Friday, January 25, 2008


Words are my new gig - I guess you could say. It is all about word choice. I am attempting to make a career out of writing tight web copy and hopeful entertaining fiction as well.

I have been playing from time to time online Scrabble with friends - there it is all about high point word choice and not WORD CHOICE. I like fun words - pretty words - wild words. I like linking words - making fun sentences. But alas in Scrabble - it is about the points and the placement on the board.

This week though I have been reminded that WORDS do have really huge amounts of power. Words can hurt. When aimed correctly, I think WORDS can be fatal. L is having trouble with a girl at school. L gets the physical violence - she understands that shoving and hitting and hair pulling is bad - it is hurtful. She knows how to evade it. This week she was not only shoved by this girl, but the girl has decided to let loose and use words to hurt. L is a deep thinker and feels very deeply - as do her parents - and she was and is totally perplexed with how to deal with what can best be described as hate speech at the 5 year old level.

I am careful to not allow hateful words in our house. We do not say things are "stupid" or use the WORD "hate" for example. I have first hand experience with how WORDS hurt and I am being very careful to limit L and E's exposure to that type of speech. I think, however, that in my zeal to teach them to express themselves in a positive way - I have neglected to provide them with the amour required to protect them from the viciousness of others.

I think with boys maybe it is less of an issue - boys will fight and be physical on the playground and be over it. Girls - well girls I think know the power of words and they are not shy about inflicting lasting - perhaps even permanent damage. If I look deep within me - there are some very visible scars - left there not by past lovers or anyone I have chosen to let close to me - but by girls at schools - they aimed and drew blood - with glee as I recall.

So my task now is to not only teach L to avoid the hate speech - but now I must equip her with armor to protect herself and that frankly makes me angry. She is 5 years old - she is entitled to a world full of fairies and happy ever after endings for at least a few more years. She is just learning to read - she should not have to learn to duck as the WORD daggers come at her.

I am lucky that the school has a great guidance counselor to help me and I guess the sooner L learns to protect herself the better - but there is an fundamental unfairness to the situation that breaks my heart.

I have been hurt by the master of WORD choice and I so wanted to spare to L that same thing and in this case I think I have - my worst hurts were more personal than some random girl at school - well the ones that really matter - but still - this is a reminder to me that people can be vicious and that LOVE and KINDNESS seem to not be on the top of everyone agendas.

It makes me sad.


Cynthia C. said...

I think you have high hopes in teaching her not to be wicked and to avoid the wickedness of other girls. It's in the DNA, I am afraid. We don't teach girls that unkind words are ok any more than we teach boys to brawl. They just do. We can try to time-out them out of it, but I am afraid it may be a lost cause.

Susan said...

Well I think we have to try. I mean we teach boys not to beat each other up - so I think we work minimize the catty - bitchy things girls say to each other.

Some of it is nature - but I think that we can guide and shape them. I also think that as parents - and it is hard - but we can set the tone and the level of tolerance. I am sure she will still think mean things in her head and hell she can say what is on her mind - but I think there is a right way and a wrong to go about. The girl in her class is not only exhibiting bad behavior - but showing her parents lack of good parenting skills or something - I mean she is out of control at 6 - that has to come from someplace - it is just her nature (hoping not) or is nurture....

IHateToast said...

words are tough. they're everywhere. what is harder to deal with (as a stepmum to a teen and a former teacher) is tone of voice and delivery. girls can say, "that's a nice dress" in a way that is humiliating and scornful. oh, i don't miss those days.

Cynthia C. said...

There is a rule at my son's school that if you hit you go directly to the prinipal's office. I wonder if they could possibly enfore a comparable rule for girls.