"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 2, 2014
Mothers of Bad Kids
by Hannah Bird

I once had the dubious honor of calling a mother to talk to her about her daughter’s behavior. Having married into the ballet cartel, I found myself pressed into service even though I cannot dance, teach, or sew. I can however say “no” and since I have that rare gift I am the official sayer of “no” for my sister-in-law’s ballet studio.

I was not, sadly, calling to compliment the mother on her daughter’s stellar behavior. I was calling to request that perhaps her little darling could keep her hands and critical thoughts to herself. We have a firm “no bullies” policy at the studio. Hitting or making fun of other girls is a definite no-no. Frankly, this particular little girl had burned through a whole class worth of second chances.

I tried to be as kind as I could. I said some nice things about the slappy ballerina. I said some nice things about the mother. It didn’t go very well but I did my level best to be kind.

Kindness was particularly important to me because some years ago, I was the mother getting the call. Bullying has become a much talked about subject. I think we all agree that bullying is bad. We talk about how to treat victims of bullying. We talk about how parents and schools can keep their kids from being bullied. We can give exhaustive details about unkind incidents that have happened to our children.

We tell our children that bullies are just insecure. We tell our children that the bully is just jealous. We tell our children that bullies just aren’t very happy inside. We hug them and tell them how wonderful they are, how cherished and special.

Yes, we all want to deal with bullying when our kids are the victims.

My little bully didn’t have a mean bone in her body. Also, she probably didn’t have any bones in her body. She was comprised entirely of noise and springs. She had a head of fat curls and every bit of her was just as bouncy.

We liked her that way, of course. We thought she was adorable and charming. We saw her sweet little heart and loved her for it. Other people saw the equivalent of Tigger on crack and thought she was a little difficult. She would bounce into kids and hurt their feelings. She would disrupt anything that was going on. She would pester other kids until they were in tears.

One day, I got a phone call. If she could not let other little dancers do their work, she could not go back to ballet.

We worked really hard with her. We went over proper behavior. We had her practice. Her best friend (who is the best of best friends forever) helped her know when she was getting out of hand. After every class she called and reported to Grandma.

Church wasn’t much better. One year she had a teacher that cheerfully informed us that she and her husband would get our little tornado under control. That was not a fun year. We tried to work with our girl. We felt like the teacher was unfair. She would give us notes after each class of what our girl had done wrong.

It was not our favorite year.

Our Sunshine girl is all grown up now. She is beautiful. She is still a force of nature. She is universally loved. She is a hard worker, the truest of friends, and a lover of the challenged and downtrodden. She did stay in ballet. She overcame. Her perfect heart shines for everyone to see.

We get compliments about her all the time. People tell us we should be proud of her. We always have been, even when other people couldn’t see it.

Hooray for the parents of the bad kids. Hooray for the mom who will walk into school with a smile on her face when she is there to meet the principal for the umpteenth time.

Hooray for dads that see their daughters’ perfect hearts and love them for it even on bad days. Hooray for the mothers that field calls that begin with “I thought you’d want to know…” Hooray for the parents who honestly do want to know.

Hooray for the parents who keep trying.

Hooray for the mom who marches her kid over to the neighbors to confess misdeeds and then hugs him when they get home. Hooray for the dad that sits in court with his favorite shoplifter. Hooray for the parents who promised a tiny baby a lifetime of love and care and then keep that promise when no one else can see anything to love or care about.

Hooray for the mother who is trying to teach her little boy that hitting makes his friends go away. Hooray for the dad taking his little tornado hiking. Hooray for the parents who can cheer for a hard earned “C.”

You are doing a great job.

I am a grown-up bad kid. I was rotten to my parents and siblings. I was rotten to other people. When I got kicked out of school for drinking, my mom took me on a trip where I ended up working in a soup kitchen. She never excused bad behavior, but she never let any of us be defined by just the bad.

This summer, I tried to apologize to my mom for being such a bad kid. She looked at me with wonder and said, “I always thought you were just wonderful.”

Let’s hear it for the mothers of the bad kids.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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