Is it wrong that I wanted to kick a four-year-old in the face this morning?
I dropped Maggie off at school, around my usual time. Only two boys were there, one of whom is in her class and the other who is older, neither of whom are especially friends of hers. The two boys were playing together on a rug. Maggie said "I want to go play with them," so I told her to go ask.
She did, all cheerful and smiley with her sweet little face and big blue eyes.
And the older boy yelled, "NO!! YOU can't play with us!"
Maggie's face crumpled and she burst into tears, running to me sobbing.
I picked her up, comforted her, and directed her toward the bean table (a sand table filled with beans, which she loves), telling her she can have fun all by herself and that she could play with the beans without having to share. She snuffled, calmed down, and began playing, her face still sad. Much as I wanted to hover over her making sure the day would spare her any more heartbreak, I kissed her soft round cheek, wished her a good day and quickly left, my eyes stinging and my mama-bear side roaring.
The truest cliche about parenting for me is that you now have your heart walking around outside your body. And mine feels broken, as hurt as if it happened to me. She'll be fine, I am sure, by pickup time. And yet I am sitting here sobbing.
Of course this reopens old wounds for me, of always being the new kid, the weird kid, the one the cool girls treated like dirt and the mean girls zeroed in on as a target. But I'd rather face down a phalanx of ugly oversized bullies than have my darling girl face this for a minute.
Maggie is a singular person. She's gregarious, friendly, open and funny, and walks out to meet the world with the full expectation that she will be loved right back. It's awful knowing that this world will chew up and spit out my openhearted, loving girl unless she learns to toughen up. I want to keep her as freespirited and uniquely herself as she is forever, to help her hold on to the beat of the drummer only she hears. I want the world to love her as I do.
Every parent worries about our child's physical vulnerability --that what once seemed a pretty safe world suddenly seems full of sharp edges and sinister germs, of monsters masquerading in human form. But what's just as bad for me is her emotional vulnerability, the slashes and stabs and blows that come from kids struggling to find their place in the world. I want to protect her forever, and have tried to only surround her with nice kids with nice parents, people who would be as dismayed to see their child unkindly exclude another as I was to see Maggie excluded. But the world isn't made up of people like that. I'm tasked with teaching her to toughen herself against the mean while maintaining her own kind heart and learning to seek out others who are the same. Not an easy job, or one I feel even remotely equipped to handle.
Huh. This started out with the intent of making it a funny post about harboring violent impulses toward someone who can't yet spell his own name (and I should add that while what this kid did was mean, my experience of him is that he's a pretty nice kid overall). Guess it's not funny yet. I wonder if it ever will be.