonight when I get home from work! Our house was very quiet.

— 3 —


Dominic spent a few days with his Grandma, who helped us out by taking him to his first Tennis Lesson. Dominic is signed up for three weeks of Tues-Thurs Youth Tennis lessons. Grandma was very generous and bought him a racquet of his very own!


Ahhhh, how cute is this?!?

— 4 —


You know how I told you all I’d decided to adjust my goal weight with Weight Watchers to the top of the range so I could get to Lifetime and stop paying? Yeah…so, since I had been under that weight (or within 2 pounds of it) for 6 weigh-ins, I was granted Lifetime Status yesterday with Weight Watchers! How excited was I?

The star signifies goal weight and the
gold key is the Lifetime Charm

Here’s a little photo collage I put together to commemorate this event…

Yay! I am so very happy! 🙂

So, I hit the top of the range (160 pounds) back on April 3. I’ve been maintaining that weight as I’ve tried to get to 155 for the past couple of months. So, adjusting my goal does a couple of things: 1) Gets me to Lifetime immediately and 2) gives me a little (more) cushion as I maintain long-term with having to pay. I still hope to get to 155 or even lower, but at least this way, I can stop paying the monthly dues and I get the E-tools for free, too! Yay for saving money!!

— 5 —

I am running the Hospital Hill 10K on Saturday. This is my third year in a row. in 2012, I ran it in about an hour and 18 minutes. Last year, I ran it in an hour and 9 minutes. Guess what? I am thinking I should run it in about an hour, maybe even under an hour by a minute or two. Well, three weeks ago, I did a long run of 6.18 miles and did it in 60 minutes, so I that is where I get my thought from. Of course, race day can be tricky. The weather is not supposed to be all that good — they are calling for rain/thunderstorms tomorrow morning. I also know that no matter what you do to prepare…something you eat can mess with you, or you just might feel tired that day. Either way, I am going to go and have some fun running it anyway!

— 6 —

At the packet pickup, there were lots of vendors. Ever since I got my hair cut short, I’ve been trying to figure out what to wear on my head that can keep my hair out of my face. My hair is no longer long enough for a ponytail and most headbands don’t stay in place. Well, I’m going to try these Bondi Bands. They have cute sayings on them and as long as you pull them below the hair line, they are supposed to keep sweat out of your eyes and stay in place. Craig got one that says “Will Run for BEER” haha. I couldn’t decide on one and figured I might need more than one anyway, so I got three:


I think I’ll wear “Stronger than yesterday” tomorrow 🙂

— 7 —

I’m going to leave this 7th quick take from last week because I have 87 “LIKE”s on my FB Page for Endless Strength and I want to get to 100 so that I can giveaway…

I got a Holy Spirit Holy Card since Pentecost is Sunday


So — if you are on Facebook, search for Endless Strength Blog and “LIKE” my page. I am about 13 “LIKE”s away from 100. Be sure to invite others to “LIKE” it, too.



Here’s a silly selfie from our dinner at a mexican restaurant we love last night. Love my sweet Dominic…

Silly Mommy, Sweet Boy

Have a terrific weekend and be sure to go check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes Posts!

 

7 Quick Takes 79 — Fun Kid Moments Edition


Thank you to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting! 

— 1 —


Vincent is a highly energetic little boy. He rarely sits still. Probably his only quiet times are nap and night-time. Lately, he is vocal about all of his activities throughout the day. The other day, Vincent told me about his time at the park with Dominic and his dad. It was one of those parks with little play fire engines or school buses the kids can climb in and pretend to drive around. Vincent said, “Mom! I went to the park today! I climbed in the school bus! Yeah mom! and I turned the steering wheel, Mom! I am a good bus driver!!”

— 2 —


If you are facebook friends, you may have already seen this one, but it makes me too darn happy not to share it here. Last Saturday, we had a couple of graduation parties to attend. Dominic was in his usual form, walking around and charming everyone, hugging on the ladies. Truth be told, he gives plenty of guys hugs, too, but I think the ladies respond the most favorably, so he hits them up most often.

Anyway, at the second of the graduation parties, there was a woman that we don’t know who was sitting at a table across from Dominic. She had asked him if he knew who the guest of honor was (he doesn’t — I’m just friends with the Dad and that was how we were invited) or how he knew her. Well, after a bit, Dominic walked around the table and gave this woman a hug and kissed her hip. The woman looked a bit alarmed, so I did what I usually do when Dominic has overstepped a little bit and reminded him to ask before hugging or kissing, that sometimes people might not be comfortable with it. Then Dominic looks at me with his big blue eyes and we have the following conversation:

Dominic: I just love her
Me: Aw, that is sweet. You are such a lover. You love everyone!
Dominic: Of course! I have to love. If I didn’t love, my heart would break.


OMGosh, melt this momma’s heart. He is a very sweet boy.

— 3 —



My boys playing with the Spiderman stuff

— 4 —


If you’ve been reading for any length of time here at Endless Strength, you know that Helen is a major “Mommy’s Girl.” Of all of my children, she is the one who will run to me every morning before I leave to ensure she kisses me good bye. She is the one of my children who gets distraught at the idea that if I leave in the evening, she won’t see me again until morning. Of my children, she is the one who creates the most guilty feelings inside of me when I spend a lot of time at work, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah had a late Friday night volleyball game to which I decided not to allow Helen to tag along. I found this on my bed:

2nd grade spelling cracks me up


“roses are white;
vilots are nice
take me to sarah’s volleyball game
and I won’t wyne”

Okay then.

— 5 —

Dani is wrapping up her non-summer swim team and last night, apparently, they did a timed 50 yd freestyle. This morning, she told me that she swam it in 48 seconds. That is her fastest time ever! Very proud of her. I’ll be interested to see how much she improves with daily swim practice this summer!!
 
— 6 —
Sarah’s class put rockets together during science class this week and got to launch them. Sarah won a choice of prizes since her rocket flew the highest. I am forced to only tell you about the prize she chose because she won’t let me take a photo. But she chose a … headlamp!

It looks something like this…

The cute part is that Sarah rarely took that thing off the first night she had it at home. I peeked into her room and she was wearing it while she did homework, then I peeked in and she was wearing it while texting a friend. I even found her in her bed, asleep with it on as she had been reading her book before falling asleep. Ha! So so so cute. (I never thought I’d enjoy so much that my kid does dorky things like her mom, but…well, I do enjoy it.) You can just tell she thinks it is the coolest thing! I love it.

 

— 7 —

Craig is taking Sarah on a Dad-N-Daughter night out tonight. They will go to dinner on the Plaza and then a little shopping. Sarah is excited.

Meanwhile, I will tackle a movie with the other four children. I think we’ll try Rio 2 — Dominic has been on me to take him to see it anyway. Wish us luck!


Have a terrific weekend and be sure to go check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes Posts!

 

 

 

Monday Mumbles – 70

Happy Easter Monday! I have been looking forward to writing this post for a couple of weeks. Just to get back into the flow of blogging again. I am not sure how frequent I will be, but I’m going to try and do at least three posts a week. So…happy Monday and here goes…with some mumbles!!!

1. We had a great Easter. I never got into the Easter Egg Hunt mentality, myself, so I haven’t ever made that a priority with my kids. It’s just as well. They like getting their Easter baskets filled with some candy and other little things. I think.

2. As they’ve gotten older, of course, they are more aware that other kids get bigger type gifts in their Easter baskets. *sigh* I just tell them, “Well, this is how WE do it.” I know that someday when they are raising their families, they will get it. (And “it” could be…the financial balance, or “it” could be … the materialism bent and trying to avoid it with your kids, or “it” could be … the fact that there’s no way possible to do a “big” thing for all five kids at Easter AND Christmas and do it well. Whatever “it” is…I do hope they get it someday.)

3. Many prayers of thanksgiving going up as I found out that a dear friend has beaten breast cancer. That’s two for two of dear friends in the past couple of years, so I am very grateful.

4. I am hopeful that the weather has finally turned the corner for the long-term and we’re going to have spring and summer now. It was a long, long, long, … long winter, I tell you. And I’m ready to kiss it goodbye!

5. Yesterday, I began wondering where the sentiment came from that the only way to appreciate a hostess’ hard work was to eat the food prepared. I am sure it is an old fashioned thing. But as a grown woman who has taken on the tumultuous task of overcoming a problem with over-eating and such, it bugs me when people force my kids to eat something they don’t like by throwing out, “I worked hard…you better eat it!” or something like that. *sigh* I am so much more aware of stuff like this since I’ve been doing the Weight Watchers thing and losing weight. I don’t want to be made to feel as though I have disrespected someone if I don’t clean my plate. I also don’t want to start this horrible food issue in any of my children. Further…I have learned not to eat things I don’t really appreciate (not worth the points, you know?) and so I can completely sympathize with my kids when they don’t like something and would rather not eat it. Oh well, guess I’ll need to mull that one some more.

6. I’m just going to share some photos from Easter and wrap this up, with a final note about how quickly my children are growing up. Sarah is quite a young lady (most of the time) and Dani has really started establishing her own “grow-up-now” pattern. Helen receives First Holy Communion in two weeks. Dominic is such a smarty-pants sweetheart. Vincent…well, Vincent WANTS to grow up faster than he is. Of course, he’s still growing up entirely too fast, but it cracks me up to see how badly he wants to be bigger and be allowed to do big-boy stuff like Dominic (whatever that may be).

This girl — pretty
My Dani-girl. This dress looks good on her!
She is excited to receive First Holy Communion in 2 weeks!!
This boy cannot do pictures. At all. But he is still cute.


Brothers!
This is what I get when I ask them if they love each other…haha


Vincent! This about sums him up
The kids with their Grandma
All Five of ’em…
Craig and me

Bullying: A Post I Didn’t Want To Write

I know Mondays are usually Mumble days, but today I have something else on my mind. I have often stopped short of writing about bullying because it’s difficult for me to do so without getting into personal details of anything that’s happened. But I think I have found a way to keep it objective, and therefore (I hope!) useful. 

The reason it’s a post I didn’t want to write is because I often wonder if I am too sensitive or I take things too seriously. But when there are kids out there committing suicide because it seems they can’t get away from bullies and their parents can’t help them either, I realize that perhaps it’s best to err on the side of over-caution if I must.

I was recently asked to give some information on my experiences with bullying from a parent’s perspective. I was happy to give the information, but sad that I had enough experience that I could give it extensively.

I was bullied as a kid. I went to Catholic school and the bullying there was worse than anything I ever experienced in public school. The bullying I experienced in Catholic school was a big reason that Catholic school wasn’t a huge priority for me at first. I was bullied heavily when I began playing school sports and was actually kind of good. You see, I had been a swimmer, and 7th grade was the first time I seriously attempted volleyball or basketball. And girls don’t take kindly to newcomers who kind of step in a little further ahead than where it seems they should be.


Due to my experience as a child, I am probably hyper-sensitive to the topic. However, I work hard to stay aware of what is going on with my children at school. Last year, when my oldest entered sixth grade (first year of middle school), I suffered through the hardest 18 weeks of my life (school-wise) raising my children. During the first eight weeks of school I watched my daughter withdraw and retreat from me. I’m the kind of parent who was always checking her iPod every night. I checked iMessage, kik, Instagram, not only for my daughter’s posts or comments, but also those with whom she interacted. I saw the things going on via Instagram and instant message on her iPod that, coupled with her withdrawn behavior, gave me pause. I finally tried to “have it out” with her to find out just what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks was going on. Finally, she started talking to me and let me know that she didn’t know why certain friendships had changed. And, she and one of her friends were victims of mockery at the hands of a few girls in her class. Honestly, a lot of it sounded like some of the “mean-girl” antics you witness on TV shows these days — stupid at the core, but hurtful to an 11-year-old or 12-year-old.

I talked with some parents and I also took it up with the teachers at conferences because, while it did not seem severe, I sure didn’t want it to end up that way. That was my first course of action. The next thing we did was decide that we would shut off my daughter’s iPod Touch for awhile. No good was coming from the connections on Instagram and my daughter had been the target of a group message gone bad that caused some emotional damage. Probably more to me than her, but we both decided it was probably for the best to lay low on the technology for awhile. (It turns out she broke her iPod Touch about eight weeks later and we simply haven’t replaced it — best decision ever.)

Over the holiday break last school year, I had a lot of heart-to-heart talks with my daughter and I am happy to say that she put a plan together to move forward. We talked about the things that matter in life and priorities (God – Family – Responsibilities/Friends). We reviewed what we knew about how true friends act — in word and deed — both to each other and when in the absence of each other. We put a plan together for her to know how to be a good friend, how NOT to be taken advantage of and to remember always to attempt to be Christ-like to others. If the “mean girl” antics continued at all, she either didn’t notice or did, but found the behavior lacking enough to allow it to bother or worry her. My daughter was also playing club volleyball on a team with completely new girls and her confidence grew by leaps and bounds. We also discussed how she should act to ensure she was not behaving poorly to others. We spent some time discussing sensitivity awareness and also that other kids are just trying to “fit in” like she was and sometimes we have to cut people some slack, but not at the expense of doing what is right.

I’ve remained aware but less antsy about the social interactions of my daughter over the course of the last ten months. I check in with her regularly, of course, and I also check in with like-minded parents. I also reiterate to my daughter my expectations of her behavior. Every so often something rears its head and we have to talk about it, but mostly, I see that she remembers what is truly important and doesn’t get caught up in the negativity like she did early on. 

I won’t lie: I am sad and sometimes upset when I learn that certain things still go on. And it bothers me knowing that most parents would say, “Well, that’s just the way kids are…” or even if they are confronted that their child may be disrespectful or hurtful to another child, they will say, “I would never tolerate that behavior from my child…”

The vast majority of parents these days seem to brush off what I would consider rather serious or even egregious behavior by their kids as being “normal” or “typical.”  I think that smaller schools with a less diverse population (such as small Catholic schools, for one, but not the only, example) have environments rich for bullying. Sometimes the parents I talk to seem to say, “I would never tolerate that behavior from my child” in such a way that it seems it should be the end of the conversation. It is almost as if, because that parent made such a declaration,they think it absolves their child from any potential wrongdoing. It seems almost as if, since they have declared that position, they should never be questioned with regard to their child’s behavior.

Newsflash to about 75% of the parents out there: Just because you say you won’t tolerate bullying or mean behavior from your children, does not mean they don’t and won’t bully or behave in a mean manner. 

I have often felt as though bullying and mean behavior is much more insidious with females. Although, I think in today’s world of internet and emotional overdrive, the world of male bullying is getting to the same level. I only have girls who have hit the stage where bullying or mean-girl antics are in play. My oldest son is only four years old and at this point. But I’ve seen a lot where girls are concerned — both my own instances as well as watching things with my daughters. I’ve seen enough to know that the way girls can be mean is very subtle, usually parents and teachers are not aware unless they are very diligent. Girls are very good at doing and saying things quietly. Girls often have little sayings that adults would never understand, but the kids around them get the message.

I have witnessed the following ways that kids bully and demean each other:

  • They will mock a child’s name. In some instances, they will mock a pair of children (who are friends) simultaneously by making up names for them and using the made up names in a mocking manner.
  • Sometimes girls will claim a certain hairstyle (I know!) and will then shun or shame an “outsider” (child not in their social circle) for wearing her hair the same way
  • On Instagram, kids often list people as special in bios, to the exclusion of others. I will grant this is not always meant in a mean way. But I’ve seen some girls use it as a power ploy within their group, holding a place in their bio as some prize to be won somehow. Regardless, there’s enough discussion about bios, that I wonder about it often. (i.e., “Why did you take me out of your bio?”; “Why do you have so-and-so listed as your BFF…I thought we were BFFs”; “You’re the dork with so-and-so in your bio”)
  • Some children will claim that a girl “copied” things such as school supplies (umm…we all shop at the same places, people!)
  • Sometimes a girl or group of girls will pull other girls away from one or two “outsiders” (girls not in their circle). Sometimes the girl(s) doing the pulling don’t even really care to be friends or talk to the ones they are pulling away. Their goal is to ensure the “outsiders” don’t get to be friends with any potential “insiders.”
  • Sometimes the girl being pulled away from a group is the one being bullied, as well. Especially in the case where the one doing the pulling is trying to monopolize the girl to keep her from making friends to the detriment of their already established friendship. (I continually work with my daughter to help her identify ways to keep herself from being a “puppet,” though I can’t be sure how successful we’ve been.)
  • At times, I have witnessed group messages that target an individual, while the larger group watches that one individual be humiliated somehow
  • Comments on Instagram pictures (“ugly”, “stupid”, “retarded” — what you would think is harmless/stupid stuff — but the negative is usually targeted toward one or two individuals regularly)
  • When a group of children are walking together, one speeds up or slows down, in an attempt to “ditch” one or more of the children in the group and encourages others to do so as well
  • “Inside” jokes — the incessant use of them in the presence of those kids that have no idea what it is. (My opinion — if you have an “inside” joke — keep it to yourself for goodness sake)
  • Some kids are in the precarious position of being  caught in between, having friends in different social circles. The girls from one circle can put pressure on the this girl to “ditch” friends in the other one. This is a way of bullying these girls, too. The pressure can be external as well as internal (to the girl in between).
Middle school is a time when a lot of bullying behavior takes place. Part of it is because that is when we start to expect more responsible and grown-up behavior out of children, but they have to transition there and feel their way a little bit. So, some forgiveness is required at this point, as kids are going to make mistakes and they need to know that there is life after a mistake. BUT — and this is a big key — parents MUST be aware and involved. Too many parents think this is someone else’s problem. Too many parents think this only happens at such-and-such schools. Too many parents are far too busy with many things to take time to deal with something so seemingly trivial. And, to be honest, many parents just assume it is never their kid perpetrating the harm.

I have read one too many stories about kids my daughter’s age committing suicide because they had trouble relating to other kids or felt they had no friends at school. The way kids talk to each other on Instagram and Facebook and ask.fm and any other social media avenue can be confusing. They often use put-downs with each other. Then they follow up with “j/k” for “just kidding.” They have no concept of the idea that simply putting “lol” or “j/k” after something hurtful DOES NOT make their harmful words come off with any less sting. Sometimes you see kids say things like, “I should kill myself” in jest or even worse, “You should kill yourself.” Whether in jest or not, our children should NOT be speaking to each other, or messaging each other or tweeting each other in this manner. 

I have actually been thinking about getting my thoughts on bullying out on this blog ever since I read about this girl in Florida who jumped to her death a few weeks ago. I ran across this story when I came into work and it was on the TV in the lobby as it ran CNN. I was shocked to learn that the girl was 12 years old. My oldest daughter is 12 years old. CNN showed her picture and I could see my daughter in her eyes. They talked about the cyber-bullying the girl had endured after she had already endured physical and emotional bullying at a school she had left. a year ago. Yes, the girls who bullied her at that school couldn’t leave well enough alone and basically stalked this girl on a few different social media avenues. And her mother didn’t take away her phone.

I don’t have a lot of patience for bullying behavior when I witness it. When my daughter was having trouble last year, I did go to parents — some were accepting and helpful, others were not as much — in conjunction with enlisting the teachers’ help. And I took my daughter off all social media. I think we could have gotten to a better place with it, but it would be easier without that distraction. And it was clear to me that I could not handle seeing how kids my daughter’s age interacted on social media and that it seemed only a few parents actually monitored.

My daughter has not allowed her confidence to be shaken this year, but it’s clear to me she is still suffering some of these ill behavior to a degree. My daughter now recognizes it for what it is and has chosen not to allow it to affect her as deeply.I hope the strength my daughter shows me is truly what’s in her heart (she’s always been a strong one). But even then — even though I can see this strength in my daughter, I refuse to stop talking with her about it in case that should change. Even a 12-year-old who is strong, can be beaten and broken down quickly if the right weakness is attacked. 

We have discussed getting her a phone and whether she is interested in social media. She did say that she would probably like to participate on Instagram again, but she understands the boundaries she must set with it. I am thankful to have a daughter with a strong head on her shoulders who has witnessed how awry even something like Instagram can be.

How do you address bullying or mean behavior with your children? How do you help them cope if they have been a victim? What programs do your schools employ to assist in handling bullying?

***Update***For anyone not aware, the minimum age to have a Facebook and Instagram account is 13. I have never researched Twitter on that, so can’t speak to it. This has been my strongest defense against my kids having these accounts, and even though my oldest did for a time, she doesn’t now and she and I discussed why it is good to restrict it to 13 and up. Personally, I think older would be even better, but I’m not in charge. The reality is that even if they have this age restriction — is seems a majority of the kids/parents do not abide by it and there’s no way to police it.