By Andy Bash
There’s a quote from the author Sarah Payne Stuart I’ve been thinking about lately: “You’re only as happy as your least happy child.”
This quote may not be the most uplifting back-to-school message out there. And yet, as a parent, I feel no truer words have ever been written.
As many of you may know, I was the cause of great angst for a number of parents and students while growing up in KC. “Bully” would have been an appropriate way to describe me from 3rd grade through well beyond high school.
Two pivotal moments in my life gave me a better understanding of the kind of pain I caused other students throughout the school year. The first was sobriety and the path of making amends. The second was the experience of parenthood.
My journey with the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous gave me the opportunity to make amends with those I harmed. I was 9 years old when I started bullying other kids. I was 30 when I started the journey of sobriety. With two decades in between, the list of people I needed to apologize to was lengthy.
Kids who cause pain are in pain
Over the last 20 years, whenever I recognize harm that I caused others, I attempt to rectify the pain I inflicted. The experience of facing the lovely men and women who you harmed as a youth seems somewhat absurd to an outsider. Let me assure you, the harm you caused someone in 5th grade is indeed a lasting memory. I know firsthand.
Although the journey has not been easy, the beauty of correcting and being forgiven by my victims has been extraordinary. Hearing how I made others feel as children has been overwhelming.
However, those experiences pale in comparison to watching your own children go through pain and suffering at the hands and words of kids like me. Kids who are in immense pain seek relief by causing others pain. It’s oddly similar to what we do to one another as adults. The Universe has a delightful sense of humor and justice. I regret what I did to other kids, and yet watching karma boomerang back helps me to understand how the parents of my victims felt. This realization brings with it a whole new dimension of pain, regret and remorse. I am quite certain that many of you reading this can relate. Any parent who has witnessed their child being made to feel less than understands how painful this is for everyone involved.
As the school year starts, here are a few thoughts from a recovering bully:
- Kids who cause pain are in pain.
- Our kids are watching everything we do. Telling our children to be nice and modeling something else ourselves is a flawed strategy.
- Extreme ownership is a real thing. My parents never thought I was “that bad.” I was. Until our kids can fully take responsibility for their own actions — and they really can’t until they are adults – the responsibility belongs to us, their parents.
- The start of the school year is never easy. When trying to connect with my kids, I try to set aside my 52-year-old perspective and replace it with the age of my respective child.
- Lastly, be willing to listen with an open mind to what is happening between our kids. The biggest obstacle I have experienced is parents unwilling to accept or believe that their own kids aren’t perfect. They are not. None of us are.
The home is the place where all the memories and moments will be shared each evening. Connect, communicate, and most importantly, listen to what your kids are telling you. The true value of your home increases exponentially when the members of your tribe feel they are seen and heard inside – and outside – of the home.
Bash & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty is an innovative full-service residential real estate brokerage that leverages the latest technology to serve clients in emerging, established, and luxury neighborhoods across the Kansas City area. Follow them on Instagram here and on Facebook here.