By Brandon Janous
To the boy that called my daughter ugly on the school bus the other day, I have some things to say to you.
I realize you probably don’t care what I have to say. Why would you? I’m just a dad. I’m not your friend. I won’t be on the bus this afternoon and won’t be in your homeroom to laugh at your jokes or encourage you when you’re making fun of people. I’m a nobody to you. So why would you care what I have to say?
But I’m still going to say some things. I’m going to say them in hopes that one day they get back to you. Because one day, you’ll be me. A dad. And you’ll feel what I feel.
What you said to my daughter was not only a complete lie, but it was really hurtful. I know you probably don’t care that you hurt her. Heck, maybe that was your intention. I bet you even got some of your buddies to laugh when you said what you said. And I bet that made you feel really good.
But what you said ruined my daughter’s entire day. I don’t know if you realize how much your words can hurt people. But I’m here to tell you that they do.
And what’s even worse is that she believed what you said. No matter how much I tell her that what you said isn’t true, she believed you.
And because she believed you, she now spends more time staring at her reflection in the mirror than any nine-year-old ever should. Because she believed you, she takes more time than she ever had before getting ready in the morning. Because she believed you, no matter how much validation I give her, her entire behavior has changed.
Because she believed you, she no longer believes me.
Your words changed the way that she sees herself. Your words took my little girl from super confident to super self-conscious. To you, they were just words, but to her, and to me, they hit hard and they cut deep.
I know that you’re only nine. I know you have a lot of growing up to do. And I know that you probably won’t ever even see this. But my hope is that your mom or dad sees it and reads it to you. And I hope that after you get super annoyed and roll your eyes, you’ll find the truth in what I’ve written.
I hope you’ll think about your actions and the impact they have on others. I hope you’ll think about the words you choose and perhaps not humiliate the next girl you come across. I hope before your behavior claims another victim, you’ll think before you act. And in a perfect world, you’d apologize.
My daughter is so intelligent. She’s brave, witty, resilient, talented, kind, determined, supportive, and bold. I could go on and on. She’s loved and she is, without a doubt, gorgeous, both inside and out.
And parents, I hope we can use this as a teaching moment. I realize that bullying and name-calling are going to show up every day, on every school bus, and in every homeroom. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore it. The difference starts at home and the kindness starts with us.
We need to talk to our kids about this stuff. To prepare them to be equipped.
We need to encourage them to say something when they witness unkindness.
We need to let them know that the brave thing to do is to say something and that they will never regret speaking up.
It may not feel like the cool thing to do at that moment, but when the day is over, and you lay your head down at night, it’s impossible not to feel that your actions made a difference. That your words changed someone’s day.
Finally, one last note for all of us. Parents, children, teachers, bosses, co-workers, etc. - we are all different. We have different personalities. We all have different beliefs. We vote differently. We spend our money differently. We go to different churches or no churches at all. We live in different places.
But, there is one thing that we all have in common, and that’s the appreciation for kindness. No matter what we believe, who we voted for, where we live, or where we go to church (or don't), we all lean into kindness.
So let’s choose kindness today. Because wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.
MORE ON NURTURING RESILIENCE: