"Just stay away from her!" I can't recall the number of times I have told my children this about kids they meet. Kids that are mean or bossy and are driving my kids crazy. It's such an easy phrase to throw out there, isn't it? This will solve all your social issues, sweet daughter, stay away!
How many times have our kids returned home from school with a story about the mean kid or the bossy kid and we simply say, "Just stay away from them!" It's such an easy phrase to blurt out. But what if we actually took the time to listen to the other side instead of react and dismiss?
Well I did. Completely by accident. It wasn't something I intended to do or wanted to pursue. I promise. I simply was introduced to some new moms and in walked the mom of a girl in my daughter's class that my daughter has dismissed. That, according to my daughter is negative and bossy and well, mean. And yes I have said to my daughter, "Just stay away from her. Find other people!"
But here I was face to face with this mom whose daughter was making my child's life harder. There were so many things I wanted to say. But I didn't. For maybe the first time in my life I shut my mouth and listened. This mom, who I didn't really know, was having a really hard day; a really hard life actually. And although she was surrounded by near strangers her pain and hurt spilled over her coffee and there was nothing she could do to stop it. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head often as she spoke of her past that ran into her present without permission. She was so honest and so open about her struggles and she knew it had also spilled out onto her daughter and that, that part was what hurt her most. I didn't have to tell her anything.
And that place where a woman I knew I was never going to like, well it turned into a human that I related to, that my heart hurt for, that became somehow real to me.
And I drove away feeling terrible. Why had I dismissed her so easily? Why had I told my daughter to just stay away from her daughter? When now, now that I had all this info, now that I really knew the story, I also knew what her daughter needed most is friendship, is understanding, is grace. I've spent years working with children in education and I know enough to know that acting out and attention seeking is a cry for help from children. It's a symptom, not a sign to the other kids to stay away.
Sometimes we ask for the things we get in life. Sometimes we don't. But all the times we don't know what other people are going through unless we get the opportunity to hear their story, to listen. Those harsh words I spoke to my own daughter about her classmate of "Just STAY away!" has been changed to "Give her some grace, give her some forgiveness, Just PRAY away." Pray a way for your classmate to receive healing and love and understanding. Pray for good things for your classmate and her family. Pray that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that good things are coming. Pray a way sweet daughter.
And my daughter has tried. She tells me that she is more understanding now of her classmate, more aware that not every kid at school has what my daughter has at home. Not everyone is quite so lucky. And sometimes that hurt and that pain spills over in kids too in the form of mean and loud and jealous.
And this mom, this mom of my daughter's classmate needs love and support and grace as well and I can't expect my child to offer it if I won't. Adulthood is messy and hard and uncomfortable but so is childhood and we forget that sometimes. Where would we be if we never had someone help us sort the mess into something beautiful? Where would I be?
So, I have pulled out the bent card with smeared numbers that the mom gave me that day, sent a text and asked her for coffee.
I sure hope she accepts.