Dear Nephews:

Today is the first day of school for all of you except Wyatt; Hudson you’re starting 4th grade (which is everyone’s favorite in elementary school), Truman 2nd grade, and Andrew is beginning kindergarten!  Wyatt we celebrated your 3rd birthday yesterday at the pool with friends and family and your little girlfriend Ella.  You’re all growing up so fast!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people treat each other, and now that you’re starting a new school year, you’ll be dealing with this a lot too.  New friends, new classmates, new schools for some of you, new sports teams.  I think that most of the time, most people are decent, and nice, and respectful of the other people around them.  But not always.  It’s kind of a scary world out there right now, and sometimes people are not going to treat you the way that they should.

Sometimes, you’re going to run into bullies.  Or they’re going to run into you – on purpose, with a jab to the ribs.  And they’re not always who you expect them to be.  But all bullies do have some things in common:  they’re going to be mean to you, they’re going to try to intimidate you, and they’re going to try to make you feel bad.

Don’t let them!

First:  If someone is bullying you at school, or at practice, or anywhere else, please tell someone! Talk to a grown-up who loves you, who is supposed to protect you and that you trust: a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a teacher.  But tell someone so they can know what’s happening and can help you make it better.  It may take a while for the situation to improve while things get worked out – but if you never tell anyone, it might never get better.

Second:  Bullies LIKE to see you upset.  If you can ignore them and be the better person, sometimes that’s enough to make them just stop and go away.  It’s not easy!  Sometimes bullies can be so mean to you that you might want to cry or yell or say something you wouldn’t normally say.  And I’m not saying that there aren’t times when you would need to defend yourself and fight back if necessary to protect yourself.  But most of the time, bullies just want a reaction out of you – and if they don’t get one, then in a sense, YOU’VE WON!

Third:  This one is really hard  – but sometimes being nice to bullies can also make them nicer people.  You have to use your judgment on this one – again, sometimes it’s just best to ignore the bullies and avoid them – but, it’s my experience that bullies usually do what they do because they’re sad, lonely, miserable people.  They haven’t been treated very well in the past, and so they tend to treat other people bad too.  They think that’s going to make them feel better (to be mean to others), but actually it just makes them feel worse, and then the cycle starts all over again.  If you have the chance to be nice to someone like that, they’re usually not expecting it, and sometimes it’s just what they need to “shock” them into also being nice to someone for a change.  They then get to experience how THAT makes them feel, which is very different from their usual. 

Just be careful with that one – you don’t want the bully to think that you want to be a “bully friend” and also bully people along with them – don’t ever let them talk you into also being a bully!  Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that the bullies are the “cool crowd” and that you want to join them – they’re not, and you don’t want to be a part of that!  No one – and I mean no one – likes a bully.  Instead, be a part of the really cool crowd that helps the other kids and people who are being bullied – stick up for them, say something to someone to help them out.  Never just stand by while someone else is being treated badly.  Stand up for GOOD – be the superhero!

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I also think bullies are mean to people because they are jealous of something you have, or something you are…they treat you badly because you have something they want, or they think you’re smarter or better-looking than they are, or you get to do something that they can’t do, like play a certain sport or travel to places they want to go.  This isn’t your fault – you are who you are, and if a bully doesn’t like it, that’s their problem, not yours.  But be humble – don’t flaunt what you have or be arrogant about it.

I guess I was pretty lucky that I was not bullied at school very much when I was little like you guys are now.  But I have run into plenty of bullies at other times in my life – surprisingly, mostly as an grown-up!  Yup, that’s right boys – you have to watch out for the bad guys (and girls) even when you get older.  I wish all little kid bullies grew out of their meanness, but some people are unlucky and unhappy enough to grow up into big adult bullies as well.

I remember being bullied sometimes by a girl who lived in the same sorority house with me in college.  I won’t say who she was, but I’m sure some of my friends will remember exactly who I’m talking about – she was icy and harsh and would get right in my face to try to intimidate me if she was upset about something (which seemed to be most of the time).  I hadn’t encountered that kind of meanness very much in my life before, and I was scared of her!  I usually just tried to avoid crossing paths with her.  I hope she is a happier person now!

I’ve been bullied by a few bosses at some of my jobs.  One of those bosses lived in California, so our stormy relationship was conducted mostly over the phone.  But bullies can bully even over phone lines; he would yell at me, and he was unreasonable and uncaring.  Most bullies are their own worse enemies however, and this was the case with him; I only had to wait him out (although it was a stressful wait), as he made many bad choices and eventually got fired for using drugs at work.  (NEVER DO THAT KIDS!  NEVER DO DRUGS PERIOD!)

Another boss I had here in Austin actually threatened me; she would try to intimidate me because she was worried that my work would make her look bad.  This woman had something very terrible happen to her a long time ago which I suspect made her a very sad and unhappy person.  But boys, just because you’ve gone through something really bad doesn’t mean you then get to treat other people badly for the rest of your life.  Life is very unfair sometimes, yes – but to let it make you into a mean person who then bullies others is not the answer.

I’m being bullied right now in my job.  There is a person there who has decided, for whatever reason, that they don’t like me, and so they decided to bully me because of it.  I’ve been nothing but nice to that person since day one, but we are also very different people and I think they feel threatened by this for some reason.  So this person insults me, and intimidates me, and does things to make things more difficult for me while at the job.  This makes me very sad; I took the job to explore my interests and be UNunhappy and now I have to deal with this bullying barrier.

So far, I’ve tried to ignore that person’s meanness and just continue to be civil to them while trying to do the best I can at my work.  Remember how I said that bullies usually just want to see you upset and get a reaction out of you?  I can tell they are waiting for a reaction, so by refusing to give them one, I’m actually taking away some of their power that they think they have.  Your PaPa has told me many times that in this situation, you must “be the better person, take the higher road.”  That’s good advice boys, remember it.  

Getting along with people is one of the great skills that you’ll need all your life.  It’s been one of my own personal challenges for a long while now, but I’m working at it.  I’m so grateful to have all of you in my life to help me out with it too – being your aunt is both a challenge and a blessing!  If you’re ever having trouble getting along with someone or especially if you’re being bullied, I hope you know you can also come to me as one of your safe people anytime.  I’ll help you.  I’ll protect you.  Always.

Love,

Ant Kristi

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