Minnesota Mamaleh: For the Love of Star Wars

sw 200x300 Minnesota Mamaleh: For the Love of Star WarsFirst grader Katie Goldman was bullied for using a Star Wars water bottle. You know, because that’s just so-very-boy of her. One day Katie asked to trade out her beloved Star Wars water bottle for a pink one cluing her mom in on the fact that there was a problem.

I can’t stop thinking about the little girl who felt the need to conform. The mom who had to juggle what messages she wanted to send. And the six year old boys who sensed difference and had the instinct to squash it out.

But I also can’t help but see the good in this story.

I know, right? It sounds like I’ve lost it here! Finding good in a bullying case? But see what you think.

Katie’s mom, Carrie Goldman, used all of the Mama Bear prowess that she could muster and rallied the troops. I mean she really rallied the troops. Social media mavens in the blogosphere, twitterverse and facebook-land bound together and are sending Katie message after message after message to release her inner Star Wars fandom and relish being who she is.

The school? Stepped up and addressed the issue. Anti-bullying message? Check. A day dedicated to being unique? Check.

The parents of the boys that teased Katie? Also stepped up and talked to their children.

Equally importantly: people seem authentically appreciative and happy about the efforts that are being made. No snarky commentary about the kids that did the teasing, their parents that did the parenting or the school that did the responding. No one downplayed their efforts or called them out as “not good enough.” It was refreshing. And I’m going to go ahead and dare to say that it was…good.

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And that’s so where this article should stop: someplace good. But when have I ever left well enough (or my word count) alone?

So here’s the thing. What keeps nagging at me now is that Katie knows. She knows that people can be mean. Cruel. And just plain awful.

I think about my own girls who rock the Star Wars wear and my own little boy who plays with baby dolls (sometimes in pink glittery heels) and it churns my stomach and hurts my heart to think of them knowing that people might be mean to them about their play, their uniqueness, themselves.

While I’ve told my kids (overandoverandover again) that kindness is a must, a bottom line for us, I’ve never told them that not everyone feels that way.

And while I’ve told my kids (overandoverandover again) to be just who they want to be, I’ve never scratched beneath that surface to tell them that some people might bully them for it. I haven’t been ready for them to know that that kind of pain exists.

Most of us parents let our children know that they have every right in this universe (Galaxy, even!) to be themselves. But the flip side of that coin? Is that we have to let them know that that road- the unique one- isn’t always easy. It’s still well worth it. But it can be bumpy. And very painful.

Katie’s story seems like a soft landing space to start this conversation with my children. I can show my kids Katie’s pictures and tell her whole story- who she is, why she was teased and all of the good that came out of it.

One of those “goods” is that people (You, me, that Mom over there.) are talking, We’re talking about being your own person. Kindness. Star Wars. Teasing. Bullying. And kindness some more. But we’re talking to each other- preaching to the choir, so to speak. And even if it’s sad or painful or uncomfortable, it’s time to let our kids in on the conversation, and the learning, too.

sw3 215x300 Minnesota Mamaleh: For the Love of Star WarsMy girls have a book that ends with the line, “Sometimes you have to be a little bit scared in order to be brave.” I suppose sometimes you have to see a little bit of bad in order to see that there is so very much good.

Exactly one week ago there was a Star Wars Spirit Day in honor of Katie. In totally me fashion, my kids are donning Star Wars gear today as I write to Katie. We all find our own ways to honor amazing people, right? I already know that my kids are uber-cute ala Star Wars. So what I really can’t wait to see is your words to Katie in the comments.

Together, let’s create one more gigantic love letter to virtually sign, seal and deliver to Katie and her family. I cant wait to read your words! May the force be with us! (Sorry. I couldn’t resist the punchy end-line. I’ll work on it. I promise.)

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About Galit Breen

Galit Breen is a Minnesota writer. On any given day she can be found juggling three kids, one husband, one puggle and her laptop. Galit has had essays published in several anthologies, is the editor of Pens and Paint, a series anthology of children’s poetry and artwork and co-directs Listen to Your Mother, Twin Cities. Galit is a freelance writer for allParenting, Everyday Family, Mamalode Magazine, Soleil Moon Frye’s Moonfrye, SheKnows, and The Huffington Post blog and you can find her monthly here at TC Jewfolk. Galit blogs regularly, tweets excessively and may or may not work for dark chocolate.

Comments. Add Yours!

23 comments

  1. I find this so disturbing! A Star Wars water bottle is reason to bully?! That’s insane. Why can’t we teach our children to embrace and value differences? My two year old little girl loves trains and firetrucks. Is she a future bullying victim because of this?!

  2. I hope Katie eventually gets the matching LUNCHBOX to go with the thermos.

  3. people, even kids can be certified jerks of the highest order. while i think it is painful that a star wars bottle was used in bullying nonsense, i can think of how we did this back in the day. the early 80′s that is.

    there would have been a fight or two. not to say that is the best, but it happened.

    on a much better note, star wars helps to restore the innocence and creativity of kids. the whole premise and execution of the theme is brilliant. so many great themes for kids to discuss while still being a kid at heart.

    i love how you and your kids are opening up conversation rather than violence.

    shabbat shalom and stay warm in the arctic north

  4. Wow, thanks for the link. I hadn’t read this story, and it makes me teary and sad and happy all at once.

    I know how awful bullying can be; I was a nerd (well, still am, I guess). I’m THRILLED that Katie’s being given her stand-up-for-herself superpowers so young, when she’s able to really integrate that into her sense of herself, as a girl who doesn’t let other people tell her who or what to be. Imagine how awesome that will be for her in high school, when she’s getting all sorts of pressure to do things worse than bring a pink water bottle.

    There’s a balance we reach, as mothers, between protecting our kids from bad stuff, and preparing them to deal with it.

    My son’s been in daycare and preschool now for 3 years, and he sure as heck knows about bullying. It’s amazing how cruel even other 4 year olds can be, no matter how enlightened their parents are, or how educated and involved the teachers are.

    He doesn’t have an entire fandom devoted to cheering him on, but he does know that his family, his teachers, and his other friends love him as he is, which gives him the self-confidence to deal with the few mean things that hinevitably appen any time you throw a bunch of children together.

  5. I had not heard about the girl and Star Wars! That is just weird that anyone should care. However, kudos to you for taking this as a teaching opportunity for your kids. It is a good approach to talk to them about things like this when it is not “in the moment” for them – when it is about someone else and they can have some good perspective.
    Please remind me to do this for my kids when they are old enough to understand!

  6. to katie: you go girl! my son, loves (no wait – LOVES) the GB Packers. “so what” you ask? we live in Minnesota – this is Viking territory. but he has never given in or given up. he is 15 now and has been wearing packer stuff for, well, 15 years. he has Packer folders, backpacks, pencils and his room is Packer themed…once he even had Packer underwear! (shhh. don’t tell him i told you). so you stick with what you love and star wars is a pretty cool thing to love!

  7. I hadn’t heard of that either– so, so sad that it starts so young. Ugh! I’ll sign that gigantic, virtual love letter! :)

  8. I agree 100% about how great it is that Katie’s Mom investigated to see what was up with the water bottle, and then followed up and helped solve the issue in a healthy way.

    Kids can be mean, but that’s because they don’t understand the consequences of their actions. We, as adults, are responsible for showing them the error of their ways in a healthy manner so they can grow up to be productive members of society.

    Good for you for using this as a lesson to teach your little darlings!

  9. @ Katie- So glad to hear that you are once again comfortable with your awesome Star Wars thermos. It might not always be easy, but continue to be yourself. We’re behind you 150%!

    @ Galit- Thanks so much for reminding us to really talk to our kids. And to not always gloss over the hard stuff. It’s not something I relish working on, but it has to be done.

  10. Such a sad story with such an amazing ending! Somehow I’ve gone through life without acquiring any Star Wars apparel, but I wear my quirkiness loudly anyway – I’ve really built my personality around it! So Katie shouldn’t worry – she’ll be just fine.

  11. In the words of Shakspeare: “This above all, to thine own self be true. And it must follow–as the night, the day–Thou Canst Not Then Be False, To Any Man…”
    Words to live by!
    I see pictures of Angelina Jloie and her children and one of her little girls likes to dress in boys clothes and little uniforms, etc. Jolie says–and it’s not an exact quote: “I want her to be just who she is and I encourage her to dress however ahe wants…She is her own person” I LOVE IT!
    I think it is a wonderful idea to encourage your kids to be the very unique people that they are, and to let them know, not evryone will like it, as you have described.
    That is a great story about Katy…and as we know, it could have turned out a whole other way. Nothing could have been done to address this—And I think it is great that everyone stepped up. In what part of our country dod this happen? That might have made the difference in how this was handled.

  12. I love how Katie’s story had a positive and happy ending! Kudos to all!!!

    But I so relate to the conundrum of teaching your child to be who they are but keeping from them the fact that this can be costly from a social standpoint. My son is starting to face that a little bit and we’re starting to have talks about how not all kids are nice all the time. It pains me to have to watch him experience this for himself but it is a part of life and it does make you stronger in the long run.

    I also have to say that I love how enduring Star Wars is! It was a favorite of mine from when I was a kid and I love that it is still going strong.

  13. People can be horrible. I believe that everyone should be able to like what they want to like without the fear of being tormented. I’m glad that the story has a happy ending though!

  14. The bullying thing terrifies me! I remember firsthand how terrible it was to be an outcast in school so I am especially nervous for Maya. But I do hope that her classmate’s parents are as kind as you are. This post really gives me hope that things may change for our kids! Thank you for this!

  15. Wow, Katie’s Mom is fantastic and good for the school as well as the parents of the little kids that were being bullies! Everyone knows kids can be mean but the big question is WHY? Is it cyclical? Is someone in their home bullying them or somewhere else so they need to do the same? I was bullied as a kid too. I never did that to anyone and, I don’t believe I was even given the talk not to – it was kinda understood that you just don’t act that way. In my opinion, something underlying must be going wrong for kids to be mean like this. And, the only thing you can do as a parent is to do what you are doing Galit as well as what Katie’s Mom has done. I believe every action touches some chord in the universe and no doubt, what you teach your own children will have an affect someday on someone else’s child.

    To Katie: you are an awesome little girl! Continue to be unique and your own person because not only will you be happier, but you will also set a wonderful example for others!

  16. So glad Katie is getting so much support and love. It’s sad when kids bully each other at such a tender age. Congratulations to the parents and school and to Katie for standing up and saying this is NOT okay.

    Yes, let us celebrate kids being who they are and having the freedom to be who they are without being ridiculed.

  17. It is sad when innocence is broken, when joy is diminished. But, Katie…you ARE the girlie.

    As an aside, my grandie Logan loves his big sister, Emily’s princess clothes and loves dressing in them, along with his Buzz Lightyear outfit. LOL.

    They both mix and match, and good for them.

  18. Galit.

    THIS: (Your words)
    “My girls have a book that ends with the line, “Sometimes you have to be a little bit scared in order to be brave.” I suppose sometimes you have to see a little bit of bad in order to see that there is so very much good.”

    PURE GOLD. What an excellent post all around.

  19. That’s wonderful that Katie G.’s mother was so attentive to her child! She could have easily acquiesced and given her daughter the pink water bottle without questioning what was going on. It’s wonderful to hear about a mama who listens to her child!

  20. This right here is why I love reading your stuff.

    I’ve got a little “tomboy” of my own… who, most of the time, prefers Spiderman and Cars over princesses and frills. I dread the day she comes home wanting the latter simply because someone else told her that’s what she SHOULD like.

    Also? Your kids in their Star Wars shirts? Super cute.

  21. Galit, I have got to find a way to subscribe just to your blog and not to the whole newspaper because I keep missing out! I am useless without Google Reader informing me of updates.

    This is probably not a surprise but I adore your take on this. It makes me think of another blog post one mom wrote about her son dressing up as a female character for Halloween. Mostly I admired the mom for her courage and character in addressing the situation, but one thing nagged at me, and it’s something that you mention here: the mom never acknowledged to her son what he KNEW. That is, his growing awareness that people can be judgmental and cruel. I think sometimes in our rush to protect our kids we come from our comfortable adult perch, having gone through all the inner work of figuring out who we are and finding a comfortable place to be ourselves, and tell them: Don’t worry, just take your Star Wars bottle to school. And that’s not always fair, even if it is the right thing to do. I’m not saying for a minute that we should advise our kids to conform. But I think we owe it to them to acknowledge and even warn them that people can be mean. And how to begin to deal with it.

    So yeah, I totally agree! Awesome t-shirts, by the way.

  22. Hooray for being different!! It is where true artistry lives!!

  23. Am definitely not a Star Wars Fan but my best friend is. But I am a fan of being true to yourself. Great job, Katie, for being brave and being the person you are. Kudos to the parents in this too. You rallied behind these kids and showed them that kindness beats all. Thanks for sharing.