“Mom…the reason I’m so grumpy tonight is that I just didn’t have a very good day.”
“Oh?” I said……because after all the arguing and fighting and meltdowns from my kindergartner in just two hours of time together, it was all I could muster.
“Yes. I fell down on the playground and some boy with red pants and a black shirt called me a loser.”
My heart dropped to my knees, blood drained from my face….this was the exact reason I cried so hard the first day I sent her to school. Quickly, I gathered up my pain and my frustration and tucked it deep into my gut….emptied out my thoughts and said, “Tell me about that.”
She told me the story. She fell down. He said, “you’re a loser.” She told me how sad it made her feel and how hurt and how she wasn’t sure if she was over it. That it made her feel like she was scared of having a bad day again. She also told me about how another boy in her class stood up for her and told this kid how mean it was to say that. I found some sense of relief in that.
I feared this. I dreaded it. I knew it would happen. One day my little girl, my most sacred and beautiful part of my life will be told she was something less than what I know she is and what she knows she is. And there are three reactions – fight back OR forgive. OR do nothing. I knew this day would happen when she got knocked down when she was two by someone cutting in line to go down the slide….and what I told her then was, “If they want to go down that slide so bad, just let them, it isn’t worth the fight.” I have always regretted that I ever said that to her. Because…..I left no room for that little part in all of us that needs to stand up for what is right. I basically told her to be passive, to let people walk all over her……all because we shouldn’t fight.
Well……so there it was. On the playground yesterday. A kid knocked her over with words and went down the slide, while she stood there ill-equipped to handle it. And as I picked up the pieces of my overly sensitive daughter’s heart, I said, “You know you’re not a loser, right?”
She said, “Right.”
But there is something in me that knows this will stick with her. I know this will be a thing she remembers. And I know that there will come a day when letting someone go down the slide ahead of her because she doesn’t want to fight won’t be the rule of thumb.
How do I teach my child how to be laid back enough to not let line cutters bother her, but to be bold enough to let name callers know that she will not be degraded? How do I teach her nonviolence in a way that still empowers and is assertive? Sticks and stones just does not seem to cut it in the world of today’s bullying…….words do actually hurt and scar us for life. That word, loser, will probably hurt her forever……and she’s only 5 and three quarters as she likes to put it.
I know I can’t fix this…….and I can’t take the incident away……and that ball of pain I put away earlier still sits there and I imagine it’s something I’ll get used to eventually. I am lucky to have such a strong child who understands what words hurt and what words don’t…..now I want a gentle child who understands that her sense of self does not depend on playground warfare, but on her confidence and her ability to know what is worth fighting for. It’s a hard line to walk on…..and maybe this is a line she will figure out for herself…..but it’s also a line that I had hoped forever she’d never have to cross.