Last week a little boy walked out of my daughter’s school in floods of tears. A year younger than my daughter, 7 years old, and absolutely distraught, because 3 other boys in his class had made fun of his gym clothes.
I guess it was easy to look on curiously, as his mother hugged him tight, her own face tightening as she tried to remain calm and adult in the face of his distress. Inside I am sure there was a conflict of emotions kicking off – sadness, anger, embarrassment, fury, just a few I can think of. The urge to scream at the teacher for not stopping their taunting, the need to find the little boys who made her son cry, the desire to scream at the parents.
Lord knows, I’d be fuming. The one time my daughter came out of school in tears, I marched straight back in to find out from the teacher what had happened – my instinct took over common sense. Even as I was demanding answers, a little voice in my head was waving a white flag and telling me to stand down, back away. Kids are kids. Teachers do what they can.
So, I guess it was easy to look on curiously, maybe slide away in discomfort or just smile sympathetically as you caught the mother’s eye, as she hustled her child away. Most of the mothers did. The playground cleared from the school pick up extremely fast, even for a Friday afternoon.
I asked the mum if she wanted to come over for coffee at the weekend. I asked if she wanted to bring her little boy over to mine to play with my daughter. You see, I already knew some of her story. We’d met while she donated hours of her time in helping out at school events, in the few months she had been a parent at the school, while long term parents, entrenched in their apathy and lack of enthusiasm, failed to help again and again.
And while she did, she shared her story, or rather her son’s. A growth and bone issue from birth, that made him ‘different’ enough to be bullied to the point she had no choice but to move his school. A child who had learned to be guarded around his peers, and as a result couldn’t make friends easily. A sweet, innocent little boy that no longer trusted other children.
And already, in the few weeks he had been in our school, some boys had already found something to taunt.
So I invited him over. I had ulterior motives. I like this mum and I, too, know how hard it is to try and make friends with the school gate posse. So I wanted her to be my friend too. And I wanted to try and help take that look of hopeless distress from her face while she held her crying son, who was once again being picked on by his peers.
We had coffee, we talked, and while we did my daughter and my son took her daughter and her son through to play. No fighting, no arguing, no awkwardness – they just ran off into the house and played. And as they left, this sweet little boy asked me when we could come to their house to play.
So today I am thankful.
And so very proud.
Of my daughter, who at 8 shows more compassion than most of her peers, and most of the adults in our playground.
I am thankful that my children are healthy, were born healthy and can run and play.
I am thankful that my daughter is happy in their school, and that she has, only once, come out in tears through the thoughtlessness of her peers, that she is not destroyed daily by snide remarks, unkind nudges and sniggering meanness.
I am so proud that my daughter, when asked to be kind and spend the day with a child who is younger, and a boy no less, immediately took him into her games. And I understand that she was also a little relieved when I was clear this did not mean she had to be his best friend at school, but even before this was said, she didn’t quibble at being asked.
I am so proud of my son, who at 5 years old, saw a girl crying at her lost balloon, and immediately offered her his.
I am so thankful at the big heartedness of my children.
And that they are happy.
I hope that we were able to bring a little light into this little boy’s day, so that maybe there will be a little less dread in his heart at going to school tomorrow. Because no child should dread school, or fear his peers, or worry about what might be said, or worse, done to him.
Every act of kindness or compassion we make brings a little relief into the lives of those around us, whether we know it or not. Even adults, even mothers, sometimes need that hand of friendship to be reached out to them. I hope that one day, when I look beaten, or desperate, or sad, or alone, that someone will reach out to me.
Although not written for the #1000Speak for Compassion movement (is movement the right word?) specifically – it occurred to me that this is precisely what the village is about. Confused – read the article that began #1000Speak, written by Lizzi Rogers, and you will understand. We are the village.