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The Things I Thought We Could Avoid For at Least a Few More Years

September 20, 2012

I give her a hug and a kiss and turn and start to get up off the bed.  I hear her little voice, almost inaudibly, whisper, “Mommy, why doesn’t my voice sound like a girl?”

I stop. Turn back around. “What do you mean honey, of course you sound like a girl!”

She bursts into tears and squeaks out, “No, my voice doesn’t sound like any of the other girls. It is so plain and not pretty at all like everyone else.”

I try not to burst into tears and take a deep breath. How is it possible that we are already having these conversations? She’s FIVE.

We talk about her voice and all of the things we use our voices for. We talk about how none of them have anything to do with being pretty or how we look. We talk about pretty and what it means and why there are so many other things that make us who we are beyond pretty and all of the things I love about her.

“Mama, there’s something else I want to tell you that happened.”  I brace myself and nod and tell her that I’d love to hear. Tears start to seep out of her eyes and she says, “Emma* told me that she doesn’t want me to sit next to her anymore.  She said I always sit next to her and she doesn’t want to sit next to me.”  My heart breaks into a million little pieces and I frantically scramble in my head for the right words to say.  What do I tell her?  That if I were in kindergarten I’d want to sit next to her all the time and that this kid must be CRAZY to not want to sit with her because she’s the best kid in the history of the universe?  That the little girl has the right to not want to sit next to certain people, even if it hurts my sweet girl’s feelings?  I grab her in a big hug and let her cry into my chest.  I tell her that that must have really hurt her feelings and it would have hurt mine, too.  I ask her if she wants to tell me anymore about it before I start to talk more.

She talks more the next day, at the same time after we’ve snuggled and read books just before she’s supposed to go to sleep. “Mommy can I tell you another thing that happened at school?”  I nod again and pull her into my lap and look into her eyes and see the tears start to pool again. “Sophia* who sits next to me at my table told me at circle time that I couldn’t sit next to her and she doesn’t like me. And Evan* who sits on the other side of me told me that his mom is going to hurt me!” And she just starts sobbing again. The red flags are up on this one, so I try to gently pry a bit more and ask why he would say that. “We were playing a game and I was done and I wanted to do something else so he told me that if I didn’t play his mom was going to come and hurt me really really bad and that she would sit on me, too, and it would really hurt. And now I’m so scared…” She trails off and just starts crying again.

What do you even say to that?? We started with reassurance that his mom is NOT going to hurt her.  I asked her how she responded and she said that she didn’t.  I’m surprised that she didn’t cry. (I would have!), but she said that she didn’t.  We circled back to the conversation about her voice and that this is what her voice is for: telling people that it is NOT ok to tell her that they will hurt her and that it really hurts her feelings when they talk to her that way.

I lay with her as she falls asleep and stroke her hair.  I think of the things that terrified me when I was pregnant and how nothing I thought of could have prepared me for these moments.  I say it often in conversations with friends, “The things no one ever told you about parenting!” The things you could never prepare for because you’d never face it if you knew the way your heart would ache for them and the way you have to watch them hurt as they learn hard lessons.  The way you know certain stuff will happen eventually, but you never expect it to be now – at five and in kindergarten worrying about her voice and being pretty and the things that I want so badly as a parent to shield her from.

I know she will be fine.  I know that we will get through it and we’ll love her through it, but it’s so hard.  A friend said to me last night in an email, “Why isn’t instilling confidence in kids as easy as it seems before we actually had kids??” Of all of the normal things that I want for my kids, this is so high on the list.  It strikes me often how much the balance of nature versus nurture tips back and forth so precariously sometimes.  My heart hurts for her because I can remember feeling the exact same things as a kid and I wish desperately that the genetic component that I can relate to had skipped her, but I know that it would also mean that she wouldn’t have the compassion and empathy that go along with the same gene so deeply – and I would never wish that away.

But I still wish she wasn’t dealing with all of this right now, so soon.

*Names have been changed to protect little ones, just in case:)

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2012 10:36 am

    What a wonderful mommy your daughter has! Just the right things to say, and not say. As you know from my blog, it doesn’t get easier and the issues do grow as they do… but our hearts crumble just easily when they’re 5 as when their 13, 16, 20… Our hearts are so tangled up in each other. Yes! Use that wonderful, STRONG, voice to tell others that being mean is not ok. Use that strong, beautiful voice to share things with mommy, and know that mommy thinks that voice is just right. When someone doesn’t want to sit next you, say: “that’s ok, there are lots of friends here.” Take a chance at sitting next to someone new and finding that new friend. And Lilian, what a wonderful job you’ve done of letting her know that you are a safe haven for these giant worries and hurts. Keep telling her how strong, and capable she is, and she will believe it. The heartaches don’t go away, but you two will get through them. Nice job! From an “old” Mom to a younger one.🙂

  2. Technonana permalink
    September 20, 2012 11:34 am

    Your blog should be syndicated. You handled the situation so well, many other parents would benefit from your advice and experiences. Children can be so cruel at times and I always felt like I would rather the pain be mine than my child’s. I too, even at my age, remember how much the words of playmates can hurt.

    I’ll be praying for you and your beautiful children, that you will receive grace and wisdom.

  3. September 20, 2012 3:59 pm

    You are such a good mama. xo

  4. September 20, 2012 6:03 pm

    (((hugs)))
    I wish I could say: “It gets easier.”
    I wish! Seems like some new, unexpected thing
    shows up sooner or later.
    But You are on a good path, so take courage.

  5. September 20, 2012 7:35 pm

    Beautiful post!

    A friend and I were just talking about this last night…how we know that someday, sooner or later, our sons will be teased by someone about something, and how much we wish we could stop it from hurting them. The difficulty of building them up inside so that they know they can come to us for help working it all out is a big task. It sounds like you are doing beautifully, that she told you everything and felt safe to do so.

    What a good Mama, and a rough moment to be sure. Good luck to both of you, and thanks for sharing.

  6. September 21, 2012 6:28 am

    Oh my heart goes out for your poor girl, life deals such hard lessons sometimes for both kids and parents. I have just read a similar post over at enjoying the small things http://www.kellehampton.com/2012/09/pretty.html
    I have a 5 year old daughter and am hoping we avoid this just a little longer but know it will probably come to us too in some form. How great though that she and you have a close relationship and that she lets you in to help her . Oh if only we could always wrap them up and protect them from the world – sounds like you are doing a great job building her confidence. Gold star for you!

  7. September 21, 2012 10:12 pm

    First off – this just made em want to race up and scoop my 2 year old daughter up out of her bed and hug her tight. And to hug you as well. The thing I learned to most here – was how you stopped and really listened. Held your tongue and really let her talk. Great lesson learned. (And what a mean little boy!)

  8. Ondrea permalink
    September 23, 2012 9:07 pm

    oh sweet A! she has a wonderful mom in you that is helping her to be a strong confident girl and to use her voice for herself. those other kids are just flighty little 5 yrs olds who aren’t using their voice for the right words. hugs to her from me!!

  9. Kelsey permalink
    September 24, 2012 1:34 pm

    This is my greatest fear. As a mom of two small boys, I want to protect them but also give teach them how to use their voice in a strong yet powerful way. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  10. September 26, 2012 9:26 pm

    Oh Lillian – I just, I just…ok, I’ll admit it. I cried when I read that. So heartbreaking and yet you handled it with such grace. You WILL love her through this – and the cycle will continue…she will love her brother, her friends and eventually HER kids through it too someday.

    You know about the bully situation in Nolan’s preschool and somedays I feel like I have PTSD from it. I’m so hyperaware of anyone being mean to him or not wanting to play with him etc…I know part of it is just what happens during childhood, but my mama bear instincts just seem to be in overdrive.

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