Friday night was the homecoming football game. Jaedyn's birthday was Tuesday, so we let her have a few friends over to bake some cupcakes, go to the football game and stay over. Our kids are finally getting to the age where they want to go Friday night games to see their friends, and I don't blame them. I was a social butterfly too. We haven't come to many so far, but last night was definitely a nostalgic experience. I remember the lights, the student section, the cheering, the playing in the band when I REALLY didn't want to, the going under the bleachers to watch the game with my friends, the meeting up with friends from the other team or fighting with girls from the other team (depending on the night).
It also reminded me how mean kids can be. In the two hours I was there, I observed 4-5 different cases where kids were just plain cruel to someone else. I saw a group of highschoolers making fun of the pants another girl was wearing. A middleschooler was spitting sunflower seeds at a man in a wheelchair below. I heard a few adult conversations in which someone else was the subject of the gossip. It wasn't always to their faces, and to be honest, I don't really know which is worse.
The one that was the hardest for me to swallow though, was the one where my child was the one being hurt. He walked up to me, and was in one of his whiney, crabby moods....not terribly unlike any other day. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that some of his friends called him a jerk and told him that he couldn't play football with them. I instinctively responded with a, "Well were you being a jerk?" and he told me he hadn't. He just didn't know how to play the game, and more or less that they were annoyed with him.
That's like a punch to the gut for a mom. Jaedyn has had a few catty moments with other girls. "She won't play with me today." "I don't think she likes me anymore." "She doesn't want to invite me to her birthday party." Maybe it's just that I was a girl, and I experienced those moments and realize how quickly we would get over those moments when I was in elementary school, or maybe it's because I always see her and her friends making up by the end of the day, but all I know is my buddy was hurting, and it made my heart hurt as well.
You see, Jaedyn is a lot like me. I had a lot of friends from many different crowds. I was social, and I enjoyed meeting new people. And while I had friend issues with that also, I handled it. I was resilient. Carter on the other hand....well he doesn't make friends easily. He's impulsive and sometimes bossy and it can be hard for him to make friends. I can see him being someone who has a few really good friends and then keeps to himself the rest of time.
Anyways, I immediately put my arms around him and hugged him tight. I told him that I understood what it felt like to be left out and that I was sorry he was feeling badly. What my inner mama bear wanted to do was march right down to those kids and give them a piece of my mind. Don't worry. I'm not "that" mother. I don't want to be the over-bearing helicopter parent, and I won't be. I've watched kids get ruined by those parents and then have a hard time coping with things as an adult. I know that my kids have to live and experience those rejections and those heartaches in order to be more resilient, healthy kids and adults. It's all part of the growing pains of life, as much as I hate it.
It's been very hard to think about anything else since. I've been googling things like "how to protect your children from mean kids" and "how to help your kids get over rejection" when I came across an article that was titled, "When your kid is the bully". It got me thinking about the other side. You know, the one parents don't want to think their kid is capable of. My kids are going to get rejected and left out, and maybe in extreme cases, even bullied, but the reality is that there will be a time when my kid is the rejector, the bully, the one who is leaving someone else out. As I was thinking about how to help my child cope, it dawned on me that I need to make sure I'm hitting home the concept that they need to treat others the way they want to be treated. That however, is becoming a cliched response. Remember how we talked about those here? As great of a message as it may be....once it's overused, it's hard to get anyone to really grasp the value of the message.
This year, I've been trying really hard to remind my kids to be kind and be brave. It's a Momastery phrase that has a very special place in my heart and has become one of my parenting mottos. I have used it in their "Mama and Me" books to start the school year. I used it again the other night before Carter went to bed to remind him to be brave and be kind always even when it's hard. Let's be honest. We've all been in both situations. We all have been rejected and have been the rejector. And I'd bet money that we've been in both situations as children AND as adults. We are human. We make mistakes. Sometimes we are cruel because we've had a bad week or are going through a rough time and being snappy just comes naturally. Other times, we aren't intentionally leaving others out. There are so many factors that contribute to why people do what they do, that I have to remind my kids that there may be a deeper explanation for other people's actions when they are feeling rejection. Not always. But sometimes.
I don't have all the answers for helping my kids deal with being left out and feeling rejected, but I do know that I want my kids to be able to learn from those moments more than anything else. I want them to remember that feeling of sadness when the shoe is on the other foot so they can apply it and make sure they aren't doing those things to anyone else.
Dan and I have done a lot of discussing on this issue today, and I'm feeling a lot more at peace. At the end of the football game, I went to find Carter and this is what I found.
I'd be interested in how some of you wiser and more seasoned parents have handled these situations with your kids. You can never have too many tools in your tool box in cases like these. Send them my way! We're all in this together.
I'll leave you with this quote: "Be brave. You are a child of God. Be kind. Everyone elsle is too."- Glennon Melton