From the time they are born, we measure our children’s progress with milestones. At three months, we hope they’re holding their own head up, around six months, we hope they start to roll over and somewhere around one, we hope they’re walking. We continue to mark these milestones as our children grow up but they become less physical and more iconic. At ten my girls became interested in fashion and at 16, they got their driving permits. Then suddenly, my oldest graduated from high school and this year, my youngest will do the same.
My girls sigh and laugh about it but every year, on the first day of school, I cry. I take pictures of them in their new clothes and shoes holding their backpacks and heading out the door.
These are the pictures that mark my children’s annual milestones and deep down, I’ve been dreading the day no one is home to photograph.
That year has finally arrived and much to my dismay, I can’t stop it. Time keeps rolling past me. When my oldest daughter left for college, it felt as if she were gone for good. No one warned me about walking past her empty bedroom or looking at her empty seat at the dinner table. With my youngest leaving this fall, I am trying to think only of her and to focus on how happy she will be.
Genevieve had a horrible high school experience. She started at a private school and was bullied and mistreated by girls on her swimming and water polo teams. Their words were poison, their actions unkind and although she tried to endure, Genevieve changed. On the outside, her skin broke out and her posture changed but we couldn’t see the damage happening on the inside. Unlike most teenagers, Genevieve never went out and she gave up trying to make new friends. As soon as she told us she ate lunch alone, we tried to convince her to transfer out of the school but to her, leaving meant the mean girls won. She tried to overcome the abuse but eventually, it became too much.
Genevieve did transfer in the middle of her sophomore year. She knew a lot of the kids at her new school but because she missed the bonding that happens freshmen year, she still felt left out. She was once again an outsider who was treated better than before but never completely immersed in any groups. Her fellow athletes and others made great attempts to make her feel included and although she got close to some of them, she unconsciously chose to keep her distance.
She is an amazing athlete which could explain why those girls from her old school made her a target. Unfortunately, even after transferring, the bullying from her old school never stopped. Both schools are located within blocks of each other and they are bitter rivals. At matches, parents of players and FORMER players from her old school showed up to fill the stands in a form of intimidation. When my daughter walked on deck, not only would some of the girls hiss at her but the parents would sometimes join in as well. Close friends of ours even heard a father from her old school offer to pay $50 to the first water polo player who would make my daughter cry. Unlike the movies, addressing the coaches, administrators and even the parents made no difference and this is what seemed to shake her confidence the most.
Mean people come in all forms and ages and the bad guys don’t always pay.
Genevieve has closed a painful chapter of her life and as she heads into college, she will have new opportunities to form new relationships with a whole new set of students and athletes. She will find herself once again on the outside of a new group, but like all college freshmen, she won’t be the only one.
My daughter discovered that people can be unkind but as I watched her receiving her diploma, I didn’t cry.
I was filled with hope that her wounds from high school have healed and she will seize this opportunity to trust her instincts, and allow herself to trust others again. As I look thru those past, first-day-of-school pictures, I see a sweet, strong and hopeful girl excited to meet new friends and form new relationships. I won’t be there this fall to take her picture as she heads to her first day of classes, but I’m hopeful this is the year, she will meet the friends she’ll have for life making this the milestone that is sure to be her biggest achievement yet.
We hope this is a wake-up call for any age – always be kind, everyone is effected!
-Germaine, Company Owner & Designer
A source to help kids who are bullied: