Why I Wrote the Children’s Book Willy the Wacky Duck
When Early Signs of Bullying Hits Home!
I hope, that by me sharing this personal story, it has given you some awareness to the early signs of bullying. Obviously this was a mild case; however, the timing was so crucial because I was able to recognize it in its early stages. Not only did my daughter benefit, however, I feel that the other children benefited as well. It’s not about pre-school or unibrows or bats. It’s about harnessing these intricate moments in our child’s life that truly have an impact on how their character develops. Every child responds differently, and may not come right out and tell you, which is why I felt the need to introduce the subject in a creative way that young children will be able to understand and learn from. For that reason, I give you Willy the Wacky Duck.
This is the story of why I wrote my children’s book Willy the Wacky Duck. Many details may seem unnecessary; however, I feel that every one of them is important. I wanted to truly express the type of relationship that I have with my child, which will better help the parent in evaluating their situation.
My daughter is an only child. Although I had the privilege of staying home with her, when she was three years old I recognized the need for her to be around other children in order to develop her social skills. I knew that with her calm and kind disposition that it would be important for me to choose a pre-school environment that was not too overwhelming, yet enough to grow on. A friend gave us a reference to a local church that also had a school.
On visiting the school, and meeting the extremely friendly and welcoming staff, I knew that this was the place. There were only two pre-school classes that averaged twelve children in each class. As we walked around and her tiny little hand gripped mine, I knew she was excited too as when we saw what would be her room, she looked up at me and let go to go look at some books. It was bittersweet. We signed her up for the 9 am – 12 pm session, Monday through Friday. As I signed the papers, and paid the registration fees, I felt a lump in my throat and a wave of excitement all at once. This was it. I am letting my little girl into the world. For three hours a day, five days a week I will not know what she is doing, experiencing, needing, saying or thinking. This was hard and is the simple reason why moms cry on their child’s first day of school.
One month in and we were great. The excitement and joy on her face, when picking her up, was priceless. The car ride home was filled with stories, questions, laughter and love. As soon as we would get home we would run to my bed and have what we invented as MAD love which stands for Mother And Daughter love. Just ten minutes of hugging, nuzzling, tickling and being close. It was my favourite part of the day. We had developed a new chapter in our child-parent relationship and I knew everything would be okay and I let my guard down, a little.
Month two arrived and going to pre-school was a routine now. Everything was fine until the shocking day of real life reared it’s ugly head. As I pulled up, in the car line, I could tell by the look on her face and her body language that something was wrong. I was only three cars away, but it felt like thirty. ‘Hurry up, hurry up!’ I’m thinking until, finally I was there. The teacher helped get her into the car and off we were. Despite me wanting to blurt out, “What is wrong?”, I managed to get out my cheerful, “Hi sweetie, mommy missed you, how was your day?” That perked her up a bit and she continued with her stories and then said “Well there was one part of the day that made me sad.” I knew that I wanted to be able to look at her and be able to hug her when she told me about this sad part of the day so I quickly replied “Well I definitely want to hear what made you sad but let’s wait until we get home.” Then I quickly turned up the stereo volume and sang Laurie Berkner Band songs with her. I became irritated with every red light and found myself singing the Bumblee Song at warp speed. At least it made her laugh.
Okay, twenty minutes later we are home and of course she runs into my bedroom and squeals out “MAD LOVE!” I knew at that point she really needed it and that whatever she wanted to tell me could wait ten more minutes. So as we were loving, nuzzling, tickling, hugging and kissing she stops and grabs my face and stares at it. I could see the deep thinking going on in her mind. She then asked, “Mommy how come your eyebrows don’t look like a bat?” At first I couldn’t help but to laugh but quickly thought ‘How did she come up with that kind of question?’ So, I asked her to explain more about what she meant. “Well, in school today, one boy said that my eyebrows looked like a bat and then some of the other kids were saying it too.” BOOM! And there it was. At this point, I didn’t want to make too much of it and I also didn’t want to assume that the other kids were being insensitive especially at an age when imagination is everything.
One week went by, the teasing continued, and it became evident that my little girl was being bullied. I knew this when she told me that one of the kids said to her “Well, my mommy said that what you have is not normal.” I had seen the change in her attitude in just one week. She was more hesitant, shy, withdrawn and was being outcast at playtime. Oh did my blood boil! My instinct wanted nothing more than to give this mother and her son a piece of my mind. As I pushed through cleaning, and making dinner, all I kept thinking about was how to go about handling this. Finally, that night when my daughter was in bed, I had a moment to clear my head and got creative. I had clarified to myself that the main importance was to change this questionable feeling that my daughter suddenly had about herself. This was the very first lesson of teaching my daughter about self-confidence. I managed to find some information about the history of the unibrow. Now remember, we are Portuguese so having a unibrow is quite normal to us. Did I have a unibrow growing up? Heck I did, and I waited until I was 12 to get rid of that sucker.
The next morning was Saturday, so after breakfast I eagerly and enthusiastically brought her over to the computer. I managed to find some pictures of beautiful women, young and old, with unibrows. I cleverly hid their eyebrows as I showed each picture to her and said, “Wow, isn’t she pretty?” She would agree. Then I would reveal their unibrow and say, “She’s still pretty isn’t she?” She would agree. Then I found some information stating that, in many cultures, the unibrow represented great beauty and even royalty. She liked that and immediately claimed herself a Princess. I, of course, gave her the background of why she has a unibrow and that even Mommy had one growing up and showed her old pictures of myself.
That Monday was a monumental moment for me as a mother. As I approached her, in the car line, I could see her little legs dancing and her little mouth moving a mile a minute. I knew that whatever she wanted to tell me wouldn’t be able to wait until we got home. “Mommy, guess what?” Excitedly I responded, “Tell me.” “Well, today some of the kids were talking about my bat and I told them some of the things you told me and that I liked my bat. Then, they laughed and asked me to go on the swings with them.” Thank goodness I had my sunglasses on because as I cheered her on, and laughed out loud, I was crying like a baby – just as I am right now writing this, as I recall that delicate moment that was the beginning of shaping my daughters character and self-confidence for the rest of her life.
A few weeks went by and there was no more teasing. It was in that week that I went to bed with a peaceful heart. I reflected on the experience we had and accepted the fact that forms of bullying begin at a very early age; an age where both the bully and the one getting bullied are truly victims. A tender age, where learning compassion, empathy and self-confidence are crucial. I was almost asleep when I sprung up, grabbed my journal and in one long night wrote the story of Willy The Wacky Duck.
Today, I am overjoyed to let you know that my eleven-year-old daughter is a compassionate, confident young girl. She is inspiring and has a strong voice; stronger than when I had as a child. She is also very funny and, yes, even wacky. I’m sure you are all wondering about that unibrow? Well, after being sure that she wanted to remove it for herself, and not because of how others felt about it, I introduced her to tweezers when she was almost eleven. Of course, I have the honours of taking care of this and we only address the connecting centre part of her brow.
I have had great success in sharing this book with young children. Their response has proven that this story connects with them and is able to bring awareness about the importance of being compassionate, confident and celebrating each other’s differences.
Please visit Willy the Wacky Duck to learn more about the book and my mission.
Many blessings to you and as always, be KIND be TRUE be YOU!
Sincerely, Kristine Rocha