First 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.
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.
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.
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.)