They Are Only Shoes Little One

While I generally just buy clothes for both the boys for back to school, I let them pick their own shoes. I know their styles enough to know what they like to wear. Both like skinny jeans. My oldest one loves simple t-shirts, video game/novelty tees, and long sleeved thermal shirts/those 2-tone baseball shirts. My younger son is a bit pickier than that, but he rarely complains about what he gets. He especially loves Gap and Nike shirts. The only shirt he really hates wearing is his “I Know I’m In Trouble When They Use My Full Name” shirt. It was appropriate for him and it was funny.

Shoes are all up to them. I won’t buy shoes without them because A) I want to make sure they fit right; and B) They know what they find comfortable. Before going out to get shoes, I asked them what they wanted so I knew where to go to buy them. My oldest knew that he wanted a pair of Chucks, then a custom pair for his birthday. Easy enough. My youngest, first Googled “Cool Sneakers” and decided he wanted a pair that were $900. Nope. That’s not happening. Eventually he decided that he really liked his Skechers GoRuns because they made him “run super fast”. So he wanted a new pair of those.

We took them shopping. My oldest went to a couple of stores before he went back to the first store to buy a pair of blue Chucks, which were hilariously enough the same color as his school’s color and his championship swim coat that he lives in. We went to another store, allowing the younger son to wander around until he found a pair of shoes that he loved. They were a cool pair of blue/neon green GoRuns and he thought they were the coolest shoes he had ever seen. He loved those shoes.

….Until he didn’t. My younger one complained about his new shoes, how he now hated them. “Well, you liked them when you bought them. You’re not getting a new pair.” My son started to get anxious about them. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he mentioned about how his friends were making fun of his shoes because he didn’t have the “right” shoes. He’s 7. I carefully tried to explain to him about how it didn’t matter what they said. That they are only shoes. That he was a person and that shoes didn’t matter. The shoes didn’t make you a better person. They didn’t make you any cooler or more likable. That it didn’t matter what these kids were saying.

I lied. Things like that do matter to other people. They do matter to make people more likable because kids judge other kids on things like that. I know I lied. He knows I lied. But I was right; they were just shoes and he was awesome no matter what shoes he wore. Those weren’t cheap shoes. They were nice, name brand shoes. Mostly because we’ve tried getting shoes from stores like Target and Walmart, and he tears through them in a month. At least the name brand shoes last him a few months before he destroys them.

I told my husband about this. My approach was to just let him wear the shoes, to try building up his self-confidence in standing up for himself. My husband’s approach was “what shoes do the kids say are the right shoes?” I wasn’t surprised. He told me before that he grew up being laughed at for being Asian, because his mom was “different” from the other moms, because he didn’t have the “right brands on”. I was bullied pretty brutally myself growing up. My husband felt that he was going to give them one less thing to bully his son about. He couldn’t change the fact that our youngest has anxiety or was “too Asian” or that he needs to wear noise-cancelling headphones to function sometimes. But he could change those shoes.

So he did. We went and got him a new pair of sneakers. He considered it a birthday present. Throughout the ride home, we kept trying to reinforce the idea that what other people think doesn’t matter. If you like your shoes, then they can buzz off. That it only matters if he’s a good person, a kind friend, and a compassionate individual. He didn’t care. He could only talk about how no one was going to make fun of him for his shoes now…

We’re guilty of spoiling our children. We know that. But I’d like to think my children never rub that in someone else’s face. We try to make sure that they appreciate the nice things that they have, but how they are lucky to have it. That not everyone is that lucky. That doesn’t make them better than anyone else. And when you have more, you are supposed to give back more. I see my oldest one taking these lessons, slipping money into donation bins or asking to buy things from a shopping list for donating to charities. We make sure that we donate grocery bags to charities during the holidays or donating here and there for various causes, and putting our kid’s names on the paper. This way they can feel proud that they helped.

It’s hard to be a mother when something like that happens. It’s hard not to want to be petty and buy the most expensive pair of shoes that you can to help your kid one up the ones making fun of them. It’s hard not to let your kids see how angry you are when these things happen. It’s hard not to do everything that you can to prevent bullying from affecting your children. But at some point, you need to realize a couple of things. One is that you need to do what you can to help their self-confidence. The other thing is that you can’t control the fact that other kids are going to bully your kid. It sucks and there’s only so much that you can do about it. They are only shoes, after all.

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Standing Up for Journalistic Integrity: Even You Can Do It

Over the weekend on my social media, I did something that was questionable in nature. As a ghostwriter, you’re not supposed to really talk about your projects. In this case, the work around to this in my head was that since I refused to do the project, I wasn’t necessarily locked into the secrecy of it. The important part is.. that I refused to do this article. Was that money that I wasn’t going to be getting? Sure, but as I mentioned here, it was probably only about $4 that I was saying “No” to. Would that have mattered? I’d like to think that I would have said “No” even if it were more than that.

I wrote a small little 35 page book called “How Not to be a Bully“. I didn’t write this to make a fortune off of it. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I mostly wrote it to get those thoughts off of my chest about how awful things had gotten in America at that point. I wrote it around when the Trump election happened, not because I was so emphatically against him that I needed to insult everyone associated with him. It was because I was so disgusted how people were treating each other on both sides of the party lines. People were downright hateful to one another. It was appalling to me. Did I agree with his politics or think that he should be president? Absolutely not. (It’s a shame that I have to point this out, but I also felt the same way about Hilary Clinton. I didn’t think either were a good choice for America.) But, I respect the office. I respect that this is America, and everyone has their right to their own opinion.

Since then, I’d like to think that I have made my blog a statement on anti-bullying. That I was clear that people need to stop being toxic to each other. That we as a country need to do better. To do anything other than this would be hypocritical of me. It would ruin my journalistic integrity to do so. My platform is one of acceptance across the board, from political parties to whatever consenting adults do with their lives. If it doesn’t effect my life, I don’t care. You do you.

So when I was asked to write an article that was supposed to be for the sole purpose of insulting another human being, I refused. Did I agree with this Democrats thoughts and ideas? While there are some that I think are articulate and make sense, on a whole absolutely not. She goes too far. Does this mean that I’m going to write an article about her being an idiot for the sole purpose of belittling her for entertainment? Again, absolutely not. I will not bully a person of any political party… or any person in general, just to entertain people. I won’t. I would never. That goes against who I was raised to be. I’d like to think that my parents raised me with a little bit more respect for others than that.

I didn’t write the article. The mainstream media may be all for tearing people down who they don’t agree with, but I don’t. I have the one thing that these so-called journalists lack: integrity. Had the article been about disproving her political stances, or nabbing her on policies, I would have written the hell out of it whether I agreed with that or not. But the minute that you ask me to publicly insult someone for sport, I won’t do it. Maybe this can start a small trend of other people standing up for what’s right.

A Lesson in Humanity… and Practicing What You Preach

Normally I post my “normal” rantings blog every Tuesday. Today, I needed to get something off my chest. Because I’m disgusted and I am pissed off.

I get the idea of the #walkupnotout movement that has grown in response to the walk out protests that took place at schools across our country. As in my previous post, I agree that the problem is the culture of bullying that seems to exist to such an extreme degree these days. I agree with the sentiment of this movement: make friends and be kind to a person who may be bullied or alone to help them feel better. Anyone who is against that type of cause needs a little lesson in humanity. These calls to end bullying are an important piece to the puzzle of figuring out what is causing these kids to snap and shoot up schools. Without this snapping, there would not be a will to shoot up schools.

This movement loses something for me when a person who posts this in response to posts about walk outs then follow up with “Retards”, “Libtard”, “Dumbass Snowflakes”, “Go Back to Eating Tide Pods”, and “Future Democrats in Training”. (Or really anything derogatory in nature.) Why? Because you are bullying these people for not standing up to bullying or being bullies themselves. I will repeat that, in case I have lost anyone: don’t tell people to stand up to bullying to end this culture of school violence by then bullying them. Try practicing what you preach and set a good example for these children about how they can be better people. They are our future but by saying derogatory things like that, you are showing everyone exactly how we got to this place: because they are taught to be bullies by bullies who also happen to be influential adults in their lives.

Practice what you preach. This is a point that needs to be continually made. Teach the next generation to be kind by showing them to be kind. Teach them to form their own opinions and beliefs by letting them figure it out for themselves, whether you agree with it or not. Let them have their own voice, not just recycle yours. Don’t bully kids and wonder why they bully other people. Teach our next generation a lesson in humanity that will last them a lifetime and that they will pass on to the next generations.

 

When You Come Across a Childhood Bully

The past is the past, except for when you come face to face with it. I, for the most part, don’t hold anything against those “minor” bullies in school. High school was a lot better for me in this regard than middle school. Middle school was an absolute nightmare, one that I wish I could say I never think about. I do. Not often, but sometimes a memory hits and it feels like I’m in those middle school halls all over again. I can probably pinpoint this as one of the worst set of years of my life and admit that most of my problems started then. One bully, among the worst in my early years of middle school, apologized profusely for his behavior at our class reunion and I forgave him. We drank together for a few moments afterwards and I wish I could say that this healed the wound. It didn’t. But it made it a bit easier to not want to punch him any time I saw him after that.

That’s the problem with bullying though, right? The fact that it could be many years later and ultimately you still have a vivid memory of it. You can feel the sadness and embarrassment that you felt in that moment. People say that it builds character, and it does. It made me a stronger person today, albeit one that has a low tolerance for other people and someone who really feels uncomfortable around people. I’m socially awkward and closed off emotionally, and they are the reason for that.

Last year for NaNoWriMo, I was going to write about this. I was going to face these demons once and for all, discussing it in a journal form to pass it off as a “work of fiction” when really it was just an effort to get it out and forget it for good. I couldn’t. I tried, and I couldn’t. I quit because quitting was much easier than facing the truth.

That’s the real problem, right? Bullying scars the victim and they will remember it for many years. But does the bully share those scars? Maybe I would feel better if I thought they did. Now that today bullying is infinitely worse than when we were kids, I sympathize with them. The difference is once I got home, it was done until the next day when I had to suck it up and go back to school the next day. Today, people have social media and smartphones to continue their power trip that bullying gives them. Parents used to tell their kids “they are only bullying you because they are jealous of you” or “because they have awful lives so they have to take someone down with them”. As well-intentioned as these sentiments are, it doesn’t help. I was fortunate that eventually I had a group of friends that stood up for me and helped me get removed from the situation, one of which I have recently reconnected with. They may never know how grateful I am to them, but I am.

What’s the point of all of this? Bullying is a problem that needs to be better addressed than it is today. I can’t be the only one that still is haunted by this past. I could be, but something tells me that I’m not. I’ve (hopefully) given my children the tools that they need to stand up for themselves, but I know that no matter how much I try to prepare them for this it can inevitably happen. With the world becoming a crueler place, we have to start fixing this somewhere.

But Boy, Am I Tired

I’m tired. I am tired that we live in the world we live in right now. My latest release, a short story, was supposed to make me feel better about the social climate of the world right now. “How Not to Be a Bully: The Guide to Being Kind That We Shouldn’t Need” was inspired by this hatred we seem to have towards each other. It needs to stop. It has to stop. Our future generations are depending on this to stop now. They are going to be poisoned and the future will be full of people who think that a reasonable conversation is one where people hurl insults because the other doesn’t agree. What happened to that time when people could sit down across from each other and say “Well I believe this and this is why” and the other would say “Well, I don’t and this is why”? Is that really so hard?

Over the weekend, my family (I include my husband’s family as my own) took the annual trip up to this gorgeous orchard in the mountainside for apple picking. After having a great time enjoying the Pats game on my phone while picking apples, we went to the car to drop off the apples to sit around the stunning view and enjoy ourselves. (Even living in Massachusetts, the views here never get old.) As we were walking back, we heard screaming then saw a truck angrily pull over and everyone started piling out of the vehicle. I didn’t know what was going on until I noticed the signature red hat that we are all familiar with. That’s right, two grown men got in a fight about politics in a place where families are trying to enjoy their Sunday afternoon. Apparently the anti-Trump person said something to the Trump truck group and the Trump truck group felt the need to pull over, pile out of the truck, and get aggressive back. I told them to please not swear in front of my child and the Trump person turned on me. “It’s that f_ing snowflake’s fault. He disrespected me.” “When you got out of the car instead of ignoring it, you became just as guilty. Grow the hell up.” The very kind woman at the orchard apologized and asked the group to get back in their truck and to leave. The other guy, just as guilty in this for starting it and continuing it, should have also left for being a nuisance. He said it started over the other guy insulting his wife. My opinion: Ignoring people is a lot better for everyone. I again ask “Is being kind really so hard?”

Instead, we live in a world where people are constantly putting each other down. It is easier, I suppose, to lump everyone in with hateful words rather than being open-minded. We all are entitled to having a specific set of beliefs. I really like to hope that people can sit down with each other and have a reasonable conversation without the terms “racist Republicans”, “snowflakes”, or “libtard” ever being mentioned. It’s a foolish dream, but one that I have no less.

The thing is… this is not something that we can’t achieve. It can happen if people learn to put their pride aside, stop thinking that they are smarter or better than anyone out there, and just listen to another perspective. As the expression goes: “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.”

I can start by making this very simple for you. No, not all Republicans are racist, uneducated, misogynistic white men. There are some but that does not mean all of them are. Not all Democrats are “snowflakes”, whiny liberals who are offended by everything. There are many people who are offended by everything, on both sides of the aisle and many “whiny” liberals but not all Democrats are any of those things. Independents are not wishy-washy people that can’t choose a side. These are people who realize that both sides have their flaws and would rather vote on political stances rather than a political party. I am a proud Independent and I know exactly how I feel on every political topic and that is what decides my vote. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Catholics are pedophiles. Not all Puerto Ricans and minorities want to live off of welfare rather than work. Not all cops are corrupt murderers. However, all politicians lie. That is a fact that we can agree with. (Just kidding… there may be one or two out there that don’t.)

The point is that this is getting out of hand. We’re Americans, dammit. We have the right to an opinion without getting insulted for it. If someone is telling you something, you can fact check them. However, that doesn’t mean a person is insulting rather they are just trying to point out that you may be missing some information that can be helpful for making an informed decision on any topic. If you don’t want to listen, that’s your right but in neither case should anyone spend any effort insulting each other. What does that even prove? That the other person is right about their preconceived notion of who you are? We’re better than that. We have to be better than that. (Shameless promotion incoming) This is the whole point of my short story, which is now available in eBook format on Amazon.

I Should Feel More Shocked

I’ve realized in a short time that reading certain things on the news doesn’t shock me. A politician involved in a cheating/stealing/conning scandal? Racism and Homophobia still exist? I don’t think I’m the only one who can read the news and read appalling news articles without batting an eye; we’ve become desensitized to a lot of horrible activities.

Often times when I’m at a loss of what to write about, I read around the news articles to find something that seems worth it. Some days this takes forever, and I end up picking up inspiration elsewhere. Today, it took me all of 4 minutes to discover something so revolting it needed to be mentioned. Sadly, reading more into it I was angrier than I had been in a while. Most importantly, I felt angry that I wasn’t more shocked that something like this occurred. A part of my short story collection is a piece about bullying and I assure you this will find its way in there.

Bullying occurred all the time growing up. I was bullied; I’m pretty sure everyone I know experienced some form of it. Things were different then, it wasn’t as malicious as it is today. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a result of social networking and easy access to media or if it’s a result of our culture just being crueller than it used to be. I’m leaning towards a combination of the two, but that doesn’t matter at all. Locally two younger teenagers received attention for committing suicide, a girl even made national news for her death and both blamed on bullying. That’s disgusting enough, but I promise the story I read even surpasses that in how awful our society has become.

Right on my Yahoo! Page, I see a story of a girl who was taunted and died. I blindly went into it and discovered that this girl my son’s age died of Huntington’s disease, which was sad enough for me. Reading further, I saw that her neighbor was bullying her and doing horribly cruel things. Disgusting right? Then I saw the kicked and I saw how awful this story would really become: The neighbor responsible for this was an adult, a mom. I regret to use the word adult for this, that person was just an overgrown teenage bully. I read in horror that she made pictures of the girl with skulls and crossbones, her and her mother (who died of the same disease a few years earlier) as a grim reaper holding a baby all on the social media. As if that wasn’t appalling enough, she would drive a truck around the neighborhood with a coffin attached to it. As if I didn’t lack enough hope in humanity, I read this.

I couldn’t say I wouldn’t sink low enough to hunt down someone who would do the same to my child and physically harm them. I think that’s a natural instinct any parent has. It pains me to see how her children will grow up; she did more than just emotionally assault a dying girl. She potentially is raising her children to be vicious and heartless bullies too. This is why the bullying cycle starts.