Thursday, December 15, 2016

Love Letter, Month 83

Dear Kate,

You are 83 months old.
Winter has finally come and, for the most part, you are enjoying it, especially since we have a built-in hill for sledding right out our back door.

Santa came to Rest Island last weekend and you were ready with your list--a very short one I might add. All you have asked for is a bell from Santa's sleigh.
You did start up a conversation with him through Charlie the Elf this week: Dear Santa- Charlie is the best Elf in the world! Charlie should get a present, for all hes (sic) hard work!
Dear Santa, are you really Chris Kringle? What I want is...a...sleigh bell! Love: Kate To: Santa
Santa gave you and Lucy an early birthday present of new waterproof mittens so you could play in the snow. You sent another note: dear Santa- Why did  you bring us mittens? One said: From: Santa, to: Kate. With love from: Kate to: Santa.  Santa actually sent a note back the next day much to your delight: Dear Kate, Because I wanted you to have warm hands when you play outside at school. Love, Santa.
The beginning of this month was a rough one, as it is every year, because it is the lead-up to your sister's birthday. The stress and anxiety and jealousy of her big day and ensuing party proved too much to bear on most days, up to an including the hours before her party was to start. As usual though, you pulled yourself together enough to welcome her guests and actually enjoy yourself.

It was another month full of activities and travel and guests here at home. I have to say the easiest day by far getting you out the door for school was pajama day. Your class won a reward for hard work and you all chose pajama day. Ever since you read about Fancy Nancy's PJ day at school you have been hot and bothered about having one as well. The day did not disappoint as you and Lucy chose matching jammies!
 Another exciting school day was Lunch with a Loved One followed by shopping at the school book fair in the library.
You and I went out for our first evening date this month. Your teacher led a flute ensemble at a local university so we went to enjoy some Christmas tunes. She said that next year you will be ready to perform in the group as well which has spurred you to diligently practice Christmas songs all month.
In preparation for Thanksgiving, you made a placemat and some art to hang up.

We traveled to Florida for a long Thanksgiving visit with  family. Meme and Papa surprised you with an early birthday cake and origami present.

You were quite intrigued by Papa's walking stick and wanted to know the story behind it. I love that you recognized immediately that this was not a normal cane and listened attentively when Papa told you how he found it and what he did to make it beautiful and useful. You and Papa share that same spirit of noticing natural objects, transforming them, and remembering the story behind each piece.
You, more than any of us I think, cherish time spent with loved ones and feel most deeply when it is time to leave. Playing with your cousins, both young and older, made you very happy.

You made a big decision to cut  your hair again--several inches in fact. I think you really wanted a pixie cut again but opted for a bob instead. You asked Aunt Sherry if she would do the honors and were very happy when she obliged. Your whole demeanor changed when you saw (and felt) the hair come off. You walked taller and even your walk turned into a swagger.

Unfortunately, the very next week when you returned to school you told me that you were being teased by kids on the playground and on the bus about your short hair and were being called a boy. You told me that you said, "Well, Hillary Clinton has short hair and so do some of my teachers and they aren't boys" which I thought was a clever argument. What you have found, though, is that cleverness doesn't always register with kids who aren't as clever as you. I'm sorry to say that you will run into bullies like that even into adulthood (and, as you have seen, they sometimes even get elected President).

Ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds bullies. Bullies are really just people who are afraid of people like you, or anyone who is different from them. It starts on the playground with hair length and clothing choice and continues into high school and adulthood with racism, misogony and bigotry. Learning to stand up to people who are bullies is a lifelong battle I'm afraid, but one that is important to learn early. Don't let anyone define what clothes you should wear, how long your hair should be or who you should choose for friends. Keep standing up for yourself and know the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: "Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one" and "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." 

Because here's the thing about bullies: they only pick on those who they feel are weaker than they are. Most bullies want an audience, to feel better than everyone else by making others feel small. My best advice to you for this age is to not provide that audience. Walk away and live your best life on that playground. Go swing on those monkey bars, sled down that hill and play with the people who have your back. Show them that you will not allow yourself to be bullied. As Michelle Obama recently said, "When they go low, you go high."

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