Mean girls, bullies, acne, fitting in…all those things every child from here to kingdom come has had to endure but Day 24 Tell Them It WILL Get Better reminds me that for MY child…in this very moment…when she has been left out, or made fun of…for her it doesn’t matter how many millions of children have endured those same scars. It only matters that she did…today…and that her heart is broken. And that she’s not sure she can see how it can possibly get better or that it ever will.
Because you see my friend, every day I turn on the news or read the paper, it seems there is another tragedy. Of a young child who couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Who ended their own life because the day in and day out of this growing up thing was too much to bear. Or who retaliated against all those people they felt had wronged them and hurt many more people in their own actions.
What if by sharing our own war stories we could stop some of this tragedy?
What if we could show our children that come graduation, no one cares that you were a cheerleader, or hung out with the popular crowd, or haven’t dated. Not once in my job interviews was I ever asked if I spent my Friday nights with friends or in solitude. None of my peers wanted to see how many boys I had kissed before I was in 10th grade.
No one cared! Because this is stupid stuff – not the stuff of real life. None of these things your child will worry about at 5, 10 or 15 has any bearing on the person he is or the person he will become. It won’t impact the kind of wife she will be or the kind of mom she will become.
IT MEANS NOTHING!!
But in that moment, with your child, it means EVERYTHING.
I’m starting to really see this even with my 6 year old. School yard squabbles, girls telling secrets while leaving her out. Normal things, I know, probably some of which she has been guilty of as well.
But the other night laying in bed (because you know this is when kids share ALL the details), she told me quietly in the dark:
Hannah: “Mom, did you see my friends all running away from me tonight while we were playing? I was trying to be part of the group but they were telling secrets, and laughing and not letting me a part of it.”
Me: “No, I didn’t honey. Did that hurt your feelings? Because it would have hurt mine.”
Hannah: “Yes, a lot. Why did they do that?”
Me: “Because they were a little older and they didn’t think through how their actions could really hurt you. I don’t think they are bad people, they just made a bad choice. But let’s remember how you feel so in the future, you make a decision to not do that same thing.”
Decent enough advice, huh? I mean, I didn’t blame anyone, I empathized. I did all that right.
But here’s what I WISH I had told her:
Hannah, honey, I KNOW what you are going through. Like, I REALLY know. Not like I get what you are saying and I can imagine how that would feel. But I DO know how it feels. And I’ve been there…so many times I lost count. And it started when I was young because I was a perfectionist and people called me a nerd. And it continued when I gained weight in that awkward middle school phase. And it lasted through high school as I felt I was constantly trying to find my place.
And if she needed one really good example, I should have told her this little true story –
In the 8th grade, I was soooo excited because I had auditioned AND been chosen for an all-district band that would meet to practice 3 days and perform a concert that same weekend. The location was about 2 hours from my house, so we were all housed in homes in the downtown area.
I have always been very homesick away from my parents, but I knew I had worked hard and deserved this chance to shine.
We were all put in groups and I roomed with 3 girls I had never met before. But I was young and naive and stupidly thought I would fit in with them. It was just a few days, right?
Wrong..on our first night, we all were excited to go to a large, nearby mall. I realized these girls didn’t really want to hang out with me so I guess I window-shopped on my own.
However, they couldn’t just leave it be that they didn’t want to be near me.
No, instead, unbeknownst to me, they purchased a bag of “itching” powder…you know, the kind of crap they sell in those joke-type stores. And that night, they poured it all over the inside of my jeans.
Fast forward to the next day as I was sitting on the stage for 8 hours and wondering why my legs were ON FIRE! Because that powder does not make you itch. It was like it had a chemical reaction with my skin and it felt like my skin was literally burning.
And it took me 4 hours before I realized it must have been them and confronted them. But it took me years to ever share the story with anyone beside my mom. And when I say years, I mean nearly 2 decades.
Because it was humiliating. And I felt ashamed…ashamed for something I hadn’t even done. Something I had no control over and something I certainly didn’t deserve.
But I felt so alone – with all those people on the stage that day, I felt like a spec in the darkness. I wondered what was wrong with me…how could I have become a target in such a short frame of time? Was I so worthless that trying to be my friend was out of the picture?
And I carried these feelings for years. The shame, the embarrassment, the fear.
And you know what – I don’t want to hide those feelings anymore. I want to tell my girls about them. I want them to see that their own mom dealt with mean girls and feelings of inadequacies. With being left out and alone.
But it DOES get better. And though it seems like a lifetime, in just a few short years, you probably will never see most of these people again. And some of those people are actually hitting their peak now…in 10th grade…and it’s only downhill from there.
And I will remind them that most anger and meanness comes not from a place of hate for you, but of hate for themselves. That most of the meanest people come from homes that don’t have loving parents or support or family. It’s very hard to be kind when you grow up with no examples of kindness you know.
And so I regret my choice of words that night with Hannah. It was good “parent-ese” but it was the heartfelt, gut wrenching thing she really needed that night.
So I won’t make that mistake again. I will share all the ups and downs I faced as a child and tween and teenager. And each time…every stinkin’ cotton-pickin’ time – I will remind my girls to look at me. And see that I am happily married, in a home that I love and with two of God’s most perfect blessings. And that I am happy and joyous and have friends. And that while my life is far from perfect, it feels pretty darn perfect to me.
And I will remind my girls that they are not alone, and yes honey, it WILL get better. Just hang on…trust who you are, trust your heart, do not change for others. Be you and all of your awesomeness will eventually shine through so bright that no one will hold you down…and I think I see that bright light already.
If you have missed any in the series 31 Days & 31 Ways To Be A Better Mom, catch up here:
INTRO TO SERIES:
DAY 1: OUR BEFORE SCHOOL RULE
DAY 2: UNPLUG AND PLUG IN
DAY 3: STEP AWAY FROM YOUR CHILD
DAY 4: EMBRACE YOUR CRAZY
DAY 5: BE A REBEL
DAY 6: DO AS I SAY
DAY 7: FIND YOUR VILLAGE
DAY 8: DIVIDE & CONQUER
DAY 9: ONE SMART COOKIE
DAY 11: STOP COMPARING YOUR CHILD
DAY 12: TAKE CARE OF #1
DAY 13: DATE YOUR CHILD
DAY 17: PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES
DAY 18: QUIT BEATING YOURSELF UP
DAY 22: FAMILY DINNER SHMINNER
DAY 23: REBELLION IS A CRAZY THING
DAY 24: TELL THEM IT WILL GET BETTER
DAY 26: IT’S OKAY TO WISH TODAY WAS OVER
DAY 27: BE A GOOD DAUGHTER
DAY 28: QUIT TRYING TO BE THAT OTHER MOM
DAY 29: YOU CAN’T BUY THEIR HAPPINESS
DAY 30: TELL YOUR KIDS YOU ARE A FAILURE
DAY 31: LEARNING TO LET GO