Tonight my beautiful little lady burst into tears and told me she was being teased at school. It took a long time to get the story, but between sobs she explained that they were learning about adjectives in class and when the teacher asked the kids to name some examples, someone pointed out her “crazy red hair”, and everyone laughed.
I know the classmate probably didn’t mean to hurt my daughter’s feelings, but she was pretty upset about the whole thing. In that moment when a chorus of giggles erupted around her, I know she felt vulnerable. That kills me. I rattled off the mom speech about how it’s our differences that makes us each beautiful, but let’s face it- no kid wants to feel different. My speech felt stale and stiff, a rehearsed discourse straight from the book of parenting. I looked into her sad eyes and was momentarily at a loss for words. So I just got real with her.
“You know what? I had no friends for an entire year in grade school.”
“Really?” she asked incredulously.
I winced at the memory of it before I could even answer her. That’s how intense that part of my life was. I actually physically recoil a little bit every time I think of 5th grade. It sits like a tiny but very heavy rock in the corner of my heart.
I don’t know exactly how it all happened, I just know that one minute I had friends and the next I was shunned. I flew under the radar of adults who never intervened. Sometimes I get to thinking about how I’m sure it was ridiculously obvious that I ate lunch alone at my desk every day for an entire school year and my teacher never once said anything to me about it. It fills me with anger, but also with just a lot of sadness for that younger me. I remember being teased so much that I wouldn’t even blow my nose in class for fear of drawing any attention to myself. I wanted to disappear into my desk every day. By 6th and 7th grade I had fallen into a small group of great friends, and in high school I made many more. I was never popular by any means, but I was never alone like I was in 5th grade.
I’m a totally different person now, and although my self confidence will always carry that dark spot from 5th grade, I have gotten a lot better at knowing who I am and what I want in friendships. In fact, that little girl quietly eating her lunch alone at her desk would never believe that she would grow up to build the community that is Philly Moms Club!
So tonight I told my daughter the truth about my past, and I told her I wish I had known back then how awesome I am. I told her that it’s okay to feel sad when someone hurts our feelings because that means she knows her self worth and should never want anyone to discount her. I told her she should always have confidence in herself and then we talked about people who have unique qualities like her red hair.
My daughter loves music, so right away I thought of P!nk, a confident woman who actually loves to look different! We watched P!nk’s new video for “Just Like Fire”, from the upcoming Disney movie Alice Through The Looking Glass.
Alice Through The Looking Glass comes out in theaters May 27, and we agreed that would be the perfect Mommy/Daughter Date Night. I’m keeping the door open for conversations with my daughter so she can talk to me about her feelings organically. I’ll be looking for those chances for one-on-one time with her . I’m thankful for my experiences as it has made me stronger as a parent and I can always reassure her that she is never alone in this world.