You guys, this life is hard! Childhood especially. It didn’t used to be as bad as it is “nowadays.” (My middle age is showing again). I remember wanting to fit in during those awkward pre-teen years. I remember wishing I had cooler shoes and maybe a trendier Trapper Keeper or feathered bangs like Farrah Fawcett, because surely that would solve every one of my problems. I remember being the target of mean kids sometimes, and sadly, I also remember being on the mean girl side of things (just once, but so regrettable even to this day) because I wanted to roll with the cool kids.
Maybe it’s a normal right of passage. It’s where we learn a lot about who we are, what we stand for and what we will and won’t tolerate. And usually these lessons come from huge mistakes. Middle school is all kinds of extra grace required. Good grief.
In today’s world this is all still very true, but guys…it’s one thousand times worse! Not only do social apps make it so much easier for kids to say terrible and hurtful things, but kids are finding a new bravery to speak horrific insults in person too. There doesn’t seem to be any regard for the person or group of people they hurl their cruelty toward. Surely they must know their words cut like salt-dipped rusty razor blades? Don’t they? And if they don’t already understand this, who will teach them? How will they learn empathy and compassion? Because Good LORD this world needs more empathy and compassion! Please tell me this next generation will get it figured out!
Remember how excited my kids were for the Homecoming game last week?
Lolo was especially eager to meet her friends at the game and “hang out.” She painted her hair, her face, chose her outfit carefully and nagged me 8,000 times about getting there on time. Although I didn’t WANT to go to the game, I was looking forward to watching her run around with her friends.
Well, those friends didn’t show up. I don’t know why – maybe they failed to ask their parents before making plans. Maybe they were grounded and their phones were confiscated so they couldn’t text Lolo. We just don’t know. Anyway, that was disappointment number one. She quickly located another friend and started walking around with her, only to be ditched shortly after. Now, my Lolo is pretty optimistic and resilient, so she set out to find other friends at the game. She walked confidently up to the middle school section of the bleachers with her red and blue painted pixie cut. While trying to locate friends she was called “Sir” and “trans.” She asked to sit next to someone she knew and was told no.
Soon she was back sitting next to me. She wore a brave face, yet I knew something was wrong. When I asked where her friends were, she started crying, blue face paint sliding down her heartbroken face. She asked if we could just go home. Gman was running around with his posse but spotted his crying sister. He ran up to her and said “Let’s go home. It’s fine.”
She apologized the entire walk back to the car. She was sorry for spending money on the game when we were leaving before the start of the 2nd quarter. Oh, how I wanted to comfort her. Reassure her. Somehow communicate that 7th grade is not as good as it’s going to get. Words just didn’t seem enough in that moment, so I put my arms around her and then we drove for an ice cream shake.
The next day we talked more about what happened. She’s such a smart girl. Intellectually she understands that these hurtful words and behaviors don’t define her. She understands the kids throwing verbal weapons towards her are either hurting themselves or lacking the self-confidence to behave like decent people. But she’s 12 years old and no matter how much she understands this intellectually, it still hurts. Man does it ever hurt.
I know she has a hard time fitting in. But I also know the reason why. She is smart. She is confident in who she is, even though that means she’s very different than “cool kids.” And this is not like the majority of kids she walks the halls with every day. And in addition to this, she carries a great big loss. Her heart is just beginning to heal and yet it’s being assaulted every day. Oh, how I wish I could protect her from this.
But what doesn’t kill us can make us more compassionate. It can also break us and make us bitter and lonely if we aren’t careful. But it’s my mission as her Mom, to foster compassion instead of bitterness. Life is hard. It’s also so good. Maybe it’s not so great in middle school, but it will be eventually. Maybe it’s not so wonderful in grief, but it will be eventually.
So to my sweet Lolo, I say, “Hang on, and stay kind. Remain confident in who you are baby girl, because you are amazing! I think so, your God thinks so, and eventually your peers will discover it too. He’s shaping you for great things, kid. This is NOT as good as it gets.”
Our words have so much power. Will we use them to comfort and show love, or will we use them to hurt? This is our choice every time we speak or type. Choose your words wisely. Choose love.
*written with Lolo’s permission