"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me," I sang to myself softly while standing in the corner alcove at grade school.
It didn't stop them from constantly teasing me, and it didn't take the sting out of their words, but I didn't know what else to say as a grade school kid with buck teeth.
I hadn't thought of those challenging days of being teased until I was watching my grandson sing at his school and his parents pointed out a kid who had been bullying him on the bus.
I could feel the flush on my face and had a hard time not staring at the kid, hoping we would catch eyes. I’m not sure what I thought I was going to do or say to this “bully,” but my anger nearly kept me from enjoying the concert. Both of my girls had incidents in which they were teased or hurt by classmates, and I don’t remember feeling this overwhelming urge to set things straight.
No one is going to bully my grandkids, I thought to myself. I could follow him out of the gym and blame it on being a mad menopausal grandma.
Funny how childhood wounds continue to follow you as an adult. Luckily, I got my senses gathered and didn’t catch up with the kid who slapped my grandson across the face.
I had an overbite – buck teeth – or as the kids would circle around and sing, "Bucky beaver, do you want to saw down some trees?"
It wasn't a pleasant sight. My teeth jutted out so far I couldn't close my lips – which led to dried food and stained teeth. Although my mouth wasn't ready for braces, the orthodontist did me a favor and started early. My fifth grade year was spent a little differently, or at least a different chant was sung: "Sandy has head gear, and she better not look in the mirror."
I had to wear the contraption 24/7. If you’ve seen the remake of “Willy Wonka” movie, it resembles his headgear as a kid. A harness fit over my head with two metal pieces that hooked onto my front teeth. I looked like a walrus.
Sure, I survived. I didn't let it lead me into taking revenge out on the world for tormenting me, but I learned the hard way name calling and insults, teasing or not, hurt just as much or more than sticks and stones.
I think I figured out why I continue to dream about losing my two front teeth.
Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.