♦The other night at the dinner table I introduced and led a discussion with my kids. I typically don’t have these kinds of talks with my six and seven-year-old, but it just seemed to flow that night. The topic was friends.
I’ve watched my kids make great connections and they continually try to persevere even when there’s a disconnect. I try to stay back and observe at this point and when the time is right, like this particular night, I can use those vivid memories in our conversation.
“Sadie, what makes a good friend?” I asked.
“Being kind and nice,” she said.
“Who is kind and nice?” I asked.
She listed her people.
“Now, let me ask you this. Who’s not nice?”
She named one, two, and a few others. Of course, they were the tribe I’d been mentally collecting, but I’d resisted in uttering a negative thought.
The conversation went back and forth like this when suddenly, both my kids unfurled like a spring flower, sharing stories and conversations they had amongst friends. They both told me that one of their classmates called another friend “fat.” My heart sank.
I tenderly took their hands and looked directly into their eyes, hoping, wishing that they’d remember this moment for years to come.
“I want you two to be those kids that stand up for that person. Whether it’s the person being called fat or stupid, be the one that looks at the name caller and says, ‘It doesn’t make me feel good when you call my friend that.”
Sadie immediately jumped on that thought, “Mom, we can’t say anything because we will get in trouble.”
“By whom?” I asked.
She said her principle told them not to get involved. I’m not sure if that is exactly the case and I’m going to clarify the rules on this at school because I see nothing wrong with being the Advocate. Stand up for what you believe in, especially when another person is the target of hate.
I told Sadie it was absolutely fine with me if she said something to this person, getting involved. If she ever found herself in trouble I’d make sure to hear her side of the story. My little six-year-old baby stopped our conversation with a perplexed look, “Why are you telling me this now, Mom?”
“Well, I’m always watching and observing people, interactions and exchanges of power. It’s just what I do and who I am, but, as your mother, I rely on you to figure out what’s best for yourself. I’ll always be there to guide you and try to help you from falling off the train tracks, but ultimately it’s your life. I’m here to love you no matter what.”
Two days later I was opening the refrigerator and noticed a cute handmade picture. A stylish dressed smiley girl was plastered in the center with the title “I like me.” Clouds of faces that were happy, straight-faced, and sad surrounded this happy girl. I called Sadie into the kitchen.
“Do you like my picture?” she asked.
I was shocked and deeply proud of my daughter.
“Can I interpret what I see?” I asked.
Sadie shook her head yes.
“I see a very, very happy girl who likes herself. No matter how anyone is feeling around her, whether happy, sad or content she’s still happy.”
Sadie smiled looking up at me with her big brown eyes opening her arms to hug me and said in the sweetest tone, “But it’s so scary!!”
“Oh baby, I know. It’s absolutely wonderful to be happy, but just try to find it in your heart to remember that there are those who are still hurting. Put your love glasses on so you know who needs an extra smile. Even one smile can help brighten someone’s day,” I explained. “You’re such a wonderful teacher to me, Sadie. I’m forty-years-old and I’ve struggled my entire life with staying centered in my happiness in the midst of other people’s emotions, particularly sadness. So, thank you for being you.”
We hugged and she walked away looking back at me with the biggest smile. And her eyes told me, “Thank you Mom, that was rad,” giving me a boost to maintain my happiness in the midst of other’s sadness, anger, or fear.♦
“Your children are the greatest gift life will give you, and their souls the heaviest responsibility it will place in your hands. Take time with them, and teach them to have faith in themselves by being a person they can have faith in – a person who listens- a person they can trust without question. When you are old, nothing else you’ve done will have mattered as much.” –Marc Chernoff12