“Toco the Toucan, he had a bad day
How the other birds teased him
When he hopped at fly play.”
—Kevin Grossman & Jerry Tanner, You Can Do What A Toucan Can Do Too!
self-proclaimed crier, yes, but it was just supposed to be fun. To participate in the class "mystery reader" program where, leading up to my designated time to read, daily clues were presented to the kids to see if they could figure out who the reader would be.
And this time, it be me. Beatrice had no idea, even after I was the one who brought her to school that morning of my reading. I waited in the school office and then two of her classmates came to get me and escort me back to the classroom.
Beatrice beamed when she saw me. Some of her classmates recognized me since I had coached them in T-ball and soccer, whispering, "I knew it was Beatrice's dad." I sat down in the rocking chair the teacher uses for guests and reading and said good morning.
Over 20 six and seven-year-olds from various backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures gazed back at me with curious smiles. This budding microcosm of the greater world around us, at least of the California Bay Area, filled me with hope that positive living without the haters of happy may just prevail someday.
Aspirational I know. Always the hopeful hoper I am. But at some point, if not already, these kids will tease and be teased because of misunderstood yet reconcilable differences. That unconditional rite of passage that so many of us experience. And not only teased, since there will be those who bully and get bullied, especially in world that gleans joy from online anonymity and trashing others. Haters gonna hate and all that crap.
One of my favorite podcasts is called Reply All from Gimlet Media, and last year they did a couple of episodes about Yik Yak, the application that allows users to communicate anonymously with anyone within a 10-mile radius. The episodes revealed how Yik Yak was/is being used to target students at universities with some pretty horrific racism. Haters gonna hate and all that death threat crap.
The Internet tagline Yik Yak uses is "Yik Yak makes the world feel small again by giving you a feed of all the casual, relatable, heartfelt and silly things people are saying around you." Contradictory to how many wield their anonymous trashing power, but these kinds of applications and platforms, including the big Facebook, will tell you their just the vessel and delivery mechanism. They say they encourage positive communication and that they will shut down inappropriate and dangerous posts and discussion threads.
It doesn't always happen unless there's a lot of public and media attention around horrific bullying that occurs online (and off), and sadly it sometimes takes the victim's demise to course correct. But in all fairness to social media platforms, of which I'm a really big consumer, they can be used to share and spread positive messages by people who do reveal themselves and don't hide in the cowardly shadows.
One of my Facebook friends posted recently (and sarcastically):
I have started and stopped, written and erased, about 10 posts this morning. All of them brilliant. Take my word for it.
But I'm just not willing and able to put up with the inevitable backlash, trolling and counter-arguments.
The Facebook won.
Right on, Brother. And we're all supposed to be the personally responsible adults who don't troll and hate. Right?
Thankfully Kidpower, the global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education that the Mama works for, offers eight important skills on how to face bullying with confidence.
Skill #2, which is all about "leaving in a powerful, positive way," recommends that the best self-defense tactic is called "target denial." In other words, "don’t be there." Or as I like to call it -- change the channel, kids. Turn the channel and don't give "them" any more power than they already have. I do it all the time, especially online. This doesn't mean I wouldn't face an oppressor and stand up for myself, and there are many options and flavors of defensive responses including physical self-defense if ever needed.
Of course I didn't think about all these things while reading my book to Bea's class, but the emotion welled up when I read the line:
Although I can’t fly like all of the rest
I believe in myself
I’m not second best.
I really believed that when I wrote it, which was a couple of years before we had the girls. I believed it growing up, through all the family dysfunction and violence, and I still believe it today. As I read the story aloud, holding the book up with my left hand so the kids could see the pages, my peripheral vision embraced the new hope in front of me that someday would know the difference between hate and empathy and positive dissension, and could help to counter incivility, bullying and violence.
Good God, I'm surprised I don't have more haters of happy with the positive approach to life I not only write about, but try to live as well, as much as I can. I know how to change their channel, or to confront when need be. The incremental mindfulness and meditation I've been investing in is certainly paying off. Amen to that. Plus, the Mama channeling Kidpower continues to remind me that, no matter how horrible they can be, even the haters of happy should never be second best.