No Longer Competing

I’ve seen posts, read memes, and watched lessons from women, to women, about not competing with other women. It resonated with me and I often felt like “I got it” – as in the message overall.

I got it, that is, until I felt like I was put in competition with another woman. Through choices not my own, and secrets I discovered unexpectedly, I was at odds with a woman I didn’t even know. At the moment I was most consumed, I wanted to be just like her. At the moment I was fighting the hardest, I wanted to be exactly the opposite of her. Regardless, I wanted the attention she was receiving, because to me it was supposed to be the attention I was receiving.

On top of my own over thinking mind to combat, I was also a little more than half way through my final pregnancy – just pregnant enough to not feel the glow, teetering on the point where I was starting to feel down on myself about the reflection in the mirror.

It’s hard to compete with someone you don’t even know. If you’re an over thinker like me, you might even make them someone they are not.

Through unconventional methods, I learned more about who she was, at least on some level. But the more I learned, the more I felt like she was someone I would call a friend. Imagine my shock the more I learned, the more I liked, the more I thought of her as someone I’d like to really know – without being hidden behind a weird veil.

I had to come clean, and I did. I expected the worse, and that’s not what I got. There is a level of weirdness that I cannot deny, but she accepted me even after I admitted being absolutely nuts. I was able to see that she wasn’t who I made her up in my mind to be.

And in a moment where I found myself lending a hand at her request, I really got it, for the first time. I’m competing with no one but myself. I want to be better than I was yesterday and yesteryear. But I’m not really trying to be better than her, or her, or her, or her. This newfound awareness of who I’m playing against has changed the narrative for me all week. I look at other women differently than I ever have before.

The comparisons I created are silenced quickly when I remind myself that I’m only trying to learn and do better today than I did yesterday. I have found a freedom to say hello, to be warm, to be welcoming. I have found freedom to offer myself honestly, to answer questions less guarded. I have found new freedom in my writing, my living, my parenting, my being.

Thank you for accepting me when it seemed least likely you would. Thank you for choosing kindness when another choice would have made sense. Thank you for showing me a better way. Thank you for the freedom you helped me to find.

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Your Voice Matters

This is a simple request. If your life has been affected by bullying – whether you were bullied, you witnessed bullying, you stood up to bullies, or you were the bully yourself, I want to hear your story. I’m including a form, right here, that will deliver your story directly to me, and me only.

You can send your story anonymously, you can include your name, your location, it is all up to you. If you give me permission to use your story on my blog, check the box. If you give me permission to submit your story to our school administration, as an attempt to begin the necessary steps to make a change, check the box.

I want to hear you, I want to hear how bullying has affected your life. You matter, your story matters, and your experiences are valid and vital.

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When They Start Listening

Dear Community,

I am here to put my thoughts and goals down in one place. So many things have been said over the last couple of days, and I am thankful that many people are coming together to have the conversation about bullying, and the dangers of bullying. School should be a safe place for all students, and without doing something about bullying, school doesn’t feel safe for the children targeted by bullies.

First, I want to preface this with my goals/approach with my son. I hope, after hearing what we are doing with him and for him, you will rest easy. My son was expelled for the contents of his journal. The discovery of his journal was multifaceted – the first page, the one turned in, was removed from his journal, after a student took it from his bag to look through it (while he was in the office). Then, when questioned about the page, my son told Mr. Meek about the rest of his journal, and Mr. Meek removed the journal from my son’s backpack and looked through it. (At one point, the student that physically assaulted my son also laughed in his face and told my son, “We got your notebook, you’ll be in more trouble than me.”)

Mr. Meek was right to be concerned about the drawings, the vulgarity, and the anger expressed in my son’s journal. In fact, I’ve never said it was not cause for concern. I have repeated the words a therapist said to me, that if he went through all the notebooks in the school and expelled students all on these grounds, he would have no student body. Mr. Meek said my son could not attend Luther Middle School again until 7th grade, unless he attended in patient treatment. I asked him what our options were if my son did not qualify for in patient treatment, and he said we would not be allowed back until 7th grade if he didn’t go to in patient treatment. Period.

I made the phone calls, completed assessments, and found that my son does not qualify for in patient treatment. In fact, in a moment that was less than professional, one of the mental health assessors said, “If I were you, I would sue the ever-living **** out of that school, that principal, and anyone involved in such an awful decision.”

We have a counselor coming to our home and we are in occupational therapy in a clinic. We are making our narrative about overcoming, even when we struggle, even when life isn’t fair, even when someone or something gets the best of us. We are working toward healing. We are praying for the guidance of our good, good Father as we move forward. We know who we are, and by the very grace of God, we know whose we are.

So, for your peace of mind, and reassurance, my goal is not to send my son back to your school this year. I know the narrative, as it stands, is inciting much fear in all parties. Until we get past that fear, it is hard to have the bullying and mental health conversations that take us from where we are now, to a place of understanding, action, and lasting change.

I also think it is worth noting that at this time, I have no intention of suing the school. It’s been suggested to me by teachers inside and outside of the LPS District, a mental health professional, a police officer, and countless parents that have listened to our story. I do not believe suing the school is the right catalyst for change, and I refuse to believe that the only way to make them listen is to financially burden a school operating in a financial deficit. Court costs money, money I believe should be spent on our students and the teachers that serve them.

On to my next point – the reason and goal behind why I am still involved in these discussions and why I am petitioning for change in the LPS District.

My why: Bullying affects the victim, the perpetrator, and the bystanders for years after school ends. In fact, we are learning more and more that bullying in school affects a person, usually quite negatively, through the course of their entire life. I want to prevent bullying in LPS, and have an appropriate action plan to intervene when it occurs. Denying and rejecting the idea or accusation that bullying is occurring in the schools is only allowing it to continue.

It is enough of a problem that another mom has removed her son from the district to protect him because the school would not act on his behalf or help make school a safe place for him to learn. You can read more about their story here.

It is enough of a problem that a mom reached out to me, through her friend, to confirm that bullying is an issue in the Luther schools. She didn’t want her name known, or her child’s name known. She was afraid of how much worse the problem would be for them. Her concerns have fallen on deaf ears enough times that she doesn’t see any point even reporting the issues any longer.

Victims are voiceless in this battle, currently.

So you know my why, now let’s start a conversation about how.

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