by Hope Mucklow
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What a lovely evening I enjoyed on this park bench waiting for my daughter while she rehearsed for tech week in Alabama Dance Theater’s production of Dracula. Several conversations ended up taking place here that led to my inspiration to write this particular blog.
One lovely talk with a mom revolved around our experience with ADT. I pointed out how impressed I was with their encouragement that it wasn’t too late for my pre-teen daughter to start ballet classes with them. In fact one of the administrator of ADT pointed out to me that it was ideal because she was now motivated (unlike when she was 4 years of age and dropped out of the community ballet class in Potomac, Maryland.)
I continued rambling on about how grateful I felt that her teacher encouraged my daughter to audition for Dracula and Mistletoe. I envisioned my tween being rejected as her dancing ability is far below from the impressive dance company girls and professionals who will perform the lead roles. Little did I think my Ballet I student would land a part as a Gypsy Villager which requires more acting than advanced ballet skills.
We chatted on about how great it is for our daughters to have such encouragement and experience. So, I was surprised to listen to an upset dancer on the ride home. Here some of her little or rather younger “Gypsy Children” that she works with sassed and mocked her for only being in Ballet I.
My first approach was to discuss how disrespectful our culture has become. I pointed out what kind of humor dominates the most beloved cable children’s networks. Then I pointed out that these children are much younger and therefore more immature than she. It is childish behavior that is being exhibited and rendered at her expense. I think this is why the expression “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” has been repeated so much over generations. Children can and often behave very meanly towards one another. Especially when they are hurting and it makes them feel better about themselves when they put another child down.
These two points nudged my daughter a little towards extending forgiveness and compassion towards her disrespectful gypsy children. But still her wounds gaped open with pain. I had to step into the “Mama Rojo” role from Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo. I needed to strengthen the identity in my own child. It had been insulted and it must be restored. There’s something else that needed to be done. I had to acknowledge that it is wrong how these children behaved towards her. This is why Ruby Redfords poem, that clearly states that words can also hurt me might be a more useful and timely poem for us to recite to our children.
Too often we are afraid to call out inappropriate behavior. Would it be because we’re afraid of being called a “Tattle Tale?” First, I put it on her that she needed to go to one of the adults helping with the production. Then it dawned on me… she came to me. I’m an adult. Do I have the courage to write about this in a blog and figure out a graceful way to handle this? Well obviously, you’re reading what I decided to do.
In no way am I trying to pick on the children out who are mocking my daughter. But I am capitalizing on using it as an example in order to encourage other parents out there who are reading this on what we can do in this age of out of control bullying and narcissistic culture. So what?
There’s a plethora of discussion regarding the various types of abuse. What I have come to believe is that emotional abuse, in particularly covert emotional abuse, is the most damaging. Many support this idea in the current blog world, but it wasn’t until last week that I realized why.
It is all about getting the right diagnosis first in order to prescribe state of the art treatment. It is well established that forgiveness is one of the key remedies for one to recover from a traumatic experience. But one cannot forgive something if it’s never identified (covert) as being inappropriate behavior exhibited towards you. At least in physical abuse the evidence is obvious it is not hidden and denied. Likewise you can’t say, “no more” if the behaviors is mislabeled under the guise of love, care, or fun which abusers are masters at doing. This is the first enlightening thought that came to me. Re-establishing healthy relational boundaries is the other key ingredient to bouncing back from a negative situation.
If you consider the initial approach I took with my daughter I almost excused the behavior and turned the bullies into the victims, “Oh they must not feel good about themselves because of xyz.” That might be true, but there’s a lot more that needs to be acknowledged. While it may not be polite, appropriate, or much less needed to point out others flaws and weaknesses (which we all have), this should not be confused with speaking up for oneself when personal respect boundaries have been violated. It needs to be called out for what it is: hurtful. Anything that hurts another person’s identity is wrong.
The idea of the need for strong healthy boundaries comes in with the other conversation I had on that park bench. Most of the summer I passed by this exact spot with some fantastic parents of the orphan cast of Annie. One of whom helped me to see that my latest author visit invitation (which I’ve not had since May) may not be in my best interest and really an unusual draw for them to attract people to come to their event who very well may not.
As much as I’d like to believe that people would flock to this particular venue because I was scheduled to be there, I’ve been at this long enough to know that most people don’t come to hear a lesser known author whether they’re local or not. They might come to hear Brad Meltzner like my daughter and I did in Miami a few years ago, but even he only gets 30-50 people to show. At least that’s what I experienced reading
all around South Florida with the Read to Learn Books for Free Program.
Back to the park bench. What I learned reading my emails was that my Annie orphan mom friend was right. This author visit invitation was not at a good time. I had expressed from the beginning that my daughter was scheduled for tech week prior to 4 performances the weekend they wanted to host me and it wasn’t a good time for me. However, I reluctantly agreed because the owner insisted on November 3, 2108 and I had been feeling desperate for an opportunity to publicly read, sell, and sign my book. I needed better boundaries and respect of my own family schedule. Do you want to guess what the answer was when I offered to reschedule for one of their December venues? Yup, “We’re sorry that won’t work.” Did it hurt? Yes, but not nearly as much as it would have if I hadn’t learned what I’m writing about. And perhaps I created this rejection because of how long I took in finally mustering the courage to request rescheduling.
I don’t need to sell myself short in the hopes of an opportunity that probably isn’t going to come. Folks may be going to the venue this weekend, but they’ll most likely choose to be entertained at the many other fun activities rather than slow and quiet down to hear a book read. Watching pumpkins fired away and smashed into the field is what they’re going for. And they most likely are going to spend their money on the admission fee and food, not my book. It’s just reality which is why I groan anytime an excited individual has a story in mind that want my advice on how to get published. It’s really hard to get people to buy books these days, but its not to self-publish. Most consumers would either rather push electronic buttons or they are already overwhelmed with stuff and don’t need to find space on their home to store another product.
So what does this story about me and the cancellation of the author visit have to do with my point? I was not taught how to say, “no” as I child. Rather I was taught to be co-dependent people pleaser. Worse was I had created a deep seated value that I was honoring God in the name of loving others because of this teaching and inappropriate interpretation of Bible verses like I Corinithians 9:19-23. I had confused Paul’s teaching that meant we should work hard to respect other’s differences so that we can to relate to them in their cultural/economic/sexual/racial context. It does not mean to become a door mat to be abused.
I have also come to learn in my own odyssey of emotional healing and personal growth that healthy boundaries need to be taught to our youngsters as they are growing up. We need to applaud them when they do it and gently correct their childish self-preserving response to do so in a respectful way. Otherwise the natural reaction is to fight back which too often escalates the problem. Then the kids get hung up on taking justice into their own hands.
One of the greatest and prevalent themes in the first 39 books of the Bible that consist of the Jewish Pentateuch, Prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, and other poetry that Jesus affirmed to be worthy of study and teaching is that God will avenge his enemies. It is to a believers honor to entrust that God will execute justice appropriately at the best time. It is not for us to demand now. Rather like Joseph (of which Dream Works produced Joseph King of Dreams) we can rise above negative experiences by trusting that they may be used to cultivate in each opportunities to grow and to mature in order to become a better blessing to others in the future. That’s why Joseph in Genesis 50:19-21 assured his brothers that he would not repay their wickedness with punishment but rather he would continue to preserve their lives and many others.
Children have an innate pre-occupation with justice don’t they? We hear them cry out, “It’s not fair!” Perhaps they need to be inspired by what I just said in order to let it go. Otherwise if they hang on to the injustice it can fester to an emotional point that turns out to hurt themselves much worse than the original problem or offense.
We need to as parents, teachers, leaders and therapists to listen to our children or patients to guide them into healing ways that will restore their damaged identity. Had I been feeling better about myself (respect), my book, writing, and known how to set better boundaries, I would have stayed firm and declined the November 3rd invitation from the start. That would have saved me the turmoil I went through every night of knowing it was too much, but not wanting to let go of the possibility that I might get my name out there, sells some books, and secure more author visits. Likewise it would have save the owner and manager the aggravation about planning on having me and then my canceling.
So what is taught is very important because it leads to our values and ability to respond appropriately. This is what brings me to reformation leader, Martin Luther.
Martin Luther was very much concerned about the teachings that were going on in 1517 that affect his parishioners’ identities. And he choose October 31st to set some boundaries about it making it know as Reformation Day . I happen to share Peter Smith’s (his article is the link in green above) speculation about as to why Martin Luther choose this day.
The very phrase “Trick or Treating” implies manipulative bullying from a very selfish and rude stand point. It feeds and grooms entitlement thinking. (And then we wonder why it is so prevalent.)
So this October 31st my family will read more about Martin Luther’s brave move to take on Johann Tetzel’s manipulative message that bullied the common people of that day in the name of God, their deceased loved ones, and the church of the day . And then discuss how we might better believe that whether you are big or small, black or white, you matter because God made you with dignity, honor, and purpose that is redeemed through one very popular historic individual who lived an amazing life and died in the place of your shortcomings, weakness, failures, and vulnerabilities. He was called a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief because he took on all that pain that we struggle with in order to free us from how it binds us up to think poorly of ourselves and to succumb to believing unkind words about ourselves, to take personally disrespectful treatment, tolerate abusive working conditions, and therefore limp through life with depression and anxiety.
So what will you celebrate this day? Happy October 31st the last day of National Bully Prevention Month!
#Anti-bullying #Bullyproof #BullyPreventionMonth #abuse #covertemotionalabuse #emotionalboundaries #Healing #Depression #Anxiety #peoplepleaser #co-dependent #recovery