The oldest came home from school sad. Some other kids had said things that hurt her feelings.
Y’all, there is so much about parenting that is hard. But knowing someone else hurt your baby in any way, that’s pretty close to the top of the list.
It’s hard because it just plain sucks that you can’t protect them all the time.
But it’s also hard to know how to react when they tell you about it. My first instinct was to try to downplay what they had said. “Maybe they were joking.” “Maybe they were having a bad day.” etc. I thought maybe if she could understand that if someone was mean to her it was about their actions, not anything she had done wrong to deserve it, then it wouldn’t hurt so much.
But then I sounded like I was making excuses for them. And I didn’t want to do that because I also want her to know that there’s no excuse for them being mean to her.
And then I thought about trying to make it better by cheering her up. “You’re amazing and you’re tough and you don’t need to listen to anyone who is mean to you. Period.”
But then it felt like I was trying to talk her out of her feelings. And I didn’t want to do that. Because the truth is, it does suck when people say things that hurt. Feeling sad is normal and it’s a perfectly acceptable feeling. I didn’t want her to feel like there was anything wrong with how she was feeling in this situation.
So instead, I just listened. Mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. But looking back now, I think it might have been the best thing I could have done. I listened and I acknowledged her feelings. “That sucks that someone said that. I’m sorry that happened. I would feel sad too. I wish we had a magic remote to control how other people treated us, too.”
And then I decided that, for every mean thing I heard someone else say to her, I was going to make it a point to say one hundred nice things.
I was going to tell her that I’m happy I get to sit by her at dinner. That I loved how well she was doing with her handwriting. That I was proud of her for tackling her homework right away after school. That I thought the flower she added to her hair was beautiful. That she was an amazing sister. That she made me laugh every day with her quick wit. That I appreciated her help. That her hair smelled nice. That I liked the pajamas she picked after bath.
One hundred nice things, even if they were the simplest of compliments.
Turns out, it’s actually not that hard. Kids are beautifully easy to compliment. They soak up love like a sponge.
I still don’t know what the best way to handle her hurt feelings is. But I do know that I can make sure she hears one hundred times more nice things than mean ones.
And, for now, I can still gather her up in my arms at the end of the day and hold her. And I can hope that showering her in love will make her strong enough to go back out into the world tomorrow with renewed optimism. I can hope that my love will be the voice that stays in her head above any others. I can hope that it makes her resilient enough to not only protect her from unkindness but to prevent her from spreading that unkindness to others, as we sometimes do when someone is unkind to us.
I can’t always protect her, but I can love her with all my might.
Maybe, in a way, that is better.