A little over 2 years ago, I published my most widely viewed blog post ever, An Open Letter to My Daughter’s Bullies. Including, But not Limited to the Mean Girls. It was a very small glimpse into my own private pain and thoughts towards my daughter’s bullies and the heartbreak it was causing our entire family. Today marks an anniversary of sorts– It was 3 years ago on this day that Casey reached her breaking point and left public school for a year and a half to be homeschooled. Recently she was asked to write a letter to her 13 year-old self, and that’s what I’ve posted here today. While parts of her letter are difficult, as a mom, for me to read, I could not be more proud of who she has become–as a young woman, as a person, as a writer. You’ve come a long way, baby~ and this is just the beginning…
Life doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. It doesn’t mean it’s pleasant. But you’re going to be able to handle it. You’ve already gone through some tough stuff. Some might say too tough. And they might be right. You’re going to go through things heavier and darker than you deserve. And again, you’ve already braved circumstances that you’re too young to have to deal with. You’re only 13. But you’re going to get through all this. How do I know all this? Because I’m you. The 16 year old you. Believe me, I know that life just feels too heavy and hard and hateful right now for you to bear. But you don’t see the hope in store for you and you don’t see the wonderful things coming your way.
Right now, you can’t look past the rejection. You can’t see ahead of the depression that’s so mercilessly eating away at you these days that you’re living through. You’re unable to overlook the sting of your bullies’ cruel words. You’re unable to look past the constant crying, the restless nights, the disturbing nightmares, the weight of that hopeless feeling. But there’s a bottom line to all that– it’s NOT YOUR FAULT.
You’re not to blame for your own trauma. You are not to blame for being unwanted and unaccepted by your peers. You are not accountable for the eye rolls, the girl that trips you in the locker room, the boy that hits you and shouts verbal abuse at you, the girl that says that you never do anything right, the girls that say that they hate you and that they don’t even want you in the same school as them. These are merely actions carried out by hurting people, even though their own pain does not justify their abuse on you.
You are only responsible for you. Make sure you take care of yourself, whether it means crying and letting it out or if it means finding the good in yourself, because there’s more to love about you than you realize. And there’s more hope for your future that you won’t get to know until the actual time comes. You ARE going to bloom and thrive and mature. But most importantly, you WILL learn to love yourself. You don’t know how that feels yet, but that’s okay. After the hate and dreariness you’ve endured, even thinking about loving yourself is excruciatingly challenging. But your craziest, wildest, most beautiful dreams are going to become a REALITY. Your soul and mind will be at an almost alarming peace. You will make friends that love you and accept you 100 percent for who you are. And you’re going to find a long-deserved happiness that you’ve never known before. There will come a day when you don’t question your presence on this beautiful nightmare we call Earth. There will be a day where you know that you deserve better than arms lined with self-inflicted scratches. There will be a day where you can look in the mirror and love the strong girl smiling back at you. Hang in there. There’s hope ahead even though you can’t see it. Yet.
I was humbled and overwhelmed by the response to my last post, An Open Letter to My Daughters Bullies. Including, But Not Limited to the Mean Girls. Thank you for your support, your re-posts, and all the love and encouragement you sent our way! It meant so much to me, and to Casey, as well. I was struck by the number of you who told me your own stories of having been bullied and stories of the way your children have suffered and been victimized. But it’s that last phrase, “victimized”, that compels me to write a follow-up blog; Because even though Casey was, perhaps, a victim at the time, that isn’t the case today and that blog wasn’t the end of the story.
Casey is thriving. Period. Although ideally, she would rather be in school, not having to contend with so much high school level drama, intolerance, and exclusion has been a huge relief for her. It’s given her mental and emotional space to bloom. She feels free. She feels relieved. But best of all, she’s happy. She currently has a 95 average. She understands her math. (Sorry, this may be my own issue here…I’m always totally impressed when people understand Algebra. And any math. This could be why I married an accountant.) She has kept up with cello through private lessons. She takes Karate. She attends a youth Bible Study and Youth Group at our church . She’s part of a weekly home school co-op group with other high school students where she participates in a Phys Ed class and takes two other courses- American Government, and Literature- in addition to her own 9th grade academic schedule. She absolutely loves it. This past weekend, a treasured girlfriend invited Casey to her school’s Homecoming Dance- an event that she was originally very disappointed at the thought of missing. It is priceless that this friend thought of Casey and knew how much it would mean for her to still have the chance to go. She had a blast.
It has not changed her. Bullies have not changed her. It hasn’t ruined her. She is not a victim. Was she hurt? Yes. Was it painful? Yes, and still is some days. Would I rather it wasn’t part of her story? Absolutely. But if you ask her about it, she’ll tell you she’s stronger for it. Kinder yet, if that’s possible. She is the girl who will notice someone sitting by themselves and go sit with them and chat because she hates to see them alone. She hates gossip. She hates all things mean. It’s true, I am her teacher. But while I am busy teaching her about life, she’s teaching me what life is all about.
As an end note–If you’ve had a bad day, had your heart broke…or been bullied…there’s a Taylor Swift song for that! And we adore her. Click here to see Taylor’s total victory over her bullies.
On my best days, I pray for you. I feel bad for you. I wonder what your home life has sown into you that is now reaping such ugliness. I wonder if your mom and dad know the things you say and do. Maybe you only have one or the other? Maybe they are the ones you have learned this from? Or would they be shocked and disappointed? I work hard not to judge them. Would they say things like, “This is not how we have raised you”?
I wonder who’s been mean to you. Have you been bullied too? I remind myself that hurting people hurt people and you are simply acting out of your own pain. I feel a spark of compassion for whatever pain you carry and I feel strangely curious about your internal life–Are you mad? Are you sad? Do you know you’re being mean? Is it on purpose? Do you ever feel guilty? Do you ever feel bad? Do you ever think of my daughter and wonder how she feels? Ever? You didn’t have to be her best friend–just friendly would have been enough. But either way, it’s your loss. She would’ve had your back. She’s loyal. She’s kind. She’s true. She’s brilliantly clever and creative. And funny. But apparently those qualities aren’t trending these days.
On my worst days, I hate you.
I hate what you’ve done to my daughter.
I hate the way you’ve made her feel.
I hate the things you’ve said and done– all the eye-rolling, the smirks, the huffs and the knowing looks between you and your friends. The outbursts of laughter at her expense. The way you have excluded her. The way you have made someone so beautiful and shiny and precious feel so ugly and dull and worthless. The school day memories you have stained with a thousand tears. Hers and mine. It’s petty and wrong and right on your level-but it’s human:
There are moments when I want you to be bullied
and excluded and hurt the way she has been.
I don’t understand you. I don’t understand how on earth you have been tricked into thinking your behavior is okay. I wonder where your parents are. I think things like, “The apple must not fall far from the tree” and I wonder if anyone has ever told you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And I think about karma. About what comes around goes around. And I think, I hope you get what you deserve. And then I stop. Because I wasn’t raised that way. Because that isn’t the person I want to be. Because I can’t be the mom I need to be if I’m too busy being bitter and wishing you pain.
But truthfully, most days I don’t have time to let you take up too much space in my head. The day my daughter came home from school sobbing, literally falling through the door and choking out the words, “I can’t do this anymore”, we decided to home school her. That’s right–even though we pay school taxes in one of the most highly ranked districts around, we home school her. You go. She doesn’t. You’ve made the price not worth the cost. The suicide of a local boy last month and the deaths of other kids your age are stunning reminders that for now, we have done the right thing. We have made the right choice.
We are not hiding our daughter from the reality of life–we are protecting hers. I know you are not the first or last mean person she will meet, but we are giving her a reprieve from you.
The school can potentially keep you from being mean by imposing rules and consequences, by initiating expensive anti-bullying campaigns and promoting clever anti-bullying rhetoric, but they can’t make you be nice. And there’s a big difference. They can’t make you like her. It’s not their job to sow love and kindness into your heart so that your life will reap goodness and mercy and grace towards others. But along with reading, writing and arithmetic, that is my job. And I take it very seriously.