Learning to Be an Includer

Experiencing bullying at school is traumatic. When a child comes from a loving, stable family with empathetic parents, it is still hard on a child. When a child comes from a family system that is authoritarian or neglectful, the distress is even worse; often there is bullying ongoing in the home as well, and the people from whom a child would get support don’t provide it.

As a parent, when my child encounters “mean girl” (or “mean kid”) behaviors, I struggle often with my own wounds from childhood. I did not have an empathetic, supportive family, because bullying also occurred within our home. All the parts of myself that I call “young stuff” — that didn’t get needed support — burst to the surface. Sometimes I parent from a state of panic and urgency. I’m working on this.

This article, Raising Girls Who Are Includers Instead of Mean Girls, felt timely and wise. I related to the author’s experiences in childhood and enjoyed reading how those experiences created in her a desire to become an “includer.”

She wrote a list of stories she hopes our daughters will someday say as they reflect on how we supported them during their struggles. I’m sharing here so I can return to it, to read and remind myself of my aspirations.

I hope all our girls will someday share stories like:

~ “My mom would listen to me as she stroked my hair, as she lingered with me and I shared what was happening and how I felt.”

~ “My mom wouldn’t jump in and try to fix it. She wouldn’t freak out and panic out of her own fears and hurts and unconscious stuff she was holding. She would sit with me and ask me for my ideas and what I needed. She would wait and listen – listen to what’s said and unsaid, creating safe space for me to navigate the inner landscape of my own feelings and heart so that the right actions for me to take would arise from within me.”

~ “My parents would advocate for and alongside me in situations that required adult intervention. They wouldn’t act out of fear or anger. They would wait and discern and pray and watch.”

~ “My mom wasn’t about ‘sweeping me up and saving me.’ She was about empowering me. She knew when to step in front of me and be the mama bear, protecting me. And she knew when to sit behind me or alongside me, abiding with me.”

~ “I learned to say, “THAT’S NOT OK!” and “Stop” and “I am walking away now.”

~ “I learned how to see clearly. I learned to not think there was something wrong with ME. I learned to not turn on myself but rather have regard for myself.”

~ “I learned to name with compassion – for myself and others – what is happening. I learned to name it, state it, and own my response.”

~ “I learned ways of working through difficulties with other girls and women in ways that honor and regard each girl and woman’s body, feelings, experiences and needs.”

~ “I learned to find my tribe of women. I learned to ask for help. I learned to be with others who uplift and honor each other.”

~ “I learned to speak up. I learned to speak up for myself and for others in the face of injustice – on the playground, in the hallways between classes in middle school, or in international peace negotiations.”

~ “I learned to be an includer. I learned to mindfully abide with whatever I am experiencing within my own inner landscape. And from such a place of inclusion, I learned to include and walk beside others.”

-Lisa McCrohan

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