“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
As a young sportswriter, I quickly developed thick skin. It seemed like no one ever agreed with my opinion. No one ever liked what I wrote and I was constantly receiving emails and phone calls telling me how awful I was.
I shed a few tears in the first month.
Then my editor told me I better get a Kleenex and get over it real quick.
“This is sportswriting, kid.”
I sucked it up and lasted six more years as a sportswriter, taking many hits – and a lot of compliments – along the way.
Little did I know that sportswriting would prepare me for motherhood.
Just like in journalism, you need to have thick skin to be a parent. Kids say horrible things sometimes and you can’t take it personally. You won’t survive one day as a parent if you cry yourself to sleep every night over something your 3-year-old learned at day care.
Some of my favorites (and I am not claiming that my kids have said all of these, by the way) – “I never want to talk to you again,” “You are not nice,” “You are mean,” “I hate you” and my all-time favorite, “You are a poopy!”
The last one has been shouted at me by our 4-year-old for about a year now. I know I’m not a poopy so I don’t take it personally.
It’s hard not to laugh, but she says it with so much anger in her voice that I really feel like she wants me to be a poopy. It’s easy to ignore her, but she hates that so she keeps saying it until I respond.
My feelings should have been hurt by now, but they’re not.
As long as my kids aren’t calling their teachers or other kids these names, it’s fine. Who am I kidding? It’s very likely that my 4-year-old has called one of her teachers a poopy in the past year.
Obviously we draw the line at “I hate you,” which, yes, my 4-year-old has said three times in the past several months. I put a quick kabosh on that the minute she whispered those words. Yes, she whispered them because she knew the instant she thought about saying them that it was wrong.
While I might be pretty thick-skinned as a parent, we as a society have to learn to toughen up a bit. A hate crime that involved a racial slur written on a classroom chalkboard was committed in Davis not long ago and a police chief was quoted as saying that “windows can be replaced, but a racial slur leaves a lasting impact on the community.”
I disagree. It’s not likely that anyone will be hurt from some uneducated person posting graffiti on a classroom wall. You have to take the message in context. Was it directed at someone? Was this an isolated incident or a repeat offense? Was it some drunk college student or maybe a transient?
I make my kids pay me 25 cents when they kick a wall while throwing a tantrum. You can call me a poopy 20 times a day, but don’t kick my house.
To go along with the “I hate yous” and “You’re a poopy,” there are a lot of good moments, too. Once my kids calm down, they almost always cuddle up to me and say a very sincere, “I’m sorry, Mommy.”
Those are the moments that far overshadow my days as a poopy.
Angela Borchert is a freelance writer who lives in Vacaville. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.