> 2005 - 2010



Painted bronze, wood and linoleum, 2005, 23" x 23" x 19".

“Boys will be boys.” “They don’t mean it.” “Don’t get mad, get even.” “Ignore them.” “Play with someone else.” “Stop being so sensitive.” “It will be different when you are grown up.”

Even though most of us have felt the sting of an unkind word and the pain of ostracism, we find ourselves parroting to children worn out advice from our childhood. We reflexively defend children regardless of their actions. We resignedly accept the characterizations of children as cruel, the schoolyard as a mine field and the classroom as a jungle.

I asked a school counselor to compare words kids use to bond among friends with those they use to hurt and exclude. She patiently explained that they are often the same; but they are twisted from one to the other by how they are said and received. The balance skews when one child feeds on the power to provoke a reaction, while the other feels powerless, deferring, yearning to reclaim the power with a payback.

How do we stop the taunts and paybacks from escalating into conflicts that fester over years or explode into instant rivalry and hatred? How do we stop our adult actions and reactions that allow and feed the conflicts, splintering kids into packs, pitting family against family? How do we keep our childhood roles of bully or victim from spilling into our adult lives, further polluting our sense of self, our families, and our communities?

-Janet Geib Pretti

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