When my son was in preschool, he experienced his first dose of bullying.
Before my son was 5, he was sweet, polite and not yet exposed to the meanness of children. He loved to play construction and blocks, but he would also play tea party with the girls. At some point during his first year at preschool, a group of little girls decided that they no longer played with the boys and were at times very cruel to my son. It broke my heart for him because he was happy to play whatever they wanted. I didn't think he would have to deal with this kind of thing until big kid school started. I was wrong.
After that situation settled, he made a group of all boy friends. He happily played with them and forgot about the girls. He didn't encounter any type of bullying the following year in preschool and nothing at all came up until kindergarten.
Within the first month or so of kindergarten, my son wore a stripped, navy and white shirt to school. Some of the kids in his class made fun of him, saying that it looked like he had worn his pajamas to school. My reaction, at the time, was to tell him that he didn't have to wear the shirt to school anymore. Looking back, I realize I was just trying to protect his feelings, but I had an opportunity to teach him an important lesson. Instead, he taught me one. "No thanks, Mommy. I want to wear the shirt again tomorrow." I have never been more proud of my incredible son than I was in that moment. He wasn't going to let those kids affect him or how he dressed.
I know my son may encounter bullying at different times over the years, but I am confident now that he will handle himself better than I could have hoped.