Thursday, October 29, 2009

Backbone Cupcakes

I was leafing through a giant pile of pictures the other day, cursing myself for not being the scrapbooking type. Hell, I'm not even the baby book type, a fact I was cruelly reminded of when Miss M. turned 4. I opened M's baby book to insert Miss D's birthday card for her, and realized I hadn't filled in a single page for year 3. I suck.

After the Baby Book Shaming, I decided to tackle that pile of photos. Which just reminded me how hard I suck.

But I found the above picture and it made me smile. Even though it's blurry and shitty. This pic was taken a year or so ago, far before the blogging days, so there really wasn't a reason to take a picture of a cupcake...

Except that there was.

It's no secret that I was a fearful, wimpy kid who was bullied relentlessly. It was horrendous, living in that kind of fear, but in a way, I asked for it. I allowed myself to be treated like the World's Own Whipping Boy. I came home every day after school, ate my snack, did my homework, and went to bed without saying a word to my parents about the abuse. Bullies love a victim who won't spill.

Some bullies are worse than others. In my case, it was a stout, ruddy-faced girl named Sandra, who flushed dozens of my mittens down the boys' restroom toilet and even attempted a ski jacket once. She whispered into the ear of every girl in our class, warning them that if they spoke to me, if they sat near me at the lunch table, they were toast. She told the boy I adored that I was a dyke, a word I'd never heard of before.

There are special places in Hades for the Sandra's of the world. There have to be, right?

Last year, Miss D. got a big old dose of Mean Girl from an aggressive cretin named Alize. Lucky for me, Miss D. is the worst at hiding her feelings. The first day Alize messed with her, she arrived home with swollen eyes and a face as open as a bloody wound. And I knew.

Bless Miss D. and her open-book soul; she spilled the goods, smearing my shirt with tears and snot, shattered that someone could be so mean.

So I rubbed her back and wiped her face and told her about Sandra. And Rebecca. And Nicole. And Shannon. And an entire pack of girls in junior high. I managed to attract them in droves, because like all feral animals, they perked up at the scent of blood.

And I told Miss D. the secret that all bullies seem to know: a girl who won't fight for herself is dead meat.

It's a nasty little lesson, particularly when it has to come in the freaking 1st grade...those wenches start early nowadays.

There are plenty of people who will disagree with me, but I will never, not ever, be the parent who tells her child to just ignore a bully. Ignorance is not bliss; it is a free ticket for someone to ride your ass relentlessly.

A few days later, Miss D. came home from school, uncharacteristically silent. I mean, this is a kid who hits the door with a barbaric YAWP! every day. Something was afoot.

It came out at bedtime: my skinny Miss D., who I had to order special pants for in the 1st grade, had an incident in gym class. Quite plainly, her pants fell down. Quickly, she pulled them up, but someone saw. Any guess who that someone was?

And that someone laughed. And threatened to tell the whole class.

I pulled her close, smelled the strawberry shampoo in her hair, felt thick in the throat.

And then I said, "What did you do?"
"I sorta wanted to die, Mom. I was so embarrassed. She saw my underwear and everything."
"I'm so sorry, baby. That's my fault. Remind me in the morning to pin your pants tighter, okay?"
"But when she laughed? Honey? What happened?"
"I told her she was mean."
"You did? Really? What did she say?"
"Nothing. She shut her fat mouth."
"I think it's good you said something to make her shut that mouth...I'm glad you decided to do that."
"'Kay. But Mama?"
"Don't forget about the pants, okay?"
"Promise, baby. Consider it done."

The next day, while Miss D. was staring down the fire-breathing dragon that was Alize, I made cupcakes. Because growing a backbone is mighty hard work. A girl needs to keep her strength up.

Thank God this girl is learning faster than her Mama.


  1. I think this is the coolest thing I have ever heard, and I may have to put it somewhere that I will remember to read in a few ears! Such a good momma you are!

  2. Yurg,,,just hate bullies. Mathew, my younger brother, used to get bullied by some kids on the playground. But he appealed to his knight in shining armor, or should i say scabby knees and torn tights and red hair that could never be brushed into place. Yeah, yeah, violence is never the answer but i did get in a few good licks for my baby brother and they left hime alone. Mat now chuckles because he's 6'0' and I'm 5'2' now. But tell Miss Daphne to never back down from the bullies. Tell her Auntie Ame will teach her a few tricks.

  3. Amy, that's so Mama just read this post and was furious about how she had to beat other kids up for her big brother (wild uncle johnny) because he was scrawny and fearful...You are an awesome sis for "going to the mattresses" for your bro. Love you, kid. Auntie Ames is welcome in our house to teach some Kung-Fu Fighting any time.

    Frugal Vicki: stow this away and hope that you have a ferocious warrior child who won't need it...but if s/he does, feel free. I'm not really a good mama...I just never want my girls to feel as alone as I did. Luckily, they are saucy little minxes, so there is little chance of that :)

  4. I was a bit of a target myself. And I never felt like I had ANYONE to stand up for me. And I certainly couldn't stand up for myself.

    So if my kids come home with a story about mean kids at school, I see RED. I know it's totally politically incorrect but my head explodes and I say, "next time you knock that kid on his ASS". After which they just laugh at me and think I'm their crazy mommy and they KNOW I don't really mean it.

    But I think it makes them feel like I've got their backs.

  5. Wow. Jr. High was hard on me too...similar gang up on her type stuff. SO PAINFUL. In some ways I was terrified to have girl children. My life is boys, brothers, rock bands, producers, etc.... I get them. They are easier than girls. I am going to call on you when Little Sunbeam comes home with that familiar wound, okay? You make me feel a little more confident. Anyway, they didn't keep us down long, did they?

    And, BTW I LOVE your legs and Miss D's legs!

  6. Honestly, Michelle? I'd rather my kid get in trouble for popping a bully in the face rather than take it for years and years....I know it's not a popular position...but I say--FIGHT. I'd prefer she do it with wit but if that fails...wail on that bitch. Because, like you, when I see the mean girls? I see RED.

    And BloginSong, of course Jr. High was horrible. I was there, remember? I thought you navigated it pretty well, but maybe I was too absorbed in my own little shop of horrors to see that you were in the same place? I always thought you had everything SO together?

    Send Little Sunbeam my way, but I'm fumbling my way through and hoping for the best...but any opportunity to get my hands on Chloe is a GO!!

    But remember, honey, there was high school, where everything was like an episode of Glee (okay, not that easy) but it was okay to be who we were when we were. I will never forget your dad, telling me very sternly, that when I cursed, "You better do it with feeling, dammit!"

    It meant so much to this Wallflower to have such fierce Volcano Girls in my tell Holls that for me, will ya? Love you, Miss Fierce.

    ps: I'll take Chloe if you can make Miss D's dream of being Debbie Harry come true....oh wait, wasn't that my dream, too? :)

  7. You have to stand up for yourself. It's a shame that lesson comes so early now. I always told my kids to walk away if you can, never be the one who starts it, but if you have no choice then kick their ass.

  8. This is such a valuable lesson for the girls. I was always given the advice of 'turn the other cheek' but frankly that made middle school a unique kind of living hell I would never ever want to repeat. I'm going to keep your words close and tell my kids to stand up and fight back against the mean bitches in the world.

  9. God, I hate those girls!! Good for you for teaching her how to have a backbone. We all need that. We have a mean girl at A's school too, of course. She's been running terror on the playground in first and second grade. We can sympathize with her on the pants issue. That same thing has happened to A. Everyone thinks it's great to be thin, but I've learned through her, it can be tough as well. I'd love the name of the pants place you ordered through, if you can pass it on. I've actually paid to have size slim pants tailored further for her. It's a nightmare. Hang in there Miss D! This too shall pass. When you are a supermodel at 18, we'll see who's talking s@#t then...

  10. I hate bullies, I'm sorry that happened to you. Working in an elementary school I see it when it happens. I always step in, and make them talk about it. I have a group of girls I call my "breakfast club" that sit together at breakfast (my AM duty at school). I saw that one of them was sitting alone. We let anyone sit at our table, (but they have to have good table manners:) anyway, I found out what was going on and made them confront it. It surprised them that I did get in the mean ones face about it. I think it starts early when they don't have anyone at home to help them deal with things. You are a good mom.

    My daughter is so quiet and I've always had to tell her to stick up for herself. Lucky I worked at her school and of course kept an eye on her. But if a classmate came up and told her to move b/c she wanted to sit there she would move. She's in middle school now and I was able to get her in a small private school 50 students total, thank goodness. I could go on but I'll save it for later :)

    I will definitely remember this one too.

  11. I would have eaten the hell out of some backbone cupcakes when I was a kid. Children are fucking vicious. Good on you for encouraging Miss D. to put her bullies in their place. "Just tell the teacher" was always such shitty advice.

    No, no... I'm not still bitter. Not at all.

  12. Back in the day I was an elementary school counselor and let me tell you there is nothing, NOTHING, nastier than little bully girls. They are cruel and relentless and devious. I would much rather deal with boys in the aftermath of an incident than with girls. Boys, in general, talk with their fists, and then get over it. Girls stay awake at night plotting and scheming. Oy.
    Good for Miss D for for standing up for herself...that takes balls.

  13. Oh, this is just amazing. You are amazing.

    I can't imagine anyone being mean to you. I mean, how could they? You're the sweetest, coolest chick in town. They were probably jealous.

    And your daughter rocks for saying using her voice.

    And those Mean Girls will get what's coming to them. Karma rules.

  14. You are such a great mom and raising such a wonderful young lady. I love it that she felt comfortable enough to tell that mean girl what she thought. You AND your daughter rock!

  15. Shit....First of all kids are so mean. I hated school...hated being pointed out for not having the right clothes, being the last girl to wear a bra, living in the wrong house. I hated it. I don't understand hw kids get that way. How do some tease and bully and others not? Do the parents of these wretched snots know what their child is up to? you are a great Mom...and you don't need to be scrappy to be a great mom!
    I sending a big hug to you and your girl...and those cupcakes look delish!

  16. I still remember what my bully looked like. thankfully, she was physically awful to me but didn't get the rest of the class to consspire. I completely, wholeheartedly agree with you when you say you'd rather your kid get in trouble for hitting a bully than know that she took it her whole life. I agree with passion and soapboxes and tell my son the same thing. If someone hurts you, use your words to make them stop. If they won't listen, keep trying. If it doesn't work, run. And if that doesn't work, hit them with everything you have. Because you have to make them stop.
    I'm Soooooooo happy that Miss D got her to shut her face with just one sentence. I wish it were always that easy. And i hope, for her, it is.
    p.s. I'm so glad this a iipoignant tale of awesome kid and awesome parent instead of a 'how to make a life sized skeleton out of cupcakes, decorating each one using an anatomy guide,' because, seriously, that's what happens when awesome chef marries doctor.

    p.p.s baby book schmaby book. Keep a shoebox of pictures and make a book when they go off to college. Keep cute things that happened on napkins or a blog, and throw them in, too. One baby book, done. Later. When they're preal, full people and you're a person again, too.
    No offense. I just know.

  17. Nap: Alas, that one sentence was not the end of Alize. But a few months later, the little shit moved, and boy, was there a celebration at Chez T.

    I know, I need to get over the baby book guilt! It's just that I did okay with Miss D's, until Miss M was born, and then I failed with both. Oh well, they can tell it to their therapist, eh?

  18. I was really good for a few years keepin' up the photo album...and then digital came along and I took way too many pictures and got waaaay behind...and that was the end of all reason! Oh well...I kinda like rummaging through boxes of old photos anyway.

    The bully story really hit home for me, too...I loathe the parents that made their children this way (and yes, I do believe it is mostly the parents fault for doing it inadvertantly or flat out). But I still try to teach my babies to stick up for can be so cruel.

  19. Well you and I are just kindred spirits! I was always bullied and never did anything about it either. One girl, Susan Lloyd (yes, I'm naming names and pointing fingers) used to dig her long finger nails into my arm during school assemblies! What a "B" word!

    Good for your girl!! :D

  20. Your fantastic writing is starting to piss me off. I'm getting misty eyed in the office left and right. Give a girl a break.

    Brava to Miss D!

  21. Hell yeah for Miss D! Put those mean girls in their place!

  22. This story brought tears to my eyes, TKW, and I'm all kinds of choked up here. It's beautiful. Miss D sounds like she's going to be just fine--her wonderfully gentle spunk will get her through.

  23. Aw...poor you and poor Miss D. I hate bullies...bullies are people who clearly feel bad inside themselves and have to take it out on others to make themselves feel better. I think you gave good advice. It is worth fighting back. I had to do that too. I know exactly how you felt...though I was lucky never to have any mittens flushed down the toilet - it was more words than anything else. If only I could take my adult confidence and go back to those days...still bullying can happen to adults too - I've had my experience of that in the workplace as well...and that is bloody horrendous! In those situations it is best just to walk as it is not worth the sh%t. Pity you can't do that at school though... Tell Miss D we are all behind her! xxx

  24. Go you. One of the best moments of my life was when I punched a bully in the stomach in kindergarten after she had bullied me for the whole year. Such relief. And guess what? She cried and told the teacher. Good thing the teacher knew she had been tormenting me and told her "well, you deserve it". That was the last time I had to deal with bullies... until I started working ;-)

  25. I knew we were kindred spirits. (10 points if you know where that's from. Another 10 if you're wise enough not to tease me about it.) This post made me tear up. I wish I'd been brave like Miss D. You damn well better believe my girls will be learning the same lessons as yours.

  26. Mean girls suck. It's my biggest fear parenting little girls. Thank goodness for moms like you to be there to understand.

  27. Wonderful post!
    I haven't printed out pics for over a year and half. I suck.
    And I get where you're coming from. I had tons of bullies until I grew my backbone in seventh grade. I tell my boys, be nice because if you become a bully, your mama will have your ass, If you get a bully, stand up and fight, and mama will take care of the rest. As my mom explained, kick their asses hard so they can't get back up.

  28. I love this post. I shouldn't just ignore a bully. KICK THEIR ASS!!

  29. I applaud your view that ignoring a bully is never ever going to work. Now I have to go back to read your latest entry today. {{{hugs}}}