We’ve talked about this before. I think it’s entirely possible that my kids teach me far, far more than I’ll ever teach them. But this is a good thing, because I’ve discovered that kids are inherently wise, even before they become privy to worldwide flaws.
Take, for instance, my daughter, Happy. It seems like there is always an excess of drama going on in her life. I’m not necessarily sure why, except that she tends to think and talk more like an adult than a pre-teen and other kids often take offense to that. Anyway, last month she had a birthday. And being the bad mother I am, I somehow allowed the month to fly by without making plans to host a birthday party with all her friends. The truth is, there just wasn’t a good day for one that week. So, we decided on a day a few weeks later, and Happy started talking to her friends about it.
This could be a long story, so I’ll shorten it. Another little girl decided to have a party that same weekend, and invited all the same kids. She didn’t, however, invite Happy. In fact, she made a point to discuss her party with other kids in front of Happy, and to let her know that she wasn’t invited.
Happy didn’t cry at first, because like I said, she has a tendency to think like a grownup, and because of that, internalized the hurt, then worked it out physically by going running. She did, however, ultimately decide to cancel her own party because she became convinced that none of her important friends would come due to the other party. That is how valuable she felt. And she took it better than I might have.
Until later. The evening of the other girl’s party, I went to Happy’s room to tell her goodnight and discovered her sobbing into her pillow—hoping I wouldn’t hear. She had her cell phone clutched in her hand, and after I pried it away, I scrolled through the incoming messages to discover that the other girls—the ones at the party—had been taunting her all evening by saying things like, “We’re having so much fun. Don’t you wish you were here?”
There were lots of those texts. From different girls. No wonder Happy was sobbing. I felt like sobbing too.
My first instinct was to intervene. To call parents and teachers and everyone else and fix the situation for her. I spent the rest of the night coming up with all the ways in which I had failed her, and how I could possibly make this right. But the truth is I couldn’t take away her hurt. No one could.
The next school day, I picked Happy up, waiting for an explosion of emotion. But Happy held it in. She put on a brave face, claimed her day was fine, then closed herself in her room. I let her have some time, then decided to offer something I would never before have considered. I went into her room where she’d been crying again and said, “Let’s reschedule your party. You can invite everyone except the girl who didn’t invite you.”
Yes, I realize I was being a tad vindictive. But I was angry that my baby was so hurt. However, she surprised me. She said, “Mom, I could never do something that mean. Even if I hate that girl, I would never, ever make someone else feel the way they made me feel.”
Um. Yeah. She could’ve knocked me over with a feather. Though, I don’t know why I was shocked. That’s the way Happy has always been.
She then proceeded to calmly explain her new birthday celebration plans, which included only two close friends and an amusement center. When I asked her if she was sure she didn’t want a party, or if she wanted me to call parents (you know, as a fall-back) she said, “No. I can handle this. I’m not a baby. Just because they made me cry doesn’t mean I won’t survive. Besides, I don’t want to hang out with people who don’t want to hang out with me.”
Again, shock. I know these things about her already. But Happy just turned twelve. Did I mention she has a tendency to act more like a grownup than some adults?
See, here’s the thing. Somehow, Happy and I tend to end up in similar places at similar times. I’m starting to think that these things happen to her in order to teach me how to deal with my own issues. Because her thinking and her reactions are more logical and more—well, sane—than mine. In recent months, she has taught me how to rise above adversity, how to make the best of an unhappy situation, and how to react to hurtful comments and situations with love and understanding.
Happy is a twelve-year-old grownup. And she taught me something else this time. Happy has convinced me that when something hurts, it’s okay to cry.