Being Kind

As she parked in the parking lot the nerves started to grow. She hadn’t seen some of these people in years. Would they even know who she was? Would she recognize anybody? The receptionist directed her upstairs to the banquet rooms. She made a quick stop in the bathroom to check her hair and makeup. Did she really need to impress anybody? She was happily married with two great kids and a loving husband. Old habits die hard she told herself. When she finally made her way to the room where her twentieth high school reunion was being held, her nerves seemed to disappear and all she felt was excitement.

At the door to the banquet room there was a table covered in name tags and a dark haired woman was bent over putting them in order. She looked up suddenly and squealed. “Oh my god it’s so great to see you. How are you? You look great. Here, I have your name tag. Wow, it’s been so long but you look just the same. I would know that smile anywhere.” As the greeter rattled on she thought “She has no idea who I am.” You could have knocked her over with a feather. She stood before the table smiling and nodding and remembering. The greeter looked just the same too. She would never forget her. Not after that day so many years ago.

It was grade five and she was in Mr. McBride’s class at West Bay Elementary School. She had been outside at lunch playing dodge ball in the courtyard with a bunch of other kids. A silly school yard game but hey, she was in grade five and that’s what they did at lunch time. When the bell rang she ran up the stairs past the library and janitors room to her classroom. As she entered the room she saw one of her girlfriends and said hi. Her friend looked at her, but then quickly looked away and whispered something to the girl beside her. That’s a bit weird, she thought and took her seat. During the rest of the afternoon she caught them whispering a few more times. She even noticed them whispering to another friend as they came back from art class. Hm, wonder what’s up? She thought.

The afternoon dragged on forever but when the bell finally rang she grabbed her bag and coat and headed for the door. “Forgetting something?” Darn, she had forgotten that Mr. McBride had asked her to stay and go over her multiplication tables. She really needed to know what was going in with her friends so she told a small lie and said that she forgot she had piano that day. “Okay, but tomorrow for sure?” Sure, she said, and turned away quickly, feeling guilty. She burst out the door and ran straight into a group of her friends. “Hey, what’s up? What is everybody whispering about?” They all turned to look at her but only one person spoke. “You. We’re talking about you.” The dark haired girl said. Me, why would they be talking about me she wondered? “We’re all really sick of how immature you are. We saw you today on the playground jumping around like a preschooler. What is wrong with you?”

She looked around at the group of fourth grade girls now surrounding her. Some of them looked away, some of them looked at the girl speaking and some looked back at her blankly. Acting immature? She had been playing dodgeball? She stammered trying to find the words to explain what she had done. What she had done? She hadn’t DONE anything. What was going on? She looked at each of them for some kind of explanation. Her face was suddenly hot and her hands were shaking. She turned away and ran towards the bathrooms. She stayed in one of the stalls for what seemed like hours. When she finally ventured out the halls were quiet and empty. She walked home that day feeling hurt, embarrassed and confused.

It was all flooding back as she stood there at the entrance to the banquet room. It was years ago, but at this moment it seemed like just yesterday. The greeter apparently didn’t remember, as she had already moved on to the next person coming down the hall. It hadn’t happened again after that day but she would never forget the hurtful words directed at her. The embarrassment of being singled out and that the dark haired girl had, for that moment, turned her friends against her. She would never know why and it truly didn’t matter. The damage was done with just a few words in only a matter of moments. As she stepped into the room full of her school friends she reminded herself that The Best Thing in Life is to teach your kids to be kind.

Have Courage and Be Kind

cinderella

Okay so I stole my title from the moral tag line in the new Cinderella movie, but if the shoe fits. Ya, I guess I stole that part too. It’s just so happens that at a time when my seven-year old daughter is having some seven-year old girl issue, we went to see this movie and it couldn’t have been better timing. In Cinderella she must deal with her wicked stepmother and step sisters, who, let’s be honest, are as close to a group of seven-year old girls as you are going to get. Cinderella is told by her dying mother to have courage and be kind. For the most part she succeeds, but there is only so far you can push a princess before she starts to push back. So how do you teach your princess to “be kind” without losing that fighting spirit in them that we love so much?

This is not a blog about bullying because I am not picking a side with anybody. Young girls are, well, mean for lack of a better word. And believe me I am including my little darling in that group. One minute they are best friends and the next they are mortal enemies not to be invited to birthday parties. Ever. Strong personalities are emerging, interests are changing and some are maturing faster than others. Why does being seven have to be so hard? And why can’t they listen when we try to help them understand? Is it because their minds just can’t process that what they are saying may be hurtful? Because it seems like we, as parents, say the same thing over and over again and they nod their sweet heads and say “I know” and then they walk out the door and do the exact same thing again. It’s like banging you head against a brick wall. It’s a pretty pink brick wall, but it hurts just the same.

ballerinas pushing

In trying to help them, the natural instinct may be to say something like “you don’t need a friend like that anyway” or “just go play with somebody else” or perhaps “I hope you told her you don’t want to be her friend either”. You know you’ve wanted to. Right? It’s just not that simple though. They really WANT to still be friends with the girl who they are disagreeing with. They are just frustrated and maybe even hurt or angry with them but they perhaps lack the cognitive skill to know how to deal with those feelings in a grown up way. I think it’s pretty safe to say that as an adult woman I have had the exact same feelings. Imagine you are having drinks with the girls one night and a friend interrupts your funny story about what you did on the weekend. You know you should politely wait until she is done with her story and then continue yours but what you really want to do is scream “Don’t interrupt me bitch I’m talking right now”.

So with your little princess do you step in and guide them through the rough patch or do you back off and just let them deal with it in their own way? I know that no matter what I do it is going to happen. At seven and at seventeen. But nobody wants their daughter to be “that girl”. You want them to be the girl who has her own opinions and stands up for herself in a kind and respectful way. Is it just a matter of time? If I keep repeating the “be kind” mantra will it one day sink in and take root or is there more I could and should be doing? Nobody said parenting was easy but crap this is really hard and as a mother and a woman it is hard to take the emotion out and just approach it in a reasonable manner. If anybody out there has any pearls of wisdom to send me please send them my way.

For the most part I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in is. I have friends who have raised confident, mature young adults and friends who are still in the thick of it, like me. We may struggle on a daily basis with the task of teaching our girls to “have courage and be kind” but really, would we have it any other way? My daughter continues to be full of Piss and Vinegar and that is on of The Best Things in Life.