Since the advent of language, words have always been a tool; a tool to bring us works of beauty like those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, bold intentions like the Declaration of Independence, and every other form of expression from the inane to the eloquent at the tip of our lips and pens. Oh words, how powerful you can be, to bring leaders to their knees and children to tears with simple utterances. You give a voice to everyone, the weak and strong alike, but words can both wield you and unexpectedly hurt you and some of the cruelest incarnations can come from the mouth of babes. As it was on a typical Tuesday afternoon when my child came off the bus and I heard those six heart wrenching words: so and so said ‘You can’t come to my party.’
To say my heart crashed in my chest when my child looked up at me and told me what had transpired at school is an understatement. As parents the one thing we want to do is to keep our children safe from the terrible atrocities played out on the world stage, from the unseen harms of GMOs and BPAs, from the everyday bumps, cuts, and boo boos, and of course from the hardest pain of all, those of the heart. And here was my child sharing with me a pain that was outside of my protection. For me this also hit home a fear I have long had — is my child liked by his peers?
I will be the first person to admit my child is… different. Difficult might be a better word in truth. As a parent it’s hard to say that you know your child isn’t always the best person you know they can be, and you can often see how peers might perceive them negatively. My child certainly struggles with such things, especially when it comes to friendships. My child is handsy, can often snatch or act impulsively leading to hurt feelings, and often disengage and leave friends wondering if they were even paying attention to them.
I often deal with these issues and they are exhausting if I’m blunt, frustrating if I’m honest. We can clash often daily and it leads to tears and rage and hurt hearts all around. I can easily see children encountering these same issues and pulling away. What parent doesn’t want their child to be liked, to have friends, to know they belong? While I can understand it, I also love my child deeply and when they are upset, no matter the cause, I also feel it in my own heart and mind.
I can try to arm my child with ways of being a better friend. Once they step outside my doors they are on their own, and I am on the sideline hoping as much as I can hope that someone sees the wonderful person I see when I look at my child. That through the rough edges there is an amazing person waiting to be found if they try and look past some of the challenges my child can present.
My child’s teacher overheard the situation, and addressed not saying things that might hurt others’ feeling out loud even if they were true. My child, for all their faults, bucks up rather quickly and is able move on a lot of times on their own. We talked about how it was rude to say and that I was sorry that they had to hear those words. I realize that children at this age are still learning how to make friends and be good friends. I am sure the other child probably didn’t mean to or know they were possibly hurting my child with those words. For all I know perhaps my child did something unfriendly first.
Because of this incident, I feel it’s even more important to help my child build good solid friendships. I have accepted that my child won’t be every child’s best friend, and that’s ok. But friendships are still important, and I want my child to have at least a few good ones they can depend on. We have a smattering of friends currently, from pre-school days and other random places, and a lot of times these friendships last because I became friends with the other mothers. Perhaps I can help my child maintain these bonds by keeping my own bonds of friendship with the mothers. I also think my child would greatly benefit if we found an activity where he could meet other children in smaller settings on a consistent basis. My child is also blessed with siblings, which I hope will always be a source of friendship through the years.
I hope we can continue to find ways to expose ourselves to different situations and spark new friendships, but know that sometimes quality might override quantity.