One day a few weeks my daughter came home from school and said that there was a new boy from class. "He is, I don't know how to say it, interesting," she told me, with large emphasis on the word interesting.
After some questioning it turned that the boy, lets call him Sam, was from Vietnam and went to a language school four days a week and came to her school once a week. He spoke funny and the kids all laughed when he said anything. He would say things like "give me rubber."
I told her that Sam was learning the language and that's what happens when people learn English. In fact, it's what she did when she learnt. The only difference is that she was too little to know. I explained that when the other children laughed at Sam they were making him feel self concious and that it was a form of bullying.
Sofia took on board my comments. Whenever Sam was at school she would tell me about the things other children were doing and how she felt bad about it. One night she cried as she told me how the children were laughing at him. She realised that this had happened to another boy last year and she hadn't realised what was happening. We discussed that feeling bad was well and good, but we also had to take action when something wasn't right. I told her that it all it takes is one person to do the right thing and make others think about their behaviour. She decided that she would be-friend Sam and that's what she did.
A few weeks later two boys were apparently playing with Sam. Their idea of playing was to hold a cricket bat above their head and shout at him. Sam was very frightened. Sofia intervened and told the boys off. One of the boys attempted scaring her by telling her that he would tell his brother on her (the brother is a grade 6 captain), but Sofia wouldn't back down.
My daughter is not what you would call a shrinking flower. I've raised her to have a mouth on her, even if it is to my detriment. Yesterday I was getting ready for a dinner with the girls. I matched my beige dress with a beige cardigan, and went to put on my tan sandals. "What do you think about these shoes with the outfit, Sofia?" Her answer, "Did you buy every brown piece of clothing at the shop?" After I stopped laughing I put on my silver sandals.
When Sofia came home and told me about what had happened with Sam, I told her I was proud of her. I was proud that she did the right thing and that she stood up for injustice, but I was incredibly proud that I had raised a daughter who had the strength of character to not back down. As girls we are socially conditioned to comply, to be people-pleasers and to not make a fuss. But it is these same things that can place us in danger and take away our self confidence. I'm proud of my daughter and I hope that I can continue to inspire her to be a strong girl and grow to be a strong woman.
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
Sign up and receive free books.