I picked her up from school on Tuesday. It was the week of Valentine’s Day and we had spent Monday decorating her Valentine’s box to take to school for her party. I loved this project with her because it reminded me of my own elementary years and what fond memories I have of creating that box each year.
“How was your day?” I asked, as usual.
“Fine, except (names two girls in her class) told me that my box was ugly and that it was the worst one.”
Here’s the kicker. We hadn’t even taken her box to school yet. We were taking it on Wednesday.
Is there anything that makes a parent’s blood boil faster than hearing about someone being mean to their child? Seriously.
I kept my calm but I told her that it made me so sad and frustrated to hear that people would say that. I vented some of my thoughts out loud, telling her that I didn’t understand why anyone would criticize someone else’s creativity and that that was just ridiculous that anyone would even say something like that and if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.
I was still frustrated by the situation when we got home. As we got out of the car I said, “You know, I’m so disappointed that someone else would treat you like that. It makes me mad and it makes me want to march over to school and put them in timeout. But the truth is, I can’t. Because I’m not their parent and I can’t control how they act. The only thing I can control is what I do as your mom.”
And I stopped and knelt down to her level and looked her in the eye and said,
“Please hear me when I tell you this because it is so important. Nobody has a good reason to be mean to you. Ever. If somebody is mean to you, it is about them. It is not about you. If someone doesn’t like your box, that is fine. We all like different things and that’s ok. But that is not a good reason for them to be mean to you. They could still be polite and kind. Even if they don’t like your stuff or how you do things, even if they don’t like you or disagree with you. That is never a good reason for them to be mean. You may not be able to change how they behave but you can know what you’re worth and you can believe in how you deserve to be treated. You always deserve kindness and respect. Always. No matter what. Everyone and everything deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. There is no such thing as a good reason to be mean to someone. Ever.”
This bullying and mean girl shit is out of control. It’s happening in KINDERGARTEN, people. How does a five year old even know how to be mean??
I suppose that’s a rant for another day. Because it is an easy rant to get carried away with, and one that ultimately leads to blame, which doesn’t seem to help anyone.
So today I’d like to stay on the topic of taking responsibility for what we can control. Every child and every human will probably encounter a situation in their life in which someone is mean to them. We may not be able to change the way others treat us, but perhaps we can change how we allow ourselves to be treated. I can’t change the people who hurt my feelings, but I can choose to remember that the pain they inflict isn’t my pain to carry.
And I may not be able to march into Kindergarten and put everyone into timeout, but I can tell my child ever day, “No one ever has a good reason to be mean to you. Ever. So if they are, let it go. Because it isn’t your pain to carry.” And I can pray every day that she will believe me. That she will grow up knowing how senseless meanness is, and that that will not only guide the way she behaves but also who she chooses to invest her time in.
When other people act in a way that feels desperately and painfully out of our control, it’s easy to forget we have a choice at all. But we do.
(Disclaimer: In no way do I mean for this post to imply that I am without blame in my life. I know that I have made mistakes and been mean and unkind more times than I am even aware of. We are all human and we all strive to live in a way that is in alignment with what we believe and I, like most people, often fall short. I can only hope the people I’ve been unkind to had the strength and grace not to carry my pain with them. I also recognize that my child is human and will probably be unnecessarily mean to someone else at some point(s) in her life. I hope this message addresses both sides of the situation.)