By Linda McQueen

GROWING UP AND UNTIL I WAS 32 YEARS OLD, I had a horrible overbiteI was the middle child out of seven children, so we did not have a lot of money, but my poor parents took me to the dentist anyway. The dentist would always say, “I cannot help herHer overbite is 90 percent protrudingShe would have to go to a specialist, and they would have to break her jaws to correct the bite.” Of course, a specialist would have been way out of my parents’ budgetNeedless to say, I would go home without hope, knowing that I would have to endure being made fun of every day of my life.

Wherever I went, people would make fun of me, calling me names like “Bucky” and “Buckteeth” and asking me if I could eat corn through a picket fenceI was even beat up because of my overbiteI always felt uglyI would try smiling at school so maybe—just maybe—the other students would not notice that I had an overbiteBut the worst feeling was that I knew when I went home, after hearing those words all day at school, I would hear them there too.

When I met my husband Mike almost 35 years ago, he loved me for me. He never once mentioned my overbite—not even to this dayI did have surgery to correct it after my last child was born, but I still feel something inside when I hear those names that I was called.

My husband and I reared six children, and it was inevitable that some of them would encounter a bully at some point in their childhood. The old saying is, “It takes two to tango,” but the tricky part about bullying is that this saying doesn’t apply. The person being picked on may actually be doing everything he is supposed to do and minding his own business, but the bully doesn’t care. You might try to solve the problem by instructing your child to just avoid the bully, but bullies usually seek out their prey. Then you might tell your child to just talk to the authority, but the time will come when the authority is not around. You want the bad news? There is nothing you can do with a bully. Even Solomon said in Proverbs 26:4, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” Then the very next verse says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”

As a mother, I didn’t focus my attention on trying to fix the outside world with all of its problems and bullies; instead, I focused my attention on my own home and family. When we started our home, I would not let my children make fun of each other or anyone who had a complex about the way he looked. I told them to love each other. I taught them to make time to help others. I made time for them when they were hurting or had a bad day. You see, a family is a safety net. You may get picked on, you may have a rough day, you may have problems—but a strong family is there to pick you up when you’re down. When your friends are long gone, your family will still be there.

A bully’s goal is to tear down, but a mother’s goal is to build up. A mother must always offer a listening ear, and she must always make sure her children know that she believes in them. I learned not only to love my kids, but to love their company. Your kids know when you “just can’t wait to get away from them.” Sadly, many mothers can’t wait to leave their children when the children long for their companionship. Then when those same children are grown, they can’t wait to leave their mothers when the mothers long for the companionship of the children.

As our children grew, they eventually loved to be around each other. (Believe me, it didn’t happen overnight!) Their favorite place to be was home, and their favorite group to be with was family. When that is the atmosphere of the home, there is love, comfort, and security—and that is something that no bully can take away.

Through my younger years, God helped me withstand something that I did not think I could handle. But I have realized that something great came out of that nightmare: a close-knit family that loves serving others.