My girl was teased yesterday.
That beautiful, loving little girl in the picture.
Teased is the wrong word really. She was manipulated by others for their amusement. A little girl who she thinks is a friend preyed upon her.
It could have been worse. Much worse. It wasn’t.
Though it never should have been allowed to happen, it was handled well when it did.
I don’t think Brooke had any understanding that she had been set up.
If she did, she didn’t show it.
But these things take time to process.
I called my dad. Forty-five years as a middle school principal offer a perspective I so often need these days. I knew what he’d say. I still needed to hear it.
As soon as I heard his voice, I was done for.
“Jessie, are you OK?”
I pulled over. I sat in the car and cried as the hard rain hammered the roof and drenched the windshield. It seemed fitting.
“It’s the reminder of her vulnerability that hurts the most, Dad.”
“I know,” he said. “I know.”
By the time I finally pulled into the garage, I was spent.
My sweet baby girl ran down the stairs as I came in the house.
Her hair was wet from the shower. She wore her favorite pajamas – the top now two sizes too small. I don’t have the heart to make her retire it yet.
She came to me, so I dropped to the floor and sat down with her right in front of the door.
We looked at each other for a moment – wordless. She searched my face. I searched hers.
“What are you sorry that you did that?” she asked. Her little brow was furrowed into her patented expression for sad or sorry.
I didn’t answer right away.
I knew exactly what she was asking. It’s become a painful script. But there was so much more that I was sorry for.
“About the ballet slippers,” she said. “What are you sorry that you did that about the ballet slippers?”
“I’m sorry that I yelled that day, baby,” I said for the God knows how many-eth time. “I’m sorry that I didn’t understand.”
“You’re sorry that you yelled at me,” she said as she crawled into my lap. “About my ballet slippers. And then I had the white water.”
Four years. It’s been four years since the day that she couldn’t find her ballet slippers. It’s been four years since I yelled because I didn’t understand. Because I didn’t know. Four YEARS.
Will she look at me in four more years and say, “Mama, were those girls making fun of me? Do you think they’re sorry?”
I think of the dinner with my friend John last year when he told me that he felt like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon. I want to scream.
The Inclusion Committee gets back to work next week. Our first order of business for the New Year is planning a panel discussion on how to talk to our children about respecting differences.
Please don’t tell me it’s pointless. Please don’t tell me it’s a drop of water in the ocean. I get it. I do. I’m not naïve.
People will always prey on the weak; it’s human nature. But so too is it in our nature to protect our young. And this Mama has to DO something. I may very well explode if I don’t.
I love this little girl with a ferocity and a tenderness that can only coexist inside a mother’s heart. At moments like this the contradiction leaves me spinning inward, folding in on myself. If I’m not careful I can get lost in the vortex. I have to DO something.
I glanced in the mirror as I washed up before bed. The woman looking back at me looked exhausted. She had mascara streaked down her cheeks and dark circles under her eyes. She looked like she’d been through the wringer. I’ve seen women who have looked like that. I have felt sorry for them.
I tried to give her a reassuring look, but it fell flat.
“It’s OK,” I thought.”Sometimes it’s just too much.”
I crawled into bed, buried myself in the covers and went to sleep before doing anything on the list of things I needed to do before bed.
Yes, sometimes – just sometimes – it’s just too much.