I had many nicknames, so they were bound to get jumbled at some point. I'm just so pleased those two made such a nice cocktail. My mom called me: sister sue, doodle bug, fairy princess, peach fuzz, babydoll, sugar...and all sorts of other spontaneous cutesy fluffy monikers. The nickname story popped (I accidentally wrote "pooped" at first...that's what happens when you begin with the turd story) into my head as I read this post about keeping your daughter (or son) off the bully train. Author Antastasia Basil (she's hilarious) says this:
"Every morning say to her: Be someone’s discovery of kindness in the world. Say this over and over again. Say it so much that when eye-rolling makes its debut as an Olympic sport, your daughter will compete for the gold."I flashed back to my mom dropping her fairy princess off at school. "Let your light shine!" she would say (paraphrasing Matthew 5:16) as I avoided her eyes and all-knowingly made my way out of the car and into the torture chamber that is middle school. There was no light in middle school. That's how I felt. I recently recollected some of my most scarring middle school moments to my mama and maybe I should have kept them in because she felt horrible that she didn't know the tween anguish I was feeling!
I switched schools between 6th and 7th grade. I actually liked middle school in 6th grade. Since I wanted to desperately take a jewelry class (in which they entrusted 7th and 8th graders with soldering irons and nickel saws), my schedule would only allow me to be in 8th grade lunch. I was a new 7th grader, who knew a total of five 7th graders, and I was plopped in 8th grade lunch.
I knew one 8th grader from swimming, but she was way cooler than me. I sat with her at the cool table and no one talked to me. There was one day when they talked to me but I didn't hear it. It was the National Day of Prayer, which middle schoolers actually know about and were attempting to recognize in Texas. The cool girls were all joining hands to say a prayer. I was on the end of the cafeteria table and couldn't hear the directive/had no idea it was prayer time. A mean girl said, "Oh, you don't want to pray with us? Fine" and they kept me out of the prayer circle. haha. The story makes me laugh now. There's model Christianity, eh? It takes the Mean Girls "You can't sit with us" quote to the next level. I actually would have liked in on the prayer circle, but I decided that day those weren't my prayer circle peeps. I had a few lunches alone in the bathroom stall, until the hall monitor realized I was staying in there for way too long and I wasn't suffering from IBS.
I eventually found a couple of girls who were civilized and treating me like a human being. I sat with them. By 8th grade, I felt liberated because I decided with my two best friends (shoutout to the Willming twins!) that we didn't care if we were each other's only friends. We were sick of buying the right jeans and running in a ridiculous style during gym class to try to be in the cool crowd. (Note: the queen bee at our school ran with her hands limply by her chest - ultimate girly run - and we all tried to run like her. Bahahaha! How ridiculous is middle school?!). So, when I recollect middle school, I guess I should say it didn't all suck-- just 7th grade was THE WORST. Sixth grade was pretty awesome and 8th grade was livable.
So, what does this all have to do with my sweet mama's "Let your light shine"? I think her reminder subconsciously permeated my soul. It seeped into my reluctant adolescent heart and I knew I didn't want to be mean. I wasn't willing to be mean to be popular. I'm not sure if I was a ray of sunshine in middle school, but I sure as heck wasn't a bully. And I thank my mama for her constant gentle reminders of what works and I thank the mean girls for teaching me how bad you can make another human feel with a few words. I never wanted to use my words as daggers. So as Basil's quote goes-- I mastered the eye-roll and would have taken Olympic gold in it after hearing, "Let your light shine" so many times as I conjured up courage to drag my feet into middle school day after day. But geez, thank you, Mama, for that reminder. I probably needed it in those years more than any others.
Thinking about my sweet Skylar's middle school years terrifies me a little. Especially since social media has opened a gateway for criticism that I didn't have to endure in middle or high school. No phone ever for you, Sky girl. She's going to be colossal. She might have days where a bus full of track team boys points at her and says "there goes the MAN" (Yep, that happened to 5'11, 13-year-old me!). She might not know where to sit at lunch. She'll probably still try to wear chunky Steve Madden platform shoes that make her four inches taller, because that's what the trendy tweens are into.
But I plan to send her off into that scary world with her Mimi's four magic words: Let your light shine. Because even if she tries not to listen, those words will reverberate in her mind when she's being shown the darker side of kids' hearts. You can't counter darkness with darkness. Those kids are just blindly spitting fire. Light the way so they might crawl out of their own dark insecurities and find unrelenting kindness.
Once I knew only darkness and stillness...my life was without past or future...but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living. - Helen Keller