Running toward me from the school bus, the look on my daughter’s face revealed something happened at school. She crashed into me, desperately in need of a hug. In my arms, she confessed,
“Sally’s Mom told her she is not allowed to play with me, because I am mean.”
My initial reaction: shock.
My daughter is in second grade, and I am noticing social conflict is beginning to unfold. From what I gather, this is normal…
…but another mom calling my girl mean? There are no words for this.
Compounding the situation is the fact that I know this mother well enough to have her number in my phone. Our girls do a few extra-curricular activities together, and when these strong-willed and vivacious personalities collide, I note there is an abundance of giggling and innocent mischief.
I cannot monitor every social interaction my daughter has, but I have never noticed anything malicious between these girls. I imagine our two little spitfires do clash now and then, but my daughter insists they have not fought about anything recently. I am uncertain where the truth lies, but hearing that another mom has negatively labeled my child leaves me unsettled:
Those moments in motherhood where there is no manual and you desperately need one….
I decided the best way to face the matter was to remain outwardly calm until I could digest all the facts. In the meantime, I showed up with love for my daughter, and showered her with the empathy she needed from me. Then I said, “Let’s have a snack and do your homework. We’ll finish discussing this later.”
I wish I could tell you I was internally calm, but the truth is, I couldn’t suppress my rising anger. I became so blood-boiling mad, the words on my daughter’s worksheet became blurry.
Still, I festered quietly while prepping dinner and supervising homework. Yes, what I really wanted to do was call this other mom, and tell her I think she is mean.
Though emotionally charged over the matter, I wanted to be a positive example for my kids. Ultimately, I decided reacting out of anger was only going to send the wrong message to my children, and likely make the matter worse.
Still, I was having a hard time compartmentalizing this one, so I sent the kids outside to play, and called a trusted friend. This particular girlfriend generally offers me sound advice. She’s also been in a similar situation before, so she talked me into a calmer, more rational perspective.
We concluded, as we do time and time again, that there is never a straightforward answer in parenting. Motherhood is a delicate dance between determination and surrender, and it’s hard to know when to fight or stand down.
Eventually, I rationalize that my daughter is likely not completely innocent. She does need to choose her words more carefully, and be mindful of her reactions sometimes. Yes, this radiant little spirit I am raising does get into trouble now and then. Like me, my kid is imperfect. But is she mean?
Obviously, I don’t feel the label is fair or kind. However, the mom who has inspired this post is loving and devoted to her kids: She is a good mom. This inspires me to think her words might have been misconstrued, the message she attempted to relay to her daughter lost in translation.
There it was: the compassion I needed to find for my fellow mom in order to move forward. While I assume she is unfairly labeling my child, I don’t know the other side of this story. For now, I’ll just let this one go, because I know her well enough to trust she is doing the best she can. Aren’t we all just doing the best we can?
As for my daughter, this little struggle is just one of those ordinary adversities she must face to grow. Resilience and post-traumatic growth is what I study and write about, so I must practice what I preach and capitalize on a teachable moment:
“Above all, my girl, I want you to be kind.”
Yes, allowing my offspring to experience discomfort is in direct conflict with my maternal instincts to shield and protect. Still, I force myself to surrender, trusting the struggle they will inevitably face in the world is going to make them stronger. We can always learn from our mistakes.
Every day, my children move further away from the womb I once carried them in under my heart: I must remain strong enough both to raise my kids, and to let them go. I don’t always make the right decisions, but I pray that showing up with love will continue to sustain me through the determination and surrender motherhood requires.
Finally, I can lay this matter to rest as a story I hope reminds us all about the power of positive emotions and the words we choose. In this case, love, compassion, and empathy are what made me a more resilient and kind mom.
Going forward, I’ll continually strive to look at my fellow moms and their children through a lens of love. This, I suspect, is what will breed kindness, and exemplify the perspective I want my own children to maintain.
We’re all in this together.
We’re all doing the best we can.
Let’s be kind to each other and pray our children will follow this lead.