Ever get picked on as a kid? Chances are you have at least one memory of feeling bullied. I watched my son fall victim to a bully at our local BMX track. By a fellow teammate. A team my family and I were thrilled to be a part of. But slowly that feeling turned into a feeling of regret. And because of one child who should have known better.
But – SURPRISE – this is not about children being bullies. It’s about another bully that lurks in the shadows. Anyone who says bullying is only the province of children has obviously never spent much time at their children’s events. We see this sort of bullying and control/power seeking on the fields our children play on, at recitals, PTA meetings, and maybe even our own kitchens. When faced with a variety of personalities in group settings, it can be common to find people that feel the need to be in charge, or to be recognized. It is a sad fact of life that some people never grow out of being bullies- they just get older and meaner.
At the age of 34, I never thought that I could fall victim to bullying. But, becoming a parent can toss you right back into an adolescent nightmare. Recently, I experienced the dark side of female aggression firsthand. A fellow (grand)mother verbally beat me down in front of other parents and within seconds three other mothers joined in; it was a free-for-all. For those women, I was up for slaughter. But much like my son’s bully/teammate, these women/mothers should have known better.
I am not saying I am perfect. I cannot tell you how many times I have been caught up in a gossipy conversation. But, I know when to pull the brakes on these conversations.
Why? Because gossip can turn into vicious bullying very quickly since much of it is taken out of context. And on that particular day, that is exactly what happened. I chose not to engage with my bullies since it only would have added fuel to their fire and given them the recognition that they were looking for.Whether it is a mom on the field, or at a PTA meeting, everyone knows certain women make a point of belittling and berating other women. We can no longer settle these little disagreements after school on the playground. There is a better way to handle these situations – take the high road and let it go.
So I stood there. I stood there after volunteering all weekend taking pictures of their very own children. I stood there realizing my family gave up their time with me so I could help make sure that the bullies’ children were safe out on the track. I stood there after racing all day myself. I stood there because as a volunteer I love what I do. I stood there on their chopping block and let those women verbally attack me and high five each other as I walked away.
For what seems like an eternity, I was told the best method of dealing with bullies was not to let yourself become one of them and ignore them. Even though it felt impossible that day, that is exactly what I did. I ignored them, and I walked away knowing I did nothing wrong and that at some point these women would realize it.
Unfortunately bullying stays with us, and it makes us feel a little bit crazy because it gets under our skin, sits there, and festers. Why? At that moment I was hurt, hurt because someone had misrepresented who I was. But, on that particular day, I decided I was going to set it aside and revel in the fact that I was about to be awarded the USA BMX CO State One Championship plate for my age class. Woo-hoo!
It’s been more than two weeks since the said incident. Since then, I have practiced the art of letting things go. I have also realized that I will have to limit my interactions with certain mothers, even if it means letting go of others. But, the good news is that when we appropriately deal with the mean moms in our lives, we are modeling positive behavior skills to our kids. Even when we think our kids don’t notice our interactions, you better believe they are soaking it in and forming ideas that will impact them for the rest of their lives. A gracious response in the face of mean behavior not only makes life easier for us but prepares our kids for handling conflict of their own.