On Middle School Follies and Mean Girls: Portia and Cassius Speak Out
It all started when I read this post on Emelie’s Voice.
Now, I will admit, that I am quite fond of Emelie. Her book has inspired both me and Cassius. So it is possible that I am not the best person to respond to this post, but reading the post brought up all my feelings of helplessness and frustration that I experienced over the past school year with Cassius: watching him be bullied, and not be protected by the school that was supposed to protect him.
[To read more about that, please read: A Bully’s Story: An Open Letter to the Middle Schoolers that Called my Autistic Son a “Faggot” (Full Article) and My Letter to my Sons’ School Re: the Frequent Bullying that is ongoing at my Childs’ School….Both from Teachers and the students….].
So I couldn’t help but to respond. Here’s our response to Jennifer’s heartbreaking post.
I read this [post] three times, and I’m still digesting the whole story.
First of all, I want to say, “Em, you are a rockstar.”
Yesterday, we received your book in the mail and Cassius and I read it, together. As he was reading your words, he said, “Wait, I feel like that too. And that….and that… and that… and that…”
Your words resonated with him, and with me. Your words are helping people to become better versions of themselves. No where is that message needed MORE than in middle school.
Last year was a tough year for Cassius (C) in in middle school, too. It hurt C a lot to have to experience everything he did. He was pushed in front of a moving bus. When they stopped physicially hurting him, they were mean to him with their words, and when they stopped doing that, they just excluded him from their activities. All three of these things hurt him deeply… He’s still working through it all. So, I am in no way qualified or trained in how to handle these things, but if it’s okay, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you, from one girl who remembers middle school painfully, to you.
Just know…. Emelie, that first of all — it’s NEVER okay for anyone to hit you. I know that you already know that, but please try to remember that. If there is such thing as “Green light, Yellow Light, and Red light” behaviors, ANYONE hitting you is ALWAYS a “red light”.
Secondly: trust your instincts, Em. I know it’s hard to decipher if someone is friend or foe, especially when it’s hard to read those social cues, but try to listen to your “inside voice.” If something doesn’t “feel” right — like, say, you feel like a group of kids are leaving you out, don’t use your goodness and kindness to talk yourself out of that thought. Sometimes we want so badly to be accepted, we think to ourselves, “Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they aren’t leaving me out. Maybe they aren’t lying to me. Maybe they DO want to be my friend.” We try to give them what is called “the benefit of the doubt,” a figure of speech that means that we make excuses for their behavior. Behavior that, in any way makes you feel “icky” is “yellow light” behavior – watch out for it!
A good trick is to use your awesome brain as your superpower. Being so very literal minded, you can easily keep track of things in your mind. Look for patterns or trends: if you find that every day for a week a certain person makes you feel “icky,” “Excluded,” or just…. not happy, keep that in mind. It might help, when you first start, to imagine a graph inside your mind. Did this person make you feel happy today or not? If you do this, you will start to see trends, almost like taking your temperature with a thermometer.
When you begin to see a trend, either good or bad, remember that. Middle School is a crash-course [figure of speech for a class where you learn a lot of information in a VERY short period of time] in the worst, ugliest parts of people. Nobody really knows why: something about that point in our development brings out the ugliness inside of us. This is where you learn to listen to your inner voice, to take that “feeling temperature.”
This isn’t a life-skill you need just for middle school: as you grow up, you will learn to listen to your “inner voice.” I know that is a vague and confusing term, but I promise it will become more and more clear as you grow. [Even today, I am almost 32 years old, I have to remind myself to listen to that “inner voice” and trust it.]
An example of inner voices, so it is a bit more clear: Imagine that you are at school. You walk up to a group of girls in the hallway who are giggling and talking happily. When you walk up to the group, suddenly the conversation stops mid-sentence.
You: “Hey Guys, whatcha doing?”
Girl 1: “Nothing…”
You: “What are ya’ll talking about?”
Girl 2: “Nothing….”
And then there is no conversation further.
At this point, if you check your “feeling thermometer,” you’ll find that you are feeling like “I want to be a part of this group, but it feels ‘off.’” You’ll think to yourself, “Well, maybe they were talking about something they can’t tell me about because it’s a secret,” or “Maybe they forgot what they were talking about when I walked up.” Likely, none of these excuses are true, although it is always possible, and while I love that you are always willing to give people the ‘benefit of the doubt,’ it’s really important for you to keep a mental graph of these interactions and look for trends. The graph might look something like this:
Sometimes remembering to watch for trends in people’s behaviors helps me when I have a hard time reading other people’s social cues.
Dearest Emelie, Keep working. Keep trying. Keep learning. Sometimes things will happen and we fall down, but you are especially good at picking yourself back up off the ground. You inspire everyone who meets you, and thousands of people who read your story. You are making a splash in this world — a BIG splash — and your goodness will wash right over the hard times that come your way.
Know that Cassius and I both send our love, Emelie. I think that you and Cassius should meet via Skype or Facebook or something (once your Mom and Dad sort out all that mess). I think you guys could be a good support system for each other.
You are amazing, inspiring, and so beautiful. Those people that are treating you poorly, they don’t deserve you. At all.
With all my love,
Rachele AKA Portia