My Advice To “Fatty Mama” About Bullies
When Dr. Anderson said it’s better to overfeed than underfeed an infant, well, it freed us from the anxiety of asking ourselves if we were feeding Najwa too much. So, we fed her. Sure, she has chunky cheeks, and she’s got some weight relative to her age, but she is far from having an obesity issue.
Actually, she looks like a well-fed child, a healthy one with no risk of malnutrition, a fully developed body meaning a fully developed everything else, from her heart to her bones to her brain. I’d rather spend money now on an extra jar of pureed squash than save it for medical bills later.
But of course kids are kids, and one of the kids at the babysitter likes to call her “Fatty Mama.” Doesn’t faze me. It’s kind of cute, actually. It’s said out of affection. The kids at the babysitters love Najwa. And vice versa. As soon as we walk through the door they’re all in each other’s face and so far, Najwa doesn’t have separation anxiety as we leave, engrossed with her extended family.
But as she gets older, kids will evolve into little imps. Little devils. And eventually, someone’s kid is going to say something, not kidding, but meant to be hurtful. And there may be haters. And bullies. And there’s going to be a time when she comes to me asking for advice of what to do.
My Elementary School Bully
When I was a little one, I had a bully. It was for about a week, but when you’re getting picked on, it feels like the entire year. It was in the 4th grade at Ponderosa Elementary School in Fayetteville, NC. Sitting behind me was a kid named, well, let’s just call him Joe. Joe was twice my size, twice everyone’s size. I don’t remember much about him though we shared the same class all year.
But what I do remember is one day, just before 12 noon, he whispered to me that it was almost time to go to the doctor’s. I was a nerd back then. May still be one. I ignored him, not knowing what he was talking about, and kept listening to Ms. Herndon with whatever she was teaching.
I wasn’t paying attention to Joe. Or the time. But then I felt a sharp prickly pain right in my ass. This psychopath just stuck me with a needle! I jumped, contort and had a mini-convulsion, all to the delight and belly-splitting laughter of the class. All they knew was the nerd had a severe case of the chills. No one knew about the needle, and I wasn’t about to test out just how deranged Joe was. One minute Ms. Herndon is disciplining him and the next he’s smashing my face through the pavement? Let me think about this.
Next day, a few minutes before noon, he whispered in my ear again. It as almost “time to see the doctor,” and I tensed up. Not so much because it hurt, but because of how embarrassing it is having the entire class laughing at you. Being a nerd, Ms. Herndon, who wasn’t necessarily the nicest teacher at Ponderosa, didn’t conclude I was being a class clown. She kind of shrugged it off and just continued teaching. Once everyone was done laughing at me.
The third time it happened, it wasn’t as funny to everyone, but that didn’t make Joe stop reminding me that everyday at noon I’d get the needle.
After deciding the odds of me beating his ass were as likely as Ms. Herndon sticking a needle in Joe’s ass, I consulted my dad. There was no telling where this was going to lead. My dad wasn’t one of those diplomatic types who was going to tell me to ask Ms. Herndon if I could move to another desk. This is a dad who when I was 4 years old and came home crying after another kid pushed me down the steps and threatened to beat me up, my dad sent me back across the street to either get beat up while fighting back or getting a beat down for being a cry baby. I confronted the kid and much to my relief, just getting back in his face [I repeat — we were 4 year olds!] made him think twice about messing with me.
So, back to Joe, I had a feeling my dad would be parked outside after school yelling out the car window for me to kick Joe’s ass. I made sure I reiterated Joe was as big as he was, but if that was going to be dad’s advice, so be it. But, my dad said something I wasn’t expecting and can’t really say I understood back then what it meant.
Now, I knew talking about someone’s mama was not cool, but both parents? And back then, 4th grade, I didn’t know anything about drugs. When my dad said something about Joe’s parents using needles, I thought they went around sticking people in the ass, too. That’s a problem.
But I didn’t have time to decipher what it meant. I just knew Joe was going to mop the school parking lot with my face. Then upgrade from a needle to a sword the next day.
My option, though, was telling my dad I was a punk. And keep getting stuck with that needle. So, hey, as my dad instilled in me after getting tossed down the stairs at 4 years old, if you’re facing two undesirable choices, pick the one most likely to protect your pride.
So, I told him. I told Joe to stop sticking me with the needle because I wasn’t like his parents. Or we were going to have a problem.
The 4th grade was a very long time ago, and I don’t remember much from those days. I do remember Joe being a bully for a few days, but I don’t remember anything that happened after I insinuated his parents used needles. Other than he never did again, never rearranged my face and even went as far as asking if I could help him with his homework. Which I did once. And he paid me. Go figure.
My dad is a genius.
Back to “Fatty Mama”
Najwa’s sure to have her own version of Joe in her lifetime. There’s a Joe in every city, every school, every class. And one day she may come to me about it. Maybe it’s name-calling; maybe it’s worse.
What am I going to say? Well, living in Washington, DC, I’m definitely not going to recommend talking about anyone’s parents. It might be true and these kids around here are armed with more than needles.
I couldn’t tell you what I’d offer as a solution. And I definitely can’t promise the end result will be less painful than whatever it was to begin with. But I do know Najwa’s goal will be the same goal my dad instilled in me. She’s going to demand respect and protect her pride.
[Hmmm — what if Najwa’s the bully?]
Eventually, though, those stages in life will pass, and she’ll be blogging about her experience…
And just in case that’s not enough, we’re going to have Uncle Charlson teach her Kuk Sool Won.