Mindful Mentoring…

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Hey everyone.  Sorry for the HUGE wait between posts.  I’ve had so much going on in my life recently, I just haven’t had time to sit down and write.  I hope it doesn’t happen again, but I make no promises.  I do promise to update as frequently as possible 🙂

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So the other day I logged into Facebook to see a post from my 13-year-old niece.

‘I’m so sick of hearing about gays. It’s dumb that stupid people bully them just because they think it’s wrong. Ya well u may think its wrong but Obviously there a lot more wrong with u If u have nothing better to do than bully. Millions of teens commit suicide because of people bullying hem because there gay. Honestly if u can hurt someone bad enough to make them put a riffle to their head your the problem. Not them. Like if u agree’

As I read this I couldn’t help but smile.  I’m so very proud of her.  No, I’m not going to take a stance on the Gay rights issue… at least not in this posting 😉  I’m proud because at 13 she was brave enough to not only stand up for what she believes, but to do so on such a controversial topic.   I don’t know many adults who are willing to do the same.  For that, I can’t help but say ‘Good Job Kiddo’.

Of course by posting it she opened one hell of a can of worms.  One of the very first responses was from her great-aunt:

‘Did you learn that in school? …. People get bullied for being fat…so far I have seen no one come on and scream at people that there is nothing wrong wth being fat. People get bullied for being shy…so far I have seen no one come on and scream at people that there is nothing wrong with being shy. Everyone is open to intimidation – we all have something someone does not like — glasses, braces, etc. Why do you narrow your venting at bullies by protecting the gay agenda. If they want to be gay–fine, their choice, but is it yours? A bully is a bully and when you are in school there are a lot of them. You should speak out against bullies not try and make everyone gay. It makes you the bullypulpit of the “gay agenda” and makes these kids their poster child. It is not just gays that commit suicide. Where did you get that millions of gay teens commit suicide? — the demographics of the US show that there are 4.3 million gays, lesbian and bisexual in the total population.’

Initial reaction?  ‘What the hell?! Where does she get off?!’  Among other profanity laced statements.  I was angry… I was irate and likely to go on one heck of a tirade.  Thankfully, I had other things to do that limited my ability to respond.  I think it’s often good to take a step back before lashing out on Facebook.  Had I responded at that very minute, I’d have likely made a complete ass of myself.   I am glad I had a chance to just sit back and actually formulate a response.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion and their beliefs.  That’s not the issue here, at least not for me.  The issue is that this full-grown adult has chastised my 13-year-old niece for voicing her opinion.  As adults, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, role models we need to encourage our children to think for themselves.  We want them to stand up for what they believe in, whether or not we agree.  I understand there are people who don’t support Gay rights.  I know that, but should we as adults really be reprimanding younger generations when they finally do take a stance?  How are they ever going to learn to think and function on their own if we don’t allow them the opportunity?

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard adults complain that ‘kids these days just don’t believe in anything…’ or ‘they’re so damned irresponsible…’  We complain about it but the moment one of these ‘kids’ takes a chance to voice their thoughts, they are shut down or adults try to prove them wrong.  It’s a sad situation.  In this case, my niece wasn’t necessarily accurate in her statement of ‘Millions of teens…’ but that wasn’t her point.  She wasn’t logging in and posting absolute hard set facts on Facebook.  No, she simply saw a problem that struck a chord with her.  She was bringing to light something she felt was a problem in the world.  She’s 13 and while I’m somewhat biased, I have to say I’ve never been prouder of her… and I wasn’t the only one.

Following the over critical post, her friends and family rallied behind her.  The majority of the family stepped in to inform this woman that while she may not agree with my niece, she shouldn’t bash her for standing up for what she believes.  It was great to see so many people just as upset as I was over the situation.  As with all things in Facebook, it escalated.  Words were exchanged and emotions were raw.  Parenting was criticized and tempers flared.  Finally when I had a moment to actually respond, I had come to the conclusion there was really nothing left to be said.  My niece was defended by a good portion of her family.  The great-aunt had managed to make herself look bad all on her own.

My response started with nothing but praise and pride for my niece.  I am very proud of her for standing up for something she believes in, right or wrong.  To the great-aunt I simply stated that I truly feel sorry for her.  Her posts were full of hateful words and I cannot fathom being filled with such negative emotions.  I did suggest that next time she felt the need to be so negative she keep her mouth shut.  Her tirade achieved nothing but making herself look bad.

In the end, I remain excessively proud of my niece and look forward to watching her grow as a person.  She’s an amazing girl with a good head on her shoulders.  I hope that going forward she continues to formulate her own opinions, thoughts and beliefs.  I hope that she realizes just how important it is to stand up for what you believe, whether or not everyone around you does.   I hope that she knows just how strong and brilliant she truly is and how much we adore her.

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