There was an evening recently where, for a moment, my daughter was upset.
She has bypassed the Terrible Two’s and is smack dab in the middle of the Terrible Three’s, crying when she doesn’t get her way, talking back, ignoring some of our words – in general acting like a miniature teenager. Therefore her being upset didn’t really cause a ruffle in either of her parents’ lives.
Plus, she’s stopped taking naps at daycare, so she has been overly cranky and tired in the afternoon and evenings. Which fits perfectly in our family dynamic because now all three of us have the same general feeling.
This minor meltdown and teary-eyed response, though, was different.
She was telling my wife that some girls at her school were calling her names. She’s three years old. This shouldn’t happen.
My heart immediately went into my stomach. How could toddlers insult each other? This sort of crap wasn’t supposed to be something that we dealt with as parents until she was seven or eight – at the earliest. I thought we were still in the coloring, playground, puzzle stages.
What in the world could kids be calling each other these days?
They called me “a bro” she spit out.
As ridiculous as name-calling can be, especially something as innocuous as that, I wanted to cry.
No parent wants their kid to be upset. And you feel helpless on something like this, even though it doesn’t even compare to the names she will probably be called by other girls as she gets older. In the grand scheme of things “a bro” is eons better than B or C or W or whatever other insults girls hurl at each other.
My wife handled this first foray into insults very adeptly, telling our daughter to just ask these girls very nicely not to call her that anymore. For now, that approach will work. We’ll definitely have to call an audible on that in about 10 years.
When I checked in with the kiddo a few days later, apparently these girls have moved on from “a bro” to calling my kid “too serious.”
How can a three-year-old be serious? I wondered, thinking of this child who begs for me to “act silly” with her.
This episode came as I was finishing my good friend Josh Suchon’s book, “Murder in Pleasanton,” which details a 14-year-old girl’s murder in 1984. On the day she died, Tina Faelz was harassed and called names. One of the girls who harassed her was quoted in the book, 30 years after the death feeling tremendous amounts of guilt every day and making this girl’s final day of her life miserable. It was something that haunted her.
We never think of these things in the moment. I was no saint as a child and upon reflection, probably owe some kids an apology. Not to the extend Adam Sandler does with Steve Buschemi in Billy Madison, but I definitely ruffled some feathers. (Note: except you, Ashley Levine. You deserved everything that came your way. I maintain that forever.)
As I’ve gotten older and smarter and more accepting, I hope to instill this ideal in my kid – that it’s actually not that hard to be nice to people.
The way we pay our rent for taking up space on this earth is by serving others.
So whether my kid ends up being a too serious bro or develops into a goofy girly I hope that the lessons I’ve learned will find their way into her ethos and she’ll incorporate them in her life’s path.
I tell my daughter every day to be a leader. It’s a hard thing to do, to put your arm around a kid who’s being made fun of and show solidarity with the outcast, but that’s what leaders do. And I hope that if someone in my daughter’s life is being teased she will throw an arm around that child and protect them the same way I do to her.