When You’re Only Lonely

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.

Alone.

Lonely.

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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17 Responses to When You’re Only Lonely

  • My daughter is only 8 mos. old, and already I dread the days of hearing her tell stories of navigating the social jungle of childhood and adolescence.

    • Megan says:

      I remember those days from childhood all too well. And, I’m sure that Lanie – the real youngest/outsider from the “group” will feel it someday too… maybe even from Shaila (!), and I will feel the burn in my gut, just as you do. She is strong, and will be ok – b/c you are teaching her to be independant and to stand strong, even when alone. :) <3

      • Masala Chica says:

        Megan, I promise you this. If Shaila is EVER rude to either Lanie or Gus – you let me know right away. I’ll have a talk with ms. thing. It’s sad though – I think I am starting to understand some of the areas of parenting where I may be more helpless than I thought…

    • Masala Chica says:

      Oh Andrew, you better be prepared. After pre-school is when the claws really start coming out :-). I have a feeling if she has your way with words, she’ll be able to navigate the jungle alright.

  • Michelle Quadt says:

    I highly recommend talking with the parents on the street. Being one of them, I know that all are open to discussions. We can’t help if you don’t talk to us. I know I have had to enlist the help of other parents as one of my children was struggling. No need to do this alone.

    • Masala Chica says:

      Hi Michelle,

      I can talk to parents, who can talk to their children, but ultimately this is something every child will have to face at some point – the feeling of isolation and loneliness. Kids will be kids and there is only so much a parent can do to protect them. Sometimes intervention actually even makes things worse.

      At the crux of this post is that regardless of what that situation is, there is no deeper hurt than seeing your child hurt. I can’t fault children for wanting to play with older kids or a boy for abandoning her because another boy came along.

      There is no child clamoring to play with her and running to our house with excitement to play with her – I can’t force that. She is hungry for company but nobody else is as hungry as her because they have what they need, whether that’s in the form of a best friend or an older “posse.”

      That being said, I will discuss it with the parents who I think may be able to help. Thanks!

  • Sig
    Twitter:
    says:

    Ohhhh my heart breaks and I got all teary (damn hormones!) when I read this because I know all too well that feeling too. I don’t how I’m going to handle it if that happens to my kid – we want to protect them as much as we can without damaging them. I don’t know what the balance is. Parenting sounds hard.

    I think maybe talking to other parents might help, at the very least make them aware of what’s happening as well.

    Can I give Shaila a virtual hug?? *hug*

    • Masala Chica says:

      She sends a virtual “hug” back. Girlfriend will be ok, sister. She is tougher than she looks :-) Besides sometimes learning how to be alone is something that makes you stronger in the end.

      We’ll take it for what it is and hope she finds her special “niche” soon enough.

      Kiran

  • The Bride says:

    This post tugged at my heart-strings because this is one of those things you cannot really prepare for as a parent – watching your child being rebuffed or being at the receiving end of cruel treatment on the playground. My son is two and we live in a city that is, deep down, not so friendly to outsiders, particularly brown-skinned ones, so my son gets more than his fair share of this though he is young enough to move on very quickly.

    That said, I was the kid without friends for at least two years in school. My elder sister used to give up playing with her friends during recess so I had someone to be with. It all turned out okay in the end though…I managed to find my clique; I’m sure Shaila will too though these are hard times.

    • Masala Chica says:

      You really can’t prepare for it, and I think it’s a precursor for other pains we will have to see them go through where we might not be in control of the outcome – hard for parents to be on the sideline through that.

      When I was younger, I grew up in a town with not very much ethnicity. It was in NJ. That sounds funny because NJ is virtually an extension of India at this point with the number of Indians that have settled there. We had the same problem – sometimes my advances to make friends were declined and it was hard.

      I think though that experiencing that solitude and having that happen opens kids eyes a little bit. I was never cruel to other children because I had been on the receiving end myself. I bet you weren’t either as a result of your own experience, probably more inclusive than exclusive, more welcoming than not.

      Hard times help define you. She is going to be just fine :-)

      Kiran

  • your words are eyeopener to many moms and dads!

  • Alison
    Twitter:
    says:

    Oh, that hurts my heart. I dread this, you know. For my children. Especially my first. At home, he is all bossy and feisty and demanding, but when we’re in public, he’s quiet, cautious and wary. And I worry that will affect him with other kids, that they’ll bully him, that he’ll be left out. I dread the day he comes home in tears because someone hurt him in some way. Because I know my first impulse would be to throat punch the offender. Not exactly stellar parenting.

    I hope Shaila navigates this time easily. Or at least, easier. Hugs little one.

    • Masala Chica says:

      Yeah, Shaila is very much the same way at home. She is less timid now, but when she was younger, she sounds like she had a lot in common with your first.

      I think every kid who goes through this, gets through this as long as they have the love they need from home. It’s hard to watch as a parent because it’s one of the times you realize you don’t have direct control over influencing their happiness and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

      You can talk to other parents or try to intervene, but I think sometimes you have to let these things play out a little. You can’t “force” other kids to “want” to be your child’s friend.

      Giving hugs.

  • elaine says:

    Oh, Shaila and that big beautiful smile she gives me everyday at school! Well, first of all, you KNOW Nina is totally obsessed with Shaila., I’ve told you that before… All her little dollies are named “Shaila”. Granted, Nina is 3 1/2 and so of course, she loves the older, pretty girl! Well, you are a better mother than I, bc my mamma bear instincts come out way too quick when i see an injustice to my kids… I know it’s probably not the best course of action, after all- they are small children…but I get all Gina from Martin on these kids before i even know what i’m doing sometimes! “No, he didn’t take your skateboard, you left it here, buddy, now, go ahead and say sorry to jaden for accusing him, thank you.” or if someone isn’t nice to them i tell them to say “that’s not cool” HA! this cracks me up. I have no idea what we, parents are supposed to do when we see our child’s feelings be hurt except love extra hard, cuddle more, kiss more, pay more gentle attention to…Shaila is awesome! So don’t you start thinking for one second that this will be her path in school! She’s sweet and kind and I’m sure many, many other great things! She’ll have many wonderful friends and possibly some haters…bc, well, i guess that’s life. unfortunately. and it’ll be those lonely, confused times that teach her what true friendship is all about….and what it isn’t. xoxo

  • So very hard to be the youngest kid around. :(

    I do remember times of being left out. I see it happen sometimes with my older two and I know it hurts them. And then I have to explain to my youngest why he shouldn’t leave kids out. It’s hard all the way around.

    • Masala Chica says:

      It’s hard on both sides – on that I definitely agree. Right now, Shaila is the one who is left out, but at some point she may be the one creating “exclusiveness” around her. I think the thing we have to try to do from early on and keep hammering home is inclusion.
      :-) Kiran

      On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 4:41 PM, Masala Chica

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MEET KIRAN
I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....
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