Enough is Enough

My 7-year-old daughter has a new table mate in her 2nd grade classroom. In the first few weeks of school, this table mate has said to my daughter a couple of times, “You suck.” She’s told him that isn’t nice. Then he responds by saying that he wasn’t saying that about her but about what he was working on. My daughter doesn’t buy it. She thinks he might not respect her very much.

At this point, I’m already in over my head in how to advise my daughter about a course of action. Because in my lifetime so far of dealing with others, my primary response has been to ignore the unfortunate or unkind events.

It’s not that I have a thick skin, it’s just that I grew up with a sister who was incredibly mean but also very smart and four years older. She called me all sorts of things so I figured out early on that I could best navigate around things instead of hitting them head on. And this has served me through the adversity I’ve faced in the primarily male-dominated activities I’ve chosen in life: getting an electrical engineering degree at college, working in high-tech and even mountain climbing.  

For example, in my first real job out of college, we had a really close-knit team. Except that when it came to celebrating a big project, I was never invited to go out and join the party because “our wives wouldn’t like it.”  There’ve also been the misogynist comments, the occasional stalking and being assigned work because I was a girl and could wear a skirt. But being excluded or ignored has been my primary experience as a woman.

And as much as that rankled me, especially in my twenties, there’s always been a least one person willing to mentor me or give me a chance. So I developed the story that I have enough –  there’s always been enough opportunity that I could grab and go with. I figured no one has a completely smooth path and many have one that is much tougher than mine so I’d take it.

And now that I’m in my fifties with ten years of meditation and Buddhist influence, I’ve become even less likely to push back. When I’m irritated, it’s a problem for me to lean into and learn from instead of changing the others around me. What I meditate on a particular circumstance to irrigate the irritation, I almost always come back to my story that I have enough.

I don’t think this strategy is likely enough for the next generation. That is to say, “enough” changes with every generation, especially in how they view the fairness of the world. In this Ten Percent Happier podcast with therapist Dr. Jacob Ham, he talks about how first generation survivors of war focus on physical safety and getting wealth. They don’t have the bandwidth to deal with emotion. It’s not until the next generation comes along in that safety and security and wants to explore emotional intelligence/understanding. Each generation pushes the envelope further.

So I’ve reached the parental limit on how advise my daughter about her table mate because she has a different backdrop for what she’ll face. But as I listened to her relay the events, she suggested her own solution. The first time he told her she sucked, she didn’t hear him correctly, thought it was a compliment and replied, “Oh, that’s great.” Now she’s decided she’ll say that every time he throws a dig her way.

What do you think about how life and experience changes between generations?

For more posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com or follow me on Instagram @wynneleon

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(featured photo from Pexels)

32 thoughts on “Enough is Enough

  1. If anything, meditation on remembering to breath, not taking things personally, patience and gratitude reminds us that we have choices. People will have their reactions. But we can choose how we respond. It sounds like your daughters response took the fight out of it. One of the way I am learning to co-regulate with some of my bullying co-workers (who don’t realize that about themselves) is to take some of their reactions as terms of endearment, as well as returning their power to themselves by shifting how I move with their energy. That’s not always easy when you have an orientation has a strong will and oppositional streak. But coming from a place of kindness, compassion and empathy doesn’t mean you are condoning, excusing their behavior- and this process is different from being nice. Well said Wynne.

    1. Wow, Ari – that sounds like a powerful practice with your co-workers. I’m fascinated by your description – co-regulating and shifting how you move with their energy. It sounds like a brilliant and difficult practice! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Endearing post, Wynne…so many things struck me but most of all, I love your sage and smart daughter’s response to her table mate. Nothing shuts a bully down like a head-scratcher of a reply and treating his taunt like a compliment or praise? Brilliant, I say. 😉

    1. Oh Vicki, what a wonderful comment. Yes, making the table mate wonder I think is brilliant too. Although I might be biased. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, as always, my friend!

  3. It’s definitely my nature to circumvent instead of attacking as well. Maybe not always the best approach, but I figure why waste time and energy trying to change things that may not be changeable, when instead I can focus my energies elsewhere (ie: somewhere better)? And I LOVE Miss O’s response. What a brilliant way to handle the situation! 👏🤍

    1. I love what you say about “why waste time and energy trying to change things that may not be changeable.” Exactly what I think too! Not surprised that we might tackle this similarly, Kendra! 🙂 <3

  4. In some sense, the understandable attempt to solve the obvious problems of the last generation is a bit like fighting the last war. The new war (or generational challenge) will take a different form. Moreover, our attempt to solve the difficulties within our family of origin runs he risk of over correcting and missing the downside of the strategy we take. For me, the short answer has come to the need to figure out who I am at whatever age I am and realize I won’t be the same person as time passes. My body and brain and experience will be different. my relationships will have altered, the world will be new, and I will have accumulated wins and losses. Reinvention is needed and adaptation to the new world and my personal changes.

    1. As always, your comments always make me think, Dr Stein! A bit like fighting the last war. Wow – that encapsulates it so well. And your insight to figure out who we are with every age is such a good one. I can see why updating that mental image to match our reinvention/adaptation helps to keep our responses true. Thanks for the wonderful comment!

  5. Thank you, Wynne, for sharing another great post with us. I definitely believe that we teach others how to treat us, but attempting to find peace by aligning the apparent outer world is an endless task. Your daughter sounds as though she’s definitely finding her way, which is so good! I also liked the following that you shared: “When I’m irritated, it’s a problem for me to lean into and learn from instead of changing the others around me.”

    Oh, how simple it would seem, if we could just lean down to your daughter’s little table mate and (in our best Clint Eastwood, “Dirty Harry” voice) whisper “well, do you feel lucky, punk?”; but of course that’s how we get eight billion people despising one another and creating wars in the process. The good part in all of this? Perhaps your daughter is going to be the one to elevate the table mate out of a nasty habit that he may have inherited from his parents or siblings.

    1. I love the hope that Miss O will elevate the child out of it. And I really appreciate the Clint Eastwood whisper although the day I could pull that off would truly be remarkable. I think you are right that Miss O is finding her own way and hopefully finding her own peace amidst her own back drop as well. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Art!

  6. I can only say that generations change so fast that I cannot keep track. When I hear teenagers speaking I barely understand the topic they are talking about. Therefore O wouldnGreat post Wynne, as usual!

      1. So interesting your comment about teenagers, Cristiana. You are right, the generations change fast! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. My oldest is sharing a desk with someone who finds learning tough. When he gets frustrated, he lashes out at the desk and has/had a fidget that he lashes at the table, sometimes catching my son.
    My son’s approach is to support and encourage the other child but if he’s physically hurt, he needs to get the teacher involved.

    1. Oh, that’s too bad about your son getting hurt. What a challenging situation to navigate when harm is the result. I hope he can stay safe and still learn in those conditions.

  8. I enjoy reading the responses. I always learn something new. How frustrating that bullying doesn’t appear to be a trait that has vanished.

    One of the things I struggled with was learning to stand up in the face of bullying like this. I tended towards conciliation and humour, but those kinds of attacks dig in and hurt the feelings regardless.

    I now use with bullies the same technique I use with passive-aggressive behaviour. I ask questions: “Why did you say that? Why do you keep making that mistake? Are you trying to make me feel bad?” Sometimes it’s just a bad habit, but one of the mistakes my generation made, I believe, was not being direct enough when confronting bad behaviour and doling out consequences, especially in the school system, and especially towards the perpetrator. We put the responsibility on the victims to fix things. That always made me angry.

    1. What an insightful comment, Michelle. You are right, we do put the responsibility on the victims to fix things and that is so challenging. Your questions are excellent – as is your point about being direct when confronting bad behavior. Thank you!

  9. I am with Dr. Stein on this Wynne. Choices I made years ago are not the choices I would make now. Is that maturity, a larger, more expansive level of social awareness, or just an awareness that I will never be able to change anyone but myself- or more likely a combo of all of those? Questions like these are at the forefront for me right now as my core family group has recently experienced some large scale change and we are attempting to figure it all out. I am a work in progress- and likely will be until I am not on this earth any longer but I believe that unless I work on myself perhaps some of that will carry over to others who are trying to find their way forward.

    1. I love what you say about being a work in progress. And about not doing our work spills over to others if we don’t. What an insightful and inspiring comment, Deb!

  10. I feel slightly different. I think that there’s no shame in standing up for yourself. Rather than call attention to it by being defensive, when something similar happened to Nikolai I told him to tell the child that they have an ugly heart. In that moment, they absolutely do. It’s not justify it, it’s not name calling, and it’s not agreeing with them. What it does is hold them accountable for their actions. One little boy went up and tattled to the teacher and she was extremely impressed with the phrase. She asked the boy what they said to Nikolai and if they thought it was kind thing for their heart to say. The boy said no, and they talked about how he could say something different to have a beautiful and loving heart. She then pulled me aside to tell me about it and thanked me for helping Nikolai and guiding the boy who was the offender to a teachable moment.
    There are times when it’s not worth the effort to stand up for ourselves- with strangers we probably will never see again, or family members who already know what’s right and wrong and choose to be unkind anyway. Yet whenever possible it’s important to take a stand to be treated fairly.

    1. I love the teachable moment, LaShelle. How wonderful that the teacher picked up on that and was able to carry it forward. I agree that there is no shame in standing up for oneself and there’s the discernment of finding the situations in which it is worth it. Having an ugly heart is a very effective phrase – nice job on that one!

  11. Kudos to your daughter for thinking through her problem and coming to an excellent solution.
    I think the way I choose to react depends on each situation, the person involved, and my state of mind at that time. I avoid confrontations and verbal battles.
    I was reminded of my principal’s advice when I had gone to him distraught over a parent’s unkind remarks each time she came to my classroom. She had no complaints about my teaching. In fact, she was happy that I tutored her struggling daughter after school. But she disliked my dress sense, the music I played in the classroom, etc.
    She had gone to him with her complaints about me too. And he had stood for me and had told her firmly that her objections were unwarranted.
    The principal advised: “Ms. U, it is not worth wasting your time over this. Kill her with kindness. It works most of the time.”
    It was hard to be kind to that parent. But I tried, and it helped me calm down, put things into perspective. And the parent eventually stopped making unkind remarks as she had no reaction from me.

    1. Chaya, I love how you bring perspective by such poignant illustrations! “Kill her with kindness.” That’s awesome! Thank you for adding this wonderful story to this conversation!

      1. You are welcome. Wynne.
        I love your thought-provoking posts because they make me internalize and come up with new perspectives.
        Thank you, dear friend, for your wonderful posts.

      2. You are welcome. Wynne.
        I love your thought-provoking posts because they make me internalize and come up with new perspectives.
        Thank you, dear friend, for your wonderful posts.

  12. You’re teaching far more than you know through your example! How our kids (and grandkids) choose to navigate through their relationships will be an accumulation of what you’ve shown and taught, as well as other people’s influences upon them and how their personality wishes to handle it. Ultimately we ca hurt for them, but we can’t do for them – they need to do that themselves! Great thoughts in this post!

  13. I think the old sticks and stones adage is timeless. The response your daughter embodies it. Of course, names can and do hurt. The question is why? Is because of what someone else said or what we believe? I think you hit the nail on the head when you say being irritated is “a problem for me to lean into and learn from instead of changing the others around me.” You’re clearly a wonderful role model for your daughter Wynne. Your approach reminds me of Bruce Lees advice to “be water.” 🙏

  14. Ah, Wynne, your daughter seems to have learned to “skin her own skunks!” That must be very gratifying. A a retired teacher, if I overheard such a remark, I probably would have had a serious talk with the boy. Realistically, though, teachers do not overhear every mean thing that is said. Your daughter has developed a useful skill.

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