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Bully for You: When Insecurity Grows Into Its Power


She didn't have on the right swimsuit. She wasn't wearing a swim cap. It was her first swim team session, and I was waiting for a thumbs-down sign we agreed on in the car, which would have me come over and tap her out. Endurance, the coaches agreed before she got in, would have to come in time.

As I headed over to the wet metal bleachers, parents were strategically far enough away from one another to be polite, each staring down at their phones. One novelty: a woman brought her pop-up chair and sat with her laptop. I debated bringing my laptop, too, but I knew I needed to keep my eye on my daughter. She is someone who pushes herself harder than sometimes she should. It's a trait of self-discipline I envy, but I also know its limitations. If not harnessed, that discipline will become a bitterness that can crack even the most enjoyable moments.

I noticed her slow as she crossed the pool and wandered over to the edge to talk to her. Tears started to well up, and I encouraged her out of the pool. Both coaches came to say how well she did, how good her technique was, and that it was a hard stroke they were working on that evening.

"You hear that?" I said to her. She nodded as she shivered.

In the car, she told me that she couldn't hear the instructors well, it was all very confusing, and that one of the girls had called her a newbie, not in a nice way, and shoved her in the water.

I may or may not have told her that she should tell the other girl to suck eggs. I plead the Fifth.

What I did tell her was she had every right to be there, just as much as the other girl. Besides, that girl had probably been new before. The girl was probably insecure about a new person joining because it might highlight how good or bad she was. "It says more about her than it does about you," I said.

What saddens me is that I know that some people with these deep-seated insecurities will grow up to be adults with all the powers, privileges and rights of being an adult that make them more dangerous. You'll always find the bully in the crowd because, really, they'll find you. I tend to find them while driving.

There's a traffic circle downtown that a fair amount of people know how to use, but now and then, there's always the one who decides to bully themselves into the circle. We were coming from a leisurely morning family breakfast, and sure enough, a truck slid in without regard to traffic in the circle. My husband slammed on the brakes and laid on the horn. As much as I want to be a supportive wife, I chirped out, "OK, okaaaay."

I don't know if that driver has a gun. I do know that I have my whole family in the car.

I want to have compassion for what that person might be going through because their dog just died or they just got laid off from their job, or they were just oblivious to the situation. But ultimately, I need to ensure that people with those rights of American adulthood do not shoot my family.

That's not the American Dream, but my endurance is wearing thin trying to find out what it is.

Yesterday, we went back to the pool. This morning, I dropped off my children at school, the day after three cop cars were strategically placed at pickup around their elementary school due to a threat. At least I know what the American childhood is now.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com.