In this second of a two-part series, Kylie Hunter shares how it felt to be bullied and what she learned — the post is in Kylie's words as dictated to her mother, Michelle Anthony. You can read Michelle's perspective on Kylie's experience here. You can learn more from Michelle in her book Little Girls Can be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-proof Girls in the Early Grades.
Kylie Hunter, 10 years old, has won both state and national awards for her writing. While Kylie has always had a tremendous imagination, it was during first grade—when she began writing letters to herself to cope with her yo-yo friendship—that her passion for writing was sparked. Since then, she has written a children’s chapter book about her experiences with Sherrie, along with countless poems (you can read one of her poems below). She is currently in 5th grade at an arts-integrated magnet public school.
It’s been a little more than two years now. Two years since I finally broke off my yo-yo friendship with Sherrie. When I re-read the notes I wrote back then, it makes me want to cry. Those moments have dissolved in my memory, but what’s left is a puddle. A puddle of all the meanness mixed together with no solidity.
I remember feeling scared at night, but not about Sherrie. About big monsters and bad fairies. I was very confused back then. I didn’t know whether she was nice or mean. I couldn’t tell, because she stood up for me with classmates. She invited me to sit with her at lunch. She helped me when I was the new girl. But what I didn’t realize was that the mean moments were more important than the nice moments, and the mean moments were a bigger deal. Like the time she got me very excited about her birthday party—talking about it for days and saying how much fun we’d have together—and then intentionally didn’t invite me. I felt so betrayed—by my own very best friend. But maybe she wasn’t my best friend; that is what I couldn’t tell.
When I went to my teacher about it, she only made things worse. She told me how I shouldn’t be worried. How I should just toughen up. So I felt like I had to toughen up, although I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to unlock the case in which I had been imprisoned. One day I just broke down in gym and was sent to the school psychologist, to no avail. I think she was trying, but all I could think was, “Those things won’t work.” So I left feeling even more alone.
In my room, I’d begun writing letters about how I felt. My mom found one and we began talking. We both were kinda lost at first about what to do next. I was still scared, but I finally had someone who I could trust and talk to about it. Somebody who didn’t make me feel even worse.
People sometimes ask me why I didn’t just stop being friends with her. They don’t understand: she was my best friend. By that point, she was my only friend. If I gave up my only friend, I wouldn’t have anyone to play with on the playground. I wouldn’t have anyone to share cookies with at lunch. I wouldn’t have anybody to stand up for me when classmates were teasing me. I wasn’t ready to let go of what we had.
So in those early days, I just wrote letters. To Sherrie’s mom, asking for help, to my imaginary friends, to my teachers, even to Sherrie. I didn’t send them, but it made me feel like I was taking control. It took a long time—over a year—before I finally found my way out of that friendship. And I am a different person now because of it. Because of Sherrie, but also because of what I learned along the way—from those who helped, and those who didn’t. I feel more confident than I did. I have more skills than I did, and I know that nobody is in charge of me—that I am my own person and nobody can change that. No matter how mean they are. And I know how to reach out to adults and how to ask for help, and I also know what sorts of people I can trust, like my mom.
So when I got the invite to Sherrie’s party, I thought carefully about going. I knew I could avoid her, but I really wanted to try out my new techniques. I wanted to show her and show myself that I was different. That I had grown. And I wanted to see my old acquaintance Sherrie again. Maybe she had changed too. Who knows?
Often children's verbal ability significantly outstrips their written communication skills. Have you ever interviewed your children, allowing them to dictate to you their response? What did you learn? How did they feel?
In Michelle's post, she wrote that “girls struggle to find kind and appropriate ways to have influence and feel powerful.” What are some ways that you can help the girls in your life learn to have influence — in a good way?
It was in trying to cope with this experience, Kylie began to write — and writing helped her find her voice. Are we giving our daughters opportunity for self-expression, including really listening to them? Are we listening to ourselves?
When my daughter guest-posted and you were all generous enough to leave comments, it was tremendously validating for her. Will you do the same for Kylie?
P.S. I thought it would be a special treat to share with you one Kylie's poems. In light of her experiences — and given the importance of friends as we dare to dream, I found this particular poem “Friends”, particularly meaningful.