When we think of bullying, we often think of older kids – middle and high schoolers. But as writer Carrie Goldman learned, bullying knows no age limit and even the youngest kids can be cruel.
Goldman’s daughter Katie, an adorable first-grader with cute glasses and a sweet smile, was recently on the receiving end of some harsh treatment by some of her classmates. And as is so often the case, Katie became a target merely for being different.
No, she’s not gay or a minority. Katie is a female Star Wars fan.
Katie’s troubles started when she chose a Star Wars backpack and water bottle when buying school supplies earlier this year. For months, she happily filled that Star Wars bottle with water each morning and proudly drank from it each afternoon at school.
But recently, Katie ditched her Star Wars bottle for a plain pink one. She gave her mom a vague excuse about needing a larger bottle but Goldman suspected something else was up. After being pressed, Katie confessed that the boys at school were making fun of her for drinking out of a Star Wars bottle. Insisting that such things were for boys only, they harassed her to the point where she gave up her beloved Star Wars bottle just to make it stop.
Her mom was devastated.
I hugged her hard and felt my heart sink. Such a tender young age, and already she is embarrassed about the water bottle that brought her so much excitement and joy a few months ago.
Is this how it starts? Do kids find someone who does something differently and start to beat it out of her, first with words and sneers? Must my daughter conform to be accepted?
I know exactly how she feels. And sadly, she’s absolutely right. That is how it starts. Kids naturally want to fit in with their peers and it doesn’t take much pressure to make a child feel uneasy about themselves and what they love.
The question is what makes kids feel the need to pressure each other into conforming? I don’t the answer but I do know that Katie is a lucky girl to have a mom like Goldman. She not only tuned in enough to see that Katie was dealing with something at school, but encouraged her daughter to be herself and bring that bottle anyway.
Katie is packing the Star Wars bottle again but her mom believes a little extra support couldn’t hurt. She’s asked other female Star Wars fans to comment and let Katie know that she’s not the only girl who thinks Star Wars rocks. Comments on the original article reached over 1,200 before being turned off. But over at EPBOT, a site dedicated to “geekery, girliness and goofing off,” you can still send Katie a message of support.
May the force be with you.
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