Aloha Friday: Advice

This morning, I gave NHL two very important pieces of advice.  The first came when I talked to NHL about failure.  Lately, we’ve noticed that he isn’t trying to do things that we know he can do.  He’ll say “I can’t do it” or “It’s too hard.”  If pressed, he does the task easily.  We believe the problem is that he’s afraid to fail.

Yesterday, I was watching an online video of the Mythbusters.  They were trying to test a myth from the movie Hellboy where a speeding car has it’s hood smashed in by Hellboy and goes flipping over.  Kari, Grant and Tory were having problems as the giant metal fist they made and the SUV wouldn’t get into right position at the right time.  Suddenly, I remembered the Mythbusters motto: Failure is always an option.

On the way into school today, I told NHL about this (promising to show him the episode later on).  He remembered other episodes we saw where they tried something and didn’t get it to work.  Specifically, he recalled Adam and Jamie’s Christmas-themed Rube Goldberg device which failed in every way imaginable and a few ways they didn’t imagine beforehand.

Were the Mythbusters frustrated?  Sure.  Were they upset that it didn’t work right?  Of course.  Did they quit?  No.  I told NHL that, when the Mythbusters failed at something, they figured out what went wrong, fixed it as best they could and tried their best again and again and again.  I told him that failing at something wasn’t bad.  Everyone fails at some point in their lives.  It’s how you react to the failure that’s key.  If you cry and whine and never try again, that’s bad.  If you dust yourself off, figure out what went wrong and try again, you’re learning from your mistakes and turning the failure into something useful.

The next piece of advice came after NHL told me that a classmate of his had called him a “loser.”  This hurt me deeply.  As I’ve written about before, I was a victim of bullying for many years.  I thought back to when I was a child hearing insults be thrown my way and thinking that I had no recourse.  I tried to come up with some advice for him.  This was my advice:

Don’t listen to them, NHL.  You aren’t a loser just because someone says you are.  Don’t let their words have any power over you.  If someone puts you down or criticizes you, tune them out.  Ignore them.  Of course, if mom, dad or your teacher say you’re doing something wrong, don’t tune us out.  Pretty much everyone else can be tuned out, though, when they say negative things about you.  The most important opinion is your own.

My Aloha Friday question for today is: What piece of advice have you given your children recently?

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the McLinky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #67

Serious Blog Post

Time for a serious blog post. For the last several months, B and I have been rather quiet about something that has been going on behind the scenes. What started with an innocent Tweet back to someone we didn’t know has now escalated into much, much more. I’ve become nauseous over this entire thing.

An individual believes that we are someone else, someone she knows. Thanks to this, she will not leave us alone. We have blocked her on Twitter and gone to other precautions to safeguard our family.

I can not go into a lot of specifics, but I wanted to let my readers, PR professionals, and companies that I have worked with know what is going on in general terms. Why now? Well, this individual has been threatening to contact you. Via blog contact forms and comments, along with other tactics, she has stated numerous times that she will be notifying you of our so-called "lying ways to get free items."

B and I have worked long and hard to build trusting relationships with everyone on our blogs and beyond. We hope that you will work with us while we try to get this matter taken care of.

Thank you for your support.

Aloha Friday: Online Versus Offline Socialization

This week, NHL had swim lessons.  Usually, we all go and I play with JSL while NHL learns how to swim.  This time, though, NHL’s Hebrew school had an open house at the same time.  So we divided the chores.  B went to the open house, JSL went to stay with B’s parents and I went with NHL to his swim class.

While watching NHL go in and out of the pool, I looked around me.  I was surrounded by parents of kids around NHL’s age.  This was my peer group.  I always complain of not having any offline friends to hang out with, so why not make some friends here?

Yet, there I sat.  I was tweeting effortlessly with people online, but offline I barely managed a two sentence small-talk with someone who I overheard was sending his child to the same child care center that NHL went to.

I had a similar experience in BlogHer.  There were plenty of decent conversations that I engaged in, but when I was outside of my comfort zone, I just sat there and kept quiet.  I wanted to join in the conversations, but it was like my brain froze up and could offer nothing to converse about.

At least partially as a result of the bullying I suffered through, I’ve always struggled with face-to-face communications.  I’ll be paralyzed in fear that something I say will be completely wrong, inappropriate, unfunny, etc.  I’ve worked hard to suppress and surmount that fear, but parts of it will always be with me.  It’s just one of the ways that bullying has made me weaker, not stronger.

Meanwhile, the Internet has been a godsend.  By removing the face-to-face aspect, I become a much more confident and social individual.  If I send out a tweet and realize it was a bad joke, I shrug my shoulders and send out another tweet.

My Aloha Friday question for today is: Do you find that you are much more social online than offline?

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the McLinky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #61

It Is Not Your Fault!

Ok, I was going to write about my weekend.  The things I did with my boys and stuff.  But then I read this blog post and suddenly those other topics can wait.

The basic gist of the article is that bullying takes two to work.  The bully and the bullied.  The author says that if the bullied kids would simply fight back, bullies would move on to someone else.  He also declares that bullying is a fact of life and parents who come to their children’s aid in cases of bullying are only making the situation worse.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a quote from the article:

Every time you intercede on your child’s behalf or appeal to the school system, every time you negotiate for more impotent rules to attempt to govern the behavior of other people’s kids, every time you whisk your child away from an unpleasant situation without encouraging them to solve it for themselves, every time you give away your child’s power to stand up for themselves to a teacher, monitor, lawyer, principal, you make them that much weaker and more vulnerable to bullying, especially when they’re very young. It’s akin to blasting your immune system with antibiotics every time you get a runny nose. The immune system’s ability to fight back is never tested and strengthened, and when some serious illness comes along, your body completely caves in. The same exact principle is at work every time you swoop in to rescue your child.

The bolding is his, not mine.  According to him, if NHL is bullied in school, I should tell him to just be a man and punch the kid in the nose.  That’ll stop the big, bad bully real quick.  I guess then I should crack open a beer and yell at my wife because dinner is three minutes late.  Sorry, for a minute there I was transported back to the 1950’s.  Bullying is a complex subject and one response definitely does not fit all.  It definitely isn’t as easy as “buck it up and fight like a man.”

I hate to play the “you can’t understand unless you’ve been through it” card, but to properly appreciate how a bullied kid feels you really have to have been bullied in the past.  I would recommend reading through my My Bullied History series to get a better picture, but I’ll give a quick rundown of where I was mentally and socially in high school.

By high school, I had already been bullied by my teacher and the person I regarded as my best friend.  As such, I had taken a “don’t ask for help, take care of it yourself” attitude.  My classmates were by and large friendly to me, but there was a group of kids who decided that it was fun to torment me.  They would follow me from class to class shouting insults at me or laughing at me when I tried altering the route I took to avoid them.  They would get to my class before me (on the times they didn’t follow me around) and block my entrance.  While I tried to push my way through them, they would heckle me.  Every day was filled with dread over what torment they would visit upon me.

The rest of my classmates either didn’t notice this or turned a blind eye to it.  Nobody stood up and told them to stop.  In my mind, at the time, I had no allies.  It was me versus 6 guys.  Physically fighting them wasn’t an option.  They would beat me up and then make fun of me more.  Plus, I would likely get in more trouble for “starting” the fight since the bullying would be my word against theirs.

So I took it.  I absorbed every verbal blow and tried not to show the tiniest reaction.  But the reactions were there.  On trips to and from school, I would cringe as I heard kids laughing on the bus.  I was sure they were laughing at me, even when I knew they weren’t.  I don’t think I ever contemplated suicide, but I did think about violence from time to time.  But for a few changes in circumstances, I could have been one of those kids that snaps and goes violent in his school.

So, where did I go wrong according to the blog author?  My parents didn’t intervene (partly because I don’t think I told them the full extent of what was going on) and I didn’t rely on anyone other than myself.  My “do it yourself” attitude should have made me stronger.  So why did I leave high school so emotionally and socially weak?  Why do I feel the repercussions to this day when those bullies stopped being a threat to me over 15 years ago?

I suppose he would say it is because I never fought back.  Well, I did fight back against one bully.  Before the group of bullies incidents, there was a kid who began taunting me before class.  I pulled him by the hand, executed a perfect clothesline maneuver (I was a fan of wrestling back then) and he landed in a row of desks.  Guess what happened?  I got in trouble for violence and another group of bullies took his place.

Had I fought against those bullies, I’d have gotten beaten up.  Why would they stop bullying me if they knew I couldn’t physically hurt them when they were together?  They could rely on one another for support.  (When I passed just one of them in the hall by themselves, they didn’t say anything to me.)  If I landed a punch on Bully #1, Bully #’s 2 – 6 would have landed punches on me.  Who could I rely on for support?  My classmates who didn’t seem to care if I was bullied?  My parents who didn’t intervene?  My teachers who would only get involved if I got violent?  It was just isolated, socially awkward me versus the bullies.  There was no support network backing me up.

I should correct that.  There was one person.  My best friend, G, who listened to me talk of the emotional damage I had from the bullying.  He wasn’t bullied himself and so initially wrote it off as me being dramatic.  But as time went on, he began to see that I wasn’t pretending but was really hurting.  He happened to be on speaking terms with my bullies and talked with them.  Risking being targeted himself, he told them what was happening.  They (apparently) were just “having fun” and didn’t think of the consequences.  When confronted with the truth of what was really happening, they backed down.

So, in the end, my bullying problem was solved not by a big showdown in the schoolyard, not by fists flying, not by some misguided “immune system” comparison, but by a support network.  My friend was my sounding board, keeping me from going off the deep end.  He took action to stop the bullying.  If it wasn’t for him, things would have turned out a lot differently.

The real solution to bullying isn’t simple, but one big component is support.  Kids, talk to your parents.  Talk to your teachers.  I know it seems like they won’t know anything about what you’re going through, but they might surprise you.  Even if they haven’t personally experienced bullying, though, a sympathetic ear can do a world of good.  Parents/Teachers, be there for your kids/students.  Talk with them about how you can work together to solve the problem.  And to all of the kids who aren’t being bullied, keep your eyes and ears open.  If you see bullying, report it.  Anonymously, if you must, but report it.  Even better, talk to the bullied kid.  Let them know that what is happening to them is wrong and you’re there for them if they need help.  The bigger and stronger a support network that a bullied kid has, the less damage that a bully can do.

Solid Exterior… Crumbling Within

Long ago, I learned the fine art of presenting a solid exterior to the world.  I was bullied relentlessly and any emotions I showed regarding this only brought more bullying upon me.  So I clammed up.  I hid my pain and anger from the world (except for my closest friend) and pretended as if I were a brick wall.  No matter how much I felt like my entire world was crashing down around me, I made it look like I was the most solid person in the room.  Or, at least, I tried my best to make it seem that way.

In college, all I wanted was to be "normal."  Everyone around me was dating so I wanted to date.  I had no idea how to go about this so I clumsily made my way through those four years with a solid exterior/crumbling within.  Every person holding hands, every quick kiss in the hallway, every conversation about significant others chipped away at me inside.  I had a few breakdowns, a few times when I let my crumbling exterior show, but I would erect a new "solid exterior" the first chance I got.

Fast forward to the present day.  As I posted on, NHL has been diagnosed with some behavioral issues.  We strongly believe that I share these issues.  In other words, he inherited them from me.  Add this to the growing list of "Ways I’ve Screwed Up My Son’s Life Through Genetics."  Intellectually, I know this isn’t my fault.  It’s not like I said "Hey, here’s this bad gene, let’s send that on to the baby.  Here’s a good gene, we’ll hold that back."  Still, I find myself blaming myself for all of this.

Going back to the bullying.  I always figured that it was a quirk of circumstance.  Kids bullied me and so I became an introvert and so kids bullied me more.  But what if it was the other way around?  What if I was introverted because of these behavioral issues and *THEN* kids picked up on it and bullied me?  It might seem like a small technicality, but it is huge to me.

If it was the first one, a quirk of circumstances, then NHL stands a fighting chance of not being bullied like I was.  Of not going through the living hell that I went through day after day after day.  If, instead, it is all traceable to behavioral issues, which NHL has inherited from me, I may have genetically doomed him to the same torture I encountered.  I still feel pain thinking about high school, even though I graduated 17 years ago.  How can I not feel some pain at dooming him to this same fate?

And yet, even now, I put up that solid exterior.  I’m a brick wall, able to take anything thrown at me, at least that’s how I like the world to see me… until I come crumbling down.

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