Friday, November 6, 2015
The Golden Rule?
The article Being 'left out' hurts: one mothers plea for other parents to stop from community.today.com appeared in my newsfeed today. It truly struck a chord in me, as it is something we have been struggling with for a long while now.
For those who don't click over to read it - which I highly encourage you to - the author discusses scenarios that occur in middle school and high schools all over the country every single day, and how we as parents have the power to feed or destroy this monster we know as bullying. The emotional games these kids play with the exclusion and targeting of one child can go too far and have lasting effects.
So did you think my homeschooled kids would be immune to this monster?? Well, think again, my friends. I have encountered it many times over the years, to different degrees with each child. There is nothing more heartbreaking than to watch your child try to figure out what is wrong with him or her, why they have been so obviously left out, or why their once dearest friends no longer have time for them, when you KNOW that it has nothing to do with them.
I've tried so hard over the years to include others that seem to be on the fringes, to invite new kids to activities, to bring families into the fold at church or co op, and I've striven to teach my children to do the same...it's extremely frustrating and hurtful when it isn't reciprocated. It even happens among the moms - sometimes, it may even begin with the moms.
I have one child who has been what many call a loner for the majority of his life. He insisted that he liked animals more than people, and he was usually more comfortable on his own than with a group. In recent years, however, he has had a desire to go do things and gain more friendships. But sadly, the kids he's known his whole life don't even reach out to him. In fact, some are meaner to him now, like he has no right to want to be included after all the years he did his own thing. He is rarely invited to parties or to a friend's house. He even tried a new sport to make some connections this past year, but the only real connections he made were with his coaches. Recently, a friend of mine was dealing with a similar situation with her son. Another mom, one I consider a good friend, mentioned that she knew my child seemed to have difficulties in this area, as well. So she encouraged this mom to contact me so our boys could be friends...now, in theory, I realize she was probably trying to help. She saw two boys that need a friend, so voila - problem solved. My problem with it was, why wasn't her son encouraged to be friends with one or both of the boys?? Her son is actually friendly with my boy - in certain, but not all, places. I know my son feels the difference and knows he doesn't get to play with this friend at one place, but can in another. THIS IS SO WRONG.
Some of my children have been excluded over the past few years by ones our family felt were very good friends. I saw it several times, but I ignored it, hoping it was just a moody moment or a misunderstanding. Unfortunately, it kept happening. I watched my kids try over and over, brushing off their hurts and keep wanting the friendships to work. To see kids you love like your own, ones you would do anything for, treat your own children in such a way is gut wrenching. One of my kids is super resilient and walked away, knowing that other friends were out there. But one has stopped bouncing back so quickly...and that was completely unexpected. Watching a child go from being a leader, a go getter, to sitting alone all too often texting friends just to find out they are all together or seeing friends do stuff together on FB and not having been invited is a terrible feeling. Seeing him withdraw from activities he loves and ask us to stop going to places we used to just to avoid being left out (because it happened so many times) has absolutely broken my heart. He's in self preservation mode, and I have no idea how to help him thrive again.
I've tried to pinpoint when the changes came. There is no one place. I do realize that having two babies in two years seriously slowed down our social lives. I haven't been able to have extras over like I used to. I haven't been able to plan get togethers with friends as often as I once did. That was to be expected. But I didn't realize exactly how many things would change because of it. It seemed like when I stopped being the one to organize or host, someone else stepped up to do that...but my kids were no longer included.
I do know that people change and gain different interests. I understand not everyone will stay friends with the same people forever. But it doesn't mean I will allow my kids to be hurtful to people intentionally. I won't allow there to be five girls standing in a group and four of them talking about coming to our house for a sleepover. My daughter KNOWS what the right thing to do here is. There is always room for one more. There will be times when we can only have two friends to an event, due to transportation or cost. But my children also know they aren't to go on and on about that event in front of other kids and make them feel left out. Making someone feel less about themselves to make yourself feel better is tragic. For the hurt one, and the one doing the hurting. Why would we as parents stand by and allow this? Or encourage it? Or even worse, just ignore it?
I don't have all the answers. I'm not a perfect parent - so very far from it. But when I see my child not being compassionate toward one who may desperately need a friend, I strive to remind them of the times they've been hurt, and to remember to never make someone else feel that way. I can't protect them from every hurt. But I can teach them to learn from that hurt and be better people because of it. And sometimes, I guess that has to be enough.