my little ponyGot some pain relievers? Grab them, because this story is bound to give you a headache. A school in North Carolina is getting a lot of heat right now after telling a 9-year-old boy that he can't bring his My Little Pony lunchbag to school anymore.

What's so wrong with Rarity and Rainbow Dash that a school would ban the ponies? Well, it turns out Grayson Bruce was being bullied over his bag.

Way to punish the victim, Buncombe County Schools?

Well, yeah.

From the sounds of the situation, the school is completely out of line here. The message they're sending to these bullies is pretty clear: if you act like a jerk, you win. I'm 100 percent in Grayson's mom's corner as she demands the school actually punish the bullies instead of her son.

But even as folks rally around this family and fight the good fight for the My Little Pony lunchbag, I have to admit there's a small part of me that feels ... guilty watching this all go down.

Would I fight for my kid in the same situation? Certainly.

But then, I don't know if I'd let her get herself in that situation.

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It isn't that I don't support my child or her imagination. She is a free spirit, and I love that about her. But I was bullied as a kid. I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of taunts and jeers. That haunts me enough that it plays a role in how I parent.

Simply put: I don't allow my daughter to wear or bring everything she likes to school ... at least not the things that might make her a target.

This is where my guilt comes into play, where the ache in my head begins to throb.

My heart tells me to encourage her to let her freak flag fly because our individuality is what makes life worth living. My head, on the other hand, tells me that kids can be cruel, and there's no point in purposely making oneself a target, not when you have to attend the same school as these kids day in and day out for years to come, not when kids are already finding reasons to be mean, already bullying her.

When heart and head collide, I feel like I'm totally failing as a mom.

I don't want her to feel like she should just run with the crowd; I want her to forge her own path. And I should be clear that there are times I certainly make a stand for being whoever she wants to be. Just the other day, she told me that people made fun of her for being friends with first graders (she's in third grade). I told her that she should tell those people that they'll miss out on knowing a lot of great people if they're only friends with people their own age.

I will not raise a sheep.

And yet ... the scars of bullying run deep. When she asks to bring a toy that some would call babyish for an 8-year-old to school, I hesitate. Sometimes I say no.

I don't ban it at home, nor do I tell her why it is I'm saying no, lest it mark her psyche. But I err on the side of caution.

I am not going to say Grayson's mom was wrong for letting him bring that lunchbag to school. She was supporting her kid, and that's what kids need. Nor do I excuse the school for victim blaming.

But I have to be completely honest: seeing once again how cruel kids can be -- and how unresponsive school districts can be to parents' complaints -- only steels my resolve to protect my child as best I can from being a bully's target.

How about you? Do you ever worry that your kids' choices make them targets of bullies?

 

Image by Jeanne Sager