Just lather up that “Kick Me” sign and glue it my back.
To be fair, I have a lot of wonderful memories too (and I graduated from grade school with several friends). But getting made fun of had a long-lasting affect on me, one I didn’t shake until adulthood. It’s something that I pray my own kids never go through.
Which bring us to the other day: Recently I was invited to help with my eldest daughter’s grade school Walk-a-Thon fundraiser. I agreed to help chaperone because 1) I like doing helpful things, 2) I completely underestimated how far they planned to walk and 3) my wife implied there’d be post-walk bacon treats, which I later found out was a ruse. Most important, though, it gave me an opportunity to
spy see my daughter in action with her
As we left the school and headed out on our journey, I, along with the teachers and other chaperones, guided the kids along the path and reminded them of the rules:
· Stay on the sidewalk
· Stay out of people’s lawns
· Wave to people in cars who honk at us
· Don’t wave to people in cars who honk at other cars
· Don’t mimic hand gestures from people in cars who honk at other cars
· Wipe snotty noses on your own sleeves
My daughter, the sweetheart that she is, held my hand for the first 10 minutes of the walk. I’d like to think it was because she loved me, but in truth, I think it was because she forgot her gloves and it was pretty cold outside. I had forgotten mine too, so it was a bonus. Eventually, though, she broke away from my grip and trotted off with her friends. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they were all giggling and smiling and having a good time. This truly warmed my heart (but not my hands—seriously, it was freaking cold).
I talked with the teacher for a bit, who was very complimentary of my daughter, telling me how well she’s doing in class. I talked with the priest, who assured me that with enough prayer I’d be able to survive the walk even if there were no bacon treats at the end of it. I even chatted with several other Kindergarteners, all of whom claimed to be Spider-Man. This was ridiculous, of course, because secretly I am Spider-Man. (Keep that on the down-low, though. Don’t want to be mobbed by fans.)
About halfway through the walk I noticed my daughter was still laughing with her friends. I slowed down a bit to try and overhear what they were laughing about. I finally got close enough to hear what my daughter was saying to her friends.
“Don’t walk behind my dad. He’s stinky! And he has big feet too!”
My own little Judas was selling me out. She and her classmates weren’t making fun of each other. They were making fun of me. That’s how they were bonding. I know they were just being silly, but a little part of me—that five-year-old with the lame video game remote control—was crushed.
I contemplated saying something. I also contemplated giving them something stinky to really complain about. I contemplated a lot because I wasn’t quite sure how to handle this situation. On one hand, I don’t want her poking fun at others. On the other hand, we poke fun at each other all the time at home. If only I had a third hand that could tell me what to do.
That’s when the third hand I needed arrived: It was my daughter’s and she slid it back into mine.
“Daddy, I was just kidding. I know you’re not stinky. I love you.”
And with that, my worries started to evaporate. I know over the years most kids get heckled some. It’ll probably happen to my kids too. I just hope I’m able to teach my girls how to deal with it and not let it bother them, and how to be compassionate toward others and treat them with kindness. I can’t control the future but I can sure do my best to guide my kids on the path to be good human beings. And that’s what I intend to do.
“But you do kind of have big feet.”
If only there were post-walk bacon treats to drown my sorrows in.
Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)
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