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Sticks and Stones

Today, I felt something I thought I never would again. Not in a good way, in a totally bad way. This experience left me in tears, crying for 20 minutes through thick snow to go see my Mom and talk about it. I cried so hard that my head hurt. The entire drive my 3 year old daughters listened to me sob and did not say a word. At 35 years old, I never expected to have my grade 7 bully have me feeling like I was 12 years old all over again.

11 year old awkward me

I have the unique experience of having my daughter's kindergarten teacher be one of my high school mean girls. I was heavily teased from Grade 6 until Grade 11. I'll never forget the time my two best (and only) friends, told me it was too embaressing being my friend and that they didn't want to be seen with me anymore. The 11 year old me, was crushed but my Mom was a single mother, working full time in retail and had so much on her plate already, that I didn't want to burden her with the fact that I was an unlikeable child. There was this girl in my class who was popular and didn't say much to me until one day I was asked, "When was the last time you showered? You smell." I saw this piercing look in her eye and a sneer that made me feel like I was not much more than a flea. I responded and her and her friend continued to mock me. That look and sneer was etched into my mind along with many other memories from a time where I belived I was worthless because others seemed to think so.

After my Grade 12 Graduation, I hoped that all those feelings and people were behind me and that I could move forward with life in the real world. As years went on, those memories felt distant but sometimes a word or photo would take me back to that dark and depressing time. I put value on the way I looked because if I wasn't that ugly, smelly girl from school, people would like me. Whenever I made a new friend I was thrilled but also worried that they too would say I was unworthy of being part of their posse.

Up until today, I believed after 24 years of torment that I had let all of that hurt go and had moved on. But that is not true, it still haunts me. My daughter's teacher grew into a very sweet and kind woman, not at all a speck of the girl that I remember. Having her assigned as K's teacher, made me have faith that those who we felt had hurt us do become good people. It wasn't until she said something to me this morning with the look in her eye from when she asked me that question in class so long ago that it hit me. I still hung onto all those painful moments. The same feelings rushed back into my stomach and a pang in my heart. I felt crushed and ushered my 3 year old twins out of the classroom. I walked through my daughter's school hallways in tears, shaking my head that this couldn't be happening to me again, I felt like I had gone back in time. I realized I am a grown woman who had never confronted my feelings or truly talked to someone about the pain I had endured for so long. Every mean word that was ever said to me has been stamped into my mind and effected every relationship and interaction. I'm sure K's teacher has no idea that I was upset. It's possible she has no idea that she was my bully for so many years. I know she might have had a hard morning herself and that she didn't mean to make me feel this way. But, I felt it in my core and shook me.

This morning taught me something that I wasn't sure of until now, I'm 35 years old and I'm still suffering from years of abuse. The other thing is, this situation isn't going to change, K's teacher will remain the same until the end of the year. I will spend every school day confronting my feelings and trying to grow and be a better person. One thing I know for sure is that I will strive to not let these things hurt me anymore and move forward like I should have done. Her teacher wasn't the only person who made fun of me and I acknowlege the fact that I may have been a bully to someone else without knowing. I hope that if you have suffered as I have, please don't let it bundle up inside of you. I let years of bullying infect my mind and the way I thought about myself. We are all deserving of kindness and respect. If you had or currently have experiences like I did growing up, please talk to someone about it. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" is a quote I never understood. Words can be just as hurtful and they did for many years. Let's teach our children to be kind and something just as important, to talk about their problems. I hope K will come home from school and tells me if she's been having a hard time. I hope she never thinks I have too much on my plate. My Mother was always there to give me a hug, like she did today, and I wish I had taken her up on that more when I had kept my school experiences from her. Let's let our children know they are valued, loved and that nothing that anyone could ever say could make us think any different.

So Monday morning, I will get up, dress and feed my kids, and go face all those memories and let go of the pain a little everyday. I will watch my daughter make new memories and have new experiences of her own with the person I least expected being a part of it. There is a blessing in this trial that maybe I get to turn a bully into a friend and learn something about myself through all of this. I found a new quote to live by, "If people throw stones at you, pick them up and build something." I hope to do this and I pray you do too.