Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you. – Khalil Gibran
Remember the other day how I wrote about what a pain the ass my daughter is ? Well I kind of left out something really important.
It’s that while I can recognize that she can be a bit “much” sometimes, I literally ache when I watch her trying to play with other kids and being ignored, rebuffed or made fun of.
It’s a terrible feeling.
I love our neighborhood. I really do. One of the reasons we moved here was because we wanted to be close to other families and around lots of kids.
John and I had just gotten married when we moved to this house and so most of our neighbors had a head start on us. There were already lots of kids running around, playing basketball, riding bikes, kicking balls around.
An idyllic setting for us as we started a young family.
On our street, Shaila is the youngest of the girls. And though some kids will play with her when there aren’t better options around, she gets dropped like a hot potato as soon as someone older or someone “cooler” comes along for her playmate to join.
It’s hard. I see her face. I see the loneliness in it. She usually will look bewildered when she is abandoned, not realize even sometimes that the girls are “hiding” from her trying to avoid her completely and making fun of her.
She will usually go back to doing whatever it was that she was doing with her friend a second before, but this time alone. Drawing with chalk is her favorite – and sit by herself, lost in her own world as she draws away.
I try to not let it bother me. Telling myself that this is just a phase and things must be better at school, or that this is just what happens to the youngest kid who doesn’t have an older sibling to defend her. And somehow, it’s easier that she doesn’t seem to know when she is being mocked, that the sarcasm from the older girls is sometimes lost on her.
Or maybe she does get it.
The other day, I was cuddling in bed with her when she started crying. She had gone over to a friend’s house and asked her to play outside and the friend had slammed the door in Shaila’s face.
Me: Baby, why didn’t you tell me?
Shaila: I don’t know.
She shrugged. I looked into her big brown eyes. I found myself wavering between wanting to knock somebody out and just crying with her. I knew both options would be wrong.
1) You should never want to get in a smack down with someone less than the age of ten when you are my age
2) I couldn’t let her see me cry
I think if you have had a normal childhood, you remember those moments of insecurity and isolation. The moment when you were the new kid in a group or you were trying to get up enough courage to go start a conversation with a new friend. You remember the times you might have been made fun of or teased and you remember how much it might have hurt.
Do you remember the kids in middle and high school who got it the worst? I always remember this boy named Carlos. He was honestly the cutest thing, looking back at him. But most kids saw him as an annoying little peanut. A peanut with an opinion, who wasn’t shy to speak his mind and didn’t sit docilely in the corner.
Carlos got made fun of all the time. I remember one day a taller boy spit in his hair and how hysterical everybody thought it was. I remember how one day, one of the most popular boys in our class shoved him into a locker and locked him in it. Again, it was all just hysterical.
I never laughed. But I didn’t really say much to defend Carlos and other kids like him when I was younger. I remember one time, I did rush to defend someone and was told “to mind my own business, you stupid Hindu,” and then being laughed at myself. I still would defend other kids, but with the knowledge that I could be as quickly attacked.
I look at Shaila and wonder, is she going to be like Carlos? What if she WERE to be singled out like that? What kind of mother would I be? What kind of fortitude would I have to get her through it as unblemished as possible?
Yesterday, I was cooking in the kitchen when John walked in. He informed me that while Shaila had been playing with her friends, better alternatives had come along and she had been dropped again, just minutes after she had rushed into our house, asking for juice boxes for all of her buddies.
He said she just stood there with the juice boxes after she ran out and her friends were gone.
Shaila: But I just brought them drinks…
I finished up what I was doing, wanting to keep my daughter company. I didn’t need to. Another girl on our block, a really sweet girl a few years older than Shaila, came over and played with her, almost like she knew that my daughter needed a friend. Shaila gave her one of the drinks. Maybe this sweet child had seen the other girl run off, hiding behind an SUV with a few older girls and laughing at my daughter.
Regardless of her reasons, I was grateful as I heard my daughter’s laughter. Her sweet little giggle as the older girl told her jokes and made her laugh.
She’s gonna be alright. As long as I keep hearing the sound of her laughter, I know that much to be true.
“I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.” – Ann Lamott
Do you remember feeling bullied or left out as a child? What kind of wisdom would you hope to impart to your child to make sure they are not instigators, or to help them heal if they are the ones being hurt?
Photography by Tellchronicles.
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