It’s taken me much longer than usual to write this post. It’s been a difficult one to write – one of those that feels like a punch in the gut with each press of the keys. Bear with me.
I posted the below photo on last week’s post about Deception Pass, and I was extremely hesitant to do so. Why? Take a closer look…
It’s not the fact that Miss H isn’t looking, or the squinty eyes, or even the poor coloring. Did you notice my birthmark? Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.
Most of the time I genuinely forget that I even have it. It’s the double take or the staring eyes I get in public, forcing me into a hot sweat and paralyzing nervousness. It’s the curious kids who innocently ask what it is that make me uncomfortable and remind me of it’s glaring presence. It’s the girl in my freshman English class in high school boldly stating that if she had something as disgusting as that she would just shave it off.
But this post isn’t about that.
This post is about my daughter. My vibrant, beautiful, and bold little girl. She’s fearless yet terrified. An old soul yet a tiny babe. She’s fierce and sensitive and seriously incredible. She’s not like either Chris or me, in that, she is so eager to make friends with anyone she meets and it constantly blows us away.
I never thought I’d have much to worry about with her. I was made fun of a lot growing up, experiencing some of the bigger heartbreaks that have made me who I am. You see, I’m the kind of person who in high school rarely sat at the lunch table with her classmates, but instead sat with her boyfriend and a couple of the kids who didn’t have anyone else to sit with. Because I know. I know the hurt of being left out. The sweaty palm feeling of judgy eyes and gossip is not lost on me. I know the bitter sting of words said with the intent of making the hearer feel much smaller and the sayer a bit bigger. I know.
I wanted with all my might to keep my daughter from ever experiencing that, as we mamas do. I honestly thought she would be safe. But then it happened.
It started when she would stand on our balcony overlooking the complex’s playground and she would talk to the kids her age, trying to make a friend. This move has been so hard on her and she will be the first to tell anyone with an ear that all her friends live in Omaha and she doesn’t have any here. So I thought it was innocent enough. A way for her to make small talk with the other kids.
When I felt brave enough to let her venture down to the playground by herself, within my view, I felt confident that my bright, friendly girl would make a whole gaggle of friends. And then I saw the other girls running away from her. At first I thought it was just a game. They would all be talking in a circle, and then they would run off and she after them. Was it tag?
Then it progressed to where two or three girls would stand in front of her as she just stood there with her head down. And they would point and whisper and then laugh and run off. And I saw myself there as she continued standing with her hands folded and her head down. And my heart shattered.
I would call her inside and ask her what was happening and if she was OK . She would respond that they were just playing. I told her if kids were being mean to her, she could just come back inside, that she didn’t have to deal with it if she didn’t want to.
On Easter, she was out playing with one of the girls in the guilty party. I figured all was well, since they appeared to be getting along. I heard a knock on my door and it was H and the girl. The girl had gotten hurt, and H, in all her sweetness, thought that I could make it better. I made sure all was good and sent them back down to play.
Not a day later, the same girl was playing with H and another girl. Except that they weren’t playing. They were screaming horrible things at H. Then they ran and said something to an older boy, about 9 or 10 years old. The boy began chasing H with a stick. At one point he got in her face with it, in a threatening, menacing manner. I opened the door and screamed at him to leave her alone. The girl ran up in front of my balcony and said something about H “bothering” her and I responded that she just wants to play.
And I’m screaming it over and over in my head.
She just wants to play.
Now H is that girl on the playground. The one they all stop and stare at. The one they don’t allow in. And I can’t help but wonder what she did? Is wanting to make friends such an offense? Is being wild and fierce and independent and friendly a fault?
I hope that this behavior changes drastically when school starts in the fall. I do have hope. But I also know that kids can be so mean. Much worse, it seems, than when I was that girl on the playground.
And I want to protect her, to shield her from those hurts. But I know I can’t always be there to defend her.
When all is said and done, I hope my girl takes her experiences and chooses the table with the misfits, the outsiders, the ones who hurt, the ones who know. Because for now, at least, she too, knows.