Relax, Recharge, Repost #2: Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Names Can Break My Heart!
Week #2 of taking a blogging break in August. For a few weeks, I’ll be Relaxing, Recharging and Re-posting some of what my stats say are YOUR favorite reads.
Here’s one from January 2011….
Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Names…. Can Break My Heart!
“You know Mom, he’s lucky I didn’t SQUASH him like a bug!”
That’s what my 9-year-old daughter came home saying the other day after spending an afternoon at a birthday party. The “he” who is lucky “she”, didn’t, squash him like a bug, is a 10-year old classmate who was also at the party. “He” is her pal, her chum, her friend. He is her partner at school when pairing needs to be done. He is also the boy who tried to hold her hand when the lights went out in a Star Lab dome, but that’s not why she wants to pummel him.
There are some things you never forget: getting an award, your first sleep-over, punching a fella in the mouth for asking you to marry him (in first grade!), the soft, warm lips of a shy boy’s sweet and gentle kiss during a game of spin-the-bottle and of course, the first time someone embarrasses you in front of a group of friends by calling you a name. For me, it was buoy. And in 4th grade, I didn’t have a clue. So in a naive and unsuspecting way, I asked the boy who had just referred to me as a “buoy”, what that was.
You know, he said, it’s that round thing that bounces up and down, bobbing in the water. A buoy!
That was followed by what seemed to me, to be a roar of group laughter.
Painful. I forced a smile and walked away. I’m sure I could have flattened him but my heart had sunk to my knees and I was too hurt to react. I never forgot that feeling.
Like her mom, my girl is made of hardy stock. She is strong, confident and independent. She’s out-going and adventurous. She loves to laugh. Also like her mom however, she happens to be very sensitive.
He called me fat in front of all my friends at the party, she said. He embarrassed me. We were laughing about who would make the best Pińata and he said, ‘Hannah would, cause she’s fat!’
My heart immediately sank to that familiar place by my knees only this time, it broke.
He’s lucky I didn’t squash him like a bug! And you know I could, were the next words out of her mouth.
She’s right. She could.
Well then, I said, maybe next time, you should.
Okay, maybe that was wrong.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but names…..
Honestly, I would have preferred if he threw the stone. That wound heals faster.
We spent a long time that evening discussing potential reasons why her friend might have said that about her. Insecurity. Bravado. Maybe he was trying to look cool in front of the other boys. Perhaps he didn’t mean it and it was just a poor choice of words. Most likely, he like, likes her. No matter how much we dissected it though, the result was always the same. She could get past the word. She knows she’s bigger and taller than the other kids in her class. She accepts that her body is changing and maturing faster than theirs.
It was the betrayal she had a hard time reconciling with. He’s her friend.
It was after midnight when she came into my bedroom and crawled into bed with me that night. She snuggled up close and whispered,
Mommy, why did he do that? I thought he was my friend?
Cue the breaking heart again. She slept with me for the first time in years. And it was a big wake-up call to me as a parent and an adult, just how omnipotent words can be. Life is hard enough without us hurting each other with the things we say. And I’m reminded of how critical it is for me to set the example, practice kindness, show compassion and be forgiving.
Words may not be able to break a bone but they sure can break a heart.
The flip-side of that however, is to know that words also have the great power to fill a heart! So in the end, my advice to Hannah was to have, an open heart.
We are after all, only human. We all make mistakes and good friendships are worth keeping. So, when the boy came to school the next day and said,
Hey, I was only kidding. I didn’t mean it that way. I can’t believe you thought I was serious!
That was all she needed to hear to buddy-up again and put it behind her.
Besides, she told him that if he EVER does that to her again, she is going to “SQUASH him– like a bug!”
Photo credit: Squashed Bug, Broken Heart