“‘Just stay away from her!’ I can’t recall the number of times I have told my children this about kids they meet. Kids who are mean or bossy and who are driving my kids crazy. It’s such an easy phrase to throw out there, isn’t it? This will solve all your social issues, sweet daughter, stay away!
Anything that affects us negatively — in our instant gratification, me, me, me culture — you are supported and encouraged to walk away from. Negativity is a bad thing. It’s bad vibes and we don’t need that, right? Life is hard enough and I don’t need you bringing me down with beliefs, thoughts, or words that don’t align with mine. So, I will surround myself with people just like me, because it’s easy. It’s safe, positive, and warm; not dirty, uncomfortable, and hard. It’s not hard.
I have raised my kids with this belief, completely unconsciously. I promise I did not do this on purpose. I want my kids to find their group, of course, but why can’t their group be everyone? Why does it have to just be four or five kids and not the whole class? Well, because the other kids are also learning to find kids who think, believe, and speak like they do. How many times have our kids returned home with a story about the mean kid or the bully, and we simply say, ‘Just stay away from them!’ It’s such an easy phrase to blurt out. But what if we actually took the time to listen instead of react?
Well, I did. Completely by accident. It wasn’t something I intended to do or wanted to pursue. I promise. I simply attended a play date with some new moms, and in walked the mom of a girl in my daughter’s class. A girl who my daughter has dismissed. Who is negative, bossy, and…well, mean. And yes, I had said to my daughter, ‘Just stay away from her. Find other people!’
Here I was, right across the table, with so many things I wanted to say. But I didn’t. For maybe the first time in my life, I shut my mouth and listened. This mom, who I didn’t actually know, was having a really hard day — a really hard life, actually. And although she was surrounded by near strangers, her pain and hurt spilled over her coffee. There was nothing she could do to stop it. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head often as she spoke of her past which ran into her present without permission. She was so honest and so open about her struggles. She knew it had spilled out onto her daughter and that…that part hurt her most.
I didn’t have to open my big mouth and give her parenting advice, like I was a pro and she was in the minor leagues. I didn’t have to say anything. I just listened. And that place, where a woman I knew I was never going to like sat, turned into a human I related to, that my heart hurt for, that became somehow real to me. Finally.
I left that play-date feeling like crap. Why had I dismissed her so easily? Why had I told my daughter to just stay away from her daughter? Now that I had all this info and really knew the story, I also knew what her daughter needed most was friendship, understanding, and grace.
Sometimes we ask for the things we get in life. Sometimes we don’t. But all the time, we don’t know what other people are going through unless we listen. Those harsh words I spoke to my own daughter of, ‘Just STAY away!’ have been changed to, ‘Give her some grace; give her some forgiveness. Just PRAY away.’ Pray a way for her to receive healing, love, and understanding. Pray for good things for your classmate and her family. Pray there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that good things are coming.
Any my daughter has tried. She tells me she is more understanding of her classmate now, more aware not every kid at school has what my daughter has at home. Not everyone is quite so lucky. And sometimes hurt and pain spills over in kids too — in the form of mean, loud, and jealous — and we just dismiss it.
And this mom, this mom of my daughter’s classmate, needs love and support and grace as well. I can’t expect my child to offer it if I won’t. Adulthood is messy, hard, and uncomfortable; so is childhood. And where would we be if we never had someone help us sort the mess into something beautiful? So, I have pulled out the bent card with smeared numbers she gave me, sent a text, and asked her for coffee.
I sure hope she accepts.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alison Wright. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more stories from Alison here:
‘There has been a death of the family gathering. It’s no longer an event, it’s an inconvenience.’: Woman reminds us of the importance of family, ‘people aren’t commodities, everyone has an expiration date’
‘I’m not scared of dying. I’m ready to go anytime God wants to take me home.’ I began to cry. It was the first time I realized she wasn’t going to be here forever.’: Woman urges us to cherish time with our loved ones, ‘I wish I knew then what I know now’
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