10/13/2014 03:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Bullies, Thieves and Boundaries: A Letter To My Daughter

Your recent graduation from college has left me thinking about being your mom. As you find your way in the world, I've decided to write you a series of letters to remind us of things we've both learned along the way.

Now you're taller than I am, but I remember when you were in middle school, and you were the shortest girl in your grade. You wore a plaid skirt, braces and braids.


On Tuesdays, you and I went out for tea when your brothers were at swim practice. We called it our "girl time." All week, we looked forward to being able to talk and watch butterflies dart around the potted flowers outside the café.

Sometimes we ordered chocolate croissants. Other days we ate sugar cookies or banana muffins.

We enjoyed the accents of the waiters, and listened in on conversations. Sometimes you talked and I listened. Other times, I talked and you listened. We always appreciated the flowers in the vase on our little table.


During one of our Tuesday teas, you told me about a girl who was bumping into you in the hallway. She was tall and loud. As she passed you, she would use her body to knock the books out of your arms, and then she would laugh and pretend she didn't know she had done it.


I was sorry to hear someone was being mean to you. I explained that there are some people who like to feel powerful by knocking other people down, and that whenever someone does this to us, it feels terrible. You agreed.

I asked if I could share what you told me with Dad, and you said yes. At first, Dad and I wanted to tell the school administration, but you said no and that telling would make things worse, and we honored your request.

Instead, Dad taught you how to carry your books and walk with your elbows out. He showed you how to plant your feet, firmly hold your books in your arms and then jab the tall girl when she walked into you. He also taught you how to look her in the eye.


You and he practiced in our kitchen. Dad encouraged you to be fierce and strong while he pretended to be the tall girl. We all laughed, but we knew it was serious.

On the kitchen counter, I showed you a demonstration about bullying that a friend had shown me. I filled two glasses with water. One was almost full and the other was almost empty. The bully was the one with only a little water.

I knocked the almost empty glass hard against the almost full glass and water splashed out from the almost full glass. Some water spilled on the counter and some went into the bully glass filling it a tiny bit.


I explained to you that a bully is someone who acts from a place of jealousy, anger or arrogance and takes pleasure in hurting someone else. People who have less good feelings about themselves steal energy from others to fill themselves up. Often they feel smug and powerful because they hurt someone else. It's an ugly way to get energy, but there some people who rely on it. Some people call these people bullies, but I think it's more accurate to call them bullies and thieves because they steal life energy.

With our support, you decided to protect your personal space and energy and focus on feeling strong, determined and competent.

A few days later, the tall girl smashed into you in the hall. You were ready and held your ground. You had your feet planted and shoved out your elbow as she bashed into you. You looked her straight in the eye. She was surprised. All of her books spilled onto the ground.


She didn't try it again.

I want you to always remember the girl with braces and braids who stood up for herself.

You are worth protecting.


Kathleen blogs regularly to The Huffington Post. To be notified when she publishes a blog, please sign up here. Kathleen is the author of two books that celebrate life and motherhood:Mother Advice To Take With You To College, a collection of humorous drawings and wise sayings, and The Tiffany Box: A Memoir, an International Best Book Awards Finalist, a true story full of humor, heartache and love--told through emails, letters, diary entries and columns about the last two years of Kathleen's mother's life. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.