Thursday, June 28, 2012

Winners & the Poetry Pact Blog Hop: On Being Bullied

First of all, hooray to the winners of last week's giveaway!  The winners are:

Angie H. 
Kelly Polark
ThroughTheHaze
Juliet P. 

I'll be emailing you about your prizes. Congrats guys!


And now, onto the Poetry Pact Blog Hop. When Angela Felsted asked me to participate in this, I thought, secret pacts? Hush-hush groups that got me through bad times?

All I could think of was this. It's an excerpt from an essay I wrote and never published. There was no group, just my mom. And yes, she got me through one of the worst times of my life. So here we go.


****

In fifth grade, seemingly overnight, my classmates hit that tricky age when a profound difference between generic and designer jeans came into existence. Pretty faces and perfect hair were worth everything. Oddly-named, small, ethnic girls were the least worthy of all.

Suddenly, the girls who’d always made me laugh were laughing at me. I could do nothing right. My clothes were too old. They were too short. I was too short. My house was too square. It was too big.

I breathed. I existed.

My mother watched me, perplexed, as I withdrew at home, lost my appetite, and cried until my pillow dampened with saltwater. I begged relentlessly for new clothes. It was the only thing I might fix, since there was no return receipt on my ethnicity. But money was tight, and Izod shirts were a waste of money on a stupid reptile logo.

The bullying and isolation continued into sixth grade. My “friends” alternated between including and excluding me, based on whims I cannot decipher to this day. When it got to be too much, my mother would sense the overflowing anxiety bubbling in my heart and take me aside after dinner. She’d close the kitchen door, pat the linoleum floor, and let me talk.

Being close to the earth made sense to Mom. In the little house in Seoul where she grew up, the rooms were kept heated with hot stones placed beneath the floorboards. Warmth would rise up, insistent and comforting, whether the family ate dinner or curled up on their flat mattresses for sleep. I remember visiting in second grade, that same year I’d transferred to this school, in awe of my pleasantly toasted rump while my grandmother fed me rice cakes and snuck me pieces of chewing gum.

So now, decades later and hundreds of miles away, we lay with our spines against the tough linoleum, staring at the amber light fixture on the kitchen ceiling. She gave me the space and time I needed to talk. At first, I didn’t say much. But before long, it came out in a deluge. One by one, I’d talk about each girl and detail her personalized brand of alienation.

Mom didn’t say much. I don’t think she knew how to produce the feel-good lines in English to make it all go away. They probably wouldn’t have worked on me, anyway. Instead, she just listened to it all, absorbing the bitterness, fury and despair of her eleven-year old daughter. Occasionally as I talked, I’d see liquid tracks slipping down her cheeks. Night after night, we’d both splatter that perfectly clean floor with the misery that was my social life.

It was then that I first saw, with agonizing clarity, her love for me. In that wretched time of my life, I saw my pain through her eyes and thought, only love could hurt this badly.

What she had to offer wasn’t words. It wasn’t just food, a warm house, clothes, or an education. She couldn’t fix my life then. She couldn’t and wouldn’t apologize for bringing up her three children in land so different from her native home. But she could lay a perpetually warm hand on mine and offer me a bit of sanctuary. She could share my suffering, and show me a wealth of love and acceptance that existed outside that daytime torture.

One day, the hurt miraculously lessened. My classmates and I were thrust into the bustling metropolis called middle school, and the mean girls were diluted into a sea of new faces and new friends. I would find confidence in myself, in increments. I began to suspect I was smart. On certain days of the week or month, I experienced a bizarre, alien contentment in not looking like every other girl. I began to actually believe my mom when she said I was beautiful.

My mother quietly accompanied me into that new era. Warm hands and all, she celebrated the return of my smiles. Though we never again needed that linoleum floor to dispel the bad times (for there would be more to come—it’s life, after all), I would never forget that moment of clarity, that first time I understood her love for me.

Now that I’m older and wiser (though some days I feel too old, and not nearly wise enough), I see my own three children growing up in an era where the same hurts get flung with painful accuracy. Social Survival 101 now has a huge chapter on Social Media Survival as well, and together we’re all trolling through new waters.

I know my kids will have bad days in the social arena. To say that my heart aches in anticipation of these days is an understatement. It’s mothering angina, and yes, it takes my breath away.

When the time comes for them to need me to listen, I'll bring the warm hand and the hard floor.

But most importantly, I'll be there.

****

Thanks for guys for listening.  Candace Granger started a wonderful anti-bullying campaign, the End. It. Now. Project. and it deserves more attention and support, so please check it out. 

Also, check out the wonderful posts in the Poetry Pact Blog Hop. And thank you for stopping by!

51 comments:

Jenny Woolf said...

Great essay, Lydia. Your mother sounds very wise and kind. Although school prepares us for life, it's terrible to watch kids suffer.

I have sometimes wondered how people who were home schooled end up dealing with the nastinesses that inevitably crop up in adult life.

Do kids need to go through all this, is what I am wondering.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Kids are so cruel and selfish at that age. Your mother did a wonderful thing by listening.

Shelly said...

This left me with a lump in my throat. You've captured so movingly the angst of that age and also the passionate and compassionate love of your mom and moms everywhere. Simply lovely.

Louise Bates said...

This was beautiful and heartbreaking - caused the tears to swell in my throat, too. This parenting gig is so much huger than anything I could have imagined. I hope that I can always be there for my girls, even in those times when there are no words.

Karen Lange said...

What a lovely tribute to your Mom! It's interesting what comes of our trials and tribulations, emotional and otherwise. Thanks so much for sharing this, Lydia. It made me reflect on things my Mom did for me. I miss her, and am always grateful for her influence in my life.

Congrats to the giveaway winners!

Have a great weekend,
Karen

Laurel Garver said...

A beautiful and heartfelt post that had me tearing up too. I've honestly blocked out nearly all memories of grades 5 and 6, so they must have been bad. All I can remember is having one joined-at-the-hip best friend each year--different girls, a Cathy and a Kathy.

My daughter is about to hit those late elementary years, and I hope I can take a page from your mom's book and be available, supportive and patient. It is hard to watch your kids struggle.

Jacqueline Howett said...

It was nice to hear in some form your mother was by your side.

Stephen Tremp said...

I'm glad I stopped by today. This is an excellent post and thanks for sharing your life with us. And now you're a doctor and a soon to be published author! How many of your ex classmates can say that?

B.E. Sanderson said...

What a beautiful essay about such a hard time in your life. And what a wonderful tribute to your mother. She did good raising you, and with her teachings backing you up, you'll do an awesome job raising your own children. =o)

Old Kitty said...

Oh Lydia!! This is such a beautiful piece - and a great homage to your mum!!! She looks like she was your rock through such tough times! Glad you sailed through this with her and not on your own! Take care
x

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Mankind is not very kind at most times. And during childhood hardly kind at all. We spurn one another for slant of eye, color of skin, number of zero's in bank accounts ... for all the senseless things that matter not at all.

I am glad you had your mother and her love to ground you at such a harrowing time. Always your friend, Roland

Carol Kilgore said...

Lydia, this is so touching and beautifully written. You brought tears to my eyes.

Em-Musing said...

Glad you revisited the pain to bring us this beautiful, emotional story. Glad your mom was there for you.

Meredith said...

This is just beautiful. What a wonderful way for your mother to show how much she loved you--that image of you two on the kitchen floor is just so moving.

Barbara Watson said...

Beautiful. Both your essay and your mom's love. I hope I can be that kind of mom to my kids.

LTM said...

Ahh, Lydia! You had me crying. My oldest starts fifth grade next year, but she's already experienced the hurt that goes w/the whims of "friends." I hope I'm able to simply listen. :p

((hugs)) <3

February Grace said...

What a beautiful, incredible post and how lucky to have a mom like that. Moved to tears. <3 Thank you for sharing this.

xoxo bru

Krispy said...

Congrats to the winners!

Oh Lydia, thank you for sharing this! It was a beautiful, moving essay and your mom sounds like an amazing woman. Glad she helped you through those tough times and that you ended up being the funny, caring, and wonderful person you are today! :)

Saumya said...

This is so beautifully written, Lydia. You conveyed so much in a small space. I was tearing up when you wrote about you and your mom on the floor. Your mom sounds incredible. I was also picked on in elementary and middle school and your essay captured the alienation that comes with that.

Emma Pass said...

Amazing post, Lydia. Your mum sounds like an incredible lady! Thank you for sharing, and I'm glad you were able to get through those tough times and find your self-confidence.

mooderino said...

That was beautifully put.

mood

Deb Salisbury said...

Hugs, to you and your mom. What a beautiful essay!

I think I'm lucky to be mildly autistic - I didn't understand the point of the bullying, so I just tuned it out. The bullies puzzled me, but didn't hurt me. And since I didn't react, I was no fun to tease.

Angela V. Cook said...

I've been a "momma's girl" my entire life, so I can relate to the type of relationship you and your mother had. My mom was (and still is) the first person I turn to when I need someone to talk to :o)

I'm so sorry you had to go through something like this, but I do believe it makes us stronger and more empathetic towards others later on in life.

This was a beautifully written, moving essay; thank you for sharing it.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Wonderful share, Lydia. And your mom sounds like a jewel. It would have been tempting to console you but she was wise enough to realize the inadequacy of words, and just listen.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

This is a beautiful post. Your mother sounds like a wise and wonderful person.

Carrie Butler said...

Lydia, that was absolutely beautiful. :) Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman. Thank you for sharing this story!

Kelly Polark said...

Oh, Lydia. Your mom is an amazing person and so are you! Thank you for sharing. For some reason, girls are so hard on their fellow female classmates. My daughter has already had friend struggles in third grade. Why do they need to be like that? But all we can do as moms is give unconditionall love and build confidence in our children.
And thank you so much for my prize!

Accidentalwriter said...

Hi Lydia. Your post reminded me of how the human spirit can triumph over the darker side of human nature. I gave my mum a gift - it said - 'Mum's are like buttons; they hold everything together'. I worry for those around us who don't have the support and encouragement to help them through these difficult times. There is no doubt your children will benefit from the insights and wisdom you have gained through your life experiences. How truly blessed they are to have you as their mum - and thus the legacy of one amazing woman continues.

Shelley Munro said...

Kids can be so cruel, Lydia. I'm sorry you had to go through this, but your mother sounds so cool. The perfect person to have on your side.

Liz Fichera said...

I had a similar experience in 5th grade but the reasons I was bullied were different. My mom was there for me too. *Hugs*

Linda Gray said...

That was a beautiful story, Lydia, and your mom is an amazing woman. I don't think I could have survived my growing-up traumas (which came in my teens) without my mom's unconditional love, either. Your story touched me deeply.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great post, Lydia. Your mom sounds wonderful, just like you. Thanks for sharing this post.

nutschell said...

this is a beautiful essay, Lydia. Your mom is an amazing woman.

Happy Weekend!
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Angela Felsted said...

*Sniff* This is so beautiful, Lydia. Beautiful and heart rending. I am so sad for what you went through, and yet so happy for the warmth and love shown by your mother. What a beautiful example she set of how to love her children unconditionally.

SA Larsenッ said...

I love how you weaved your experience into the security your mother gave you. I'm so thankful you had her. This is a subject I've yet to fully tackle; at my age, you'd think all that past pain just wouldn't matter anymore. But it does. Maybe someday, I'll share my experience without fear of what others will think. (Geesh, it's amazing how those old feelings can creep up and drag me back to being a sixth grader.)

Thank you for sharing your story so eloquently.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Lydia what a touching story and the best thing a parent can do is listen.

Lydia Kang said...

Sheri, I hope you do write about it someday, even if you don't show it to anyone.

At my age, you'd think I'd be over it too, but I'm not. Some kinds of wounds are built to stay fresh forever, unfortunately. I can tell you that it has definitely affected my life in a permanent way. It's shaped who I've become.

Madeline Sharples said...

This piece is so beautiful, Lydia. I love what you share about your mother. She is so smart. She didn't try to tell you what to do; she just listened. What a wonderful lesson she taught you.

DL Hammons said...

Lydia ~ I started reading this post when you first uploaded it and...quite honestly I'm ashamed to admit...when I read the words poetry pact I tuned out and moved on. Was that a mistake! When I read your comment on today's post about the support for your bullying post, I realized my mistake and returned.

This was so beautifully written that it almost makes you forget about the pain just below the surface. I've become a huge fan of your mom! I can't stand bullying, I mean the hairs on the back of my head are up just thinking about it.

I'm sorry I missed this originally! Thank you for sharing your story!

Liza said...

Such timing. I am just catching up on blogs and I am reading this 30 minutes after my daughter saw on FaceBook that her "best friend" had a "spontaneous" birthday party yesterday that my daughter didn't know about. She was in high school when her "friends" all turned, except for this one "best" friend...she thought. Although my daughter is in college now and has developed other relationships, it still hurts when she comes home to these slights, It kills that still occur. As her mother, I want to claw their eyes out. As her mother, I can't. I can only counsel her to advocate for herself...which is so much more easily said, than done.

Your mother sounds so caring and wise.

Tyrean Martinson said...

This is so beautiful. I love it. My family stood by me through my bullied days . . . although my mom had a tendency to march into the school and make waves that sometimes came crashing back at me in the form of "revenge by bullies" I knew that she cared for me deeply and with a strong protective instinct.

Leslie S. Rose said...

Lydia, this essay touched me deeply. I teach 5th grade and it saddens me to see sweet souls turn into mean girls and boys. Our greatest job as teachers these days is not academic curriculum, it's the social lessons to teach respect for each other's hearts.

Laura Pauling said...

Thank you for sharing. It's so hard to watch your child go through pain like that but we also know it's a part of dealing with kids and society. YOu have a wonderful Mom!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

This is a beautiful essay. I had similar experiences back in middle school, unfortunately. Your mother sounds wonderful!

Sarah (The Book Life) said...

That is so powerful Lydia, and it sounds like you have a truly amazing mother! School is so hard, but having parents who are there for you and will listen to you, is such an important part of getting through it. This is such a great post :0)

Heather said...

It's so heartbreaking what kids put each other through just to fit in. Growing up poor, I went through the same thing. (((hugs)))

LisaAnn said...

Wow, you literally just brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful mother you have, and I love that you are already paying the support forward with your kids. Childhood is so rough; I can't imagine surviving middle school now that technology is part of bullying.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I'm late with this comment (been away from the blogging world), but glad to have found this post. What a lovely tribute to your mom. Kids can be awful to each other, but thank goodness you had such wonderful support, love, and acceptance at home.

Connie Keller said...

I've been away from the blogging world and almost missed this post. But I'm so glad I found it.

What a wonderful mother you had! And I'm so glad that you were able to turn to her and find kindness and comfort.

I experienced terrible bullying in the seventh grade. Now as an adult I wish I'd told someone--things could have been so different.

Emily said...

Thank you for sharing this. My daughter enters 5th grade this fall. Your essay is a great reminder of how listening can be more powerful than words.

Bohlsen Publicist said...

Do you know of any similar poetry blog hops that are ongoing?

 
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