My girl loves everything about school. She loves her teachers. She loves her friends. She loves learning about new things. This summer alone, her 4s class had done everything from make volcanoes to pet 10-foot-long snakes to talk about the peoples and cultures of China and India (even if they were provided with questionable details about how the Chinese make ice cream).
When I pick E. up from school every afternoon, she chatters the whole drive home, telling me about all her adventures of the day. But when I picked her up yesterday, I knew immediately that something was wrong. Rather than her usual running full throttle toward me, she sort of moped over and gathered her stuff.
At first I thought she was just hot and tired because they had just come inside from playing. But as soon as we were safely in the car with the doors closed, she started telling me — unprompted — what was bothering her.
According to E., when she was on the playground with her buddies, one of her good friends pushed her down into the dirt.
I know E’s version of the story; I don’t know the other child’s. But I know kids will be kids. These things happen. It in no way affects my opinion of this child, whom I happen to like very much.
But I also know that it broke my baby’s heart. Yes, she’ll always be my baby.
When I asked her if she got hurt, she said yes.
“It hurt my feelings, Mommy!” And with that, the floodgates opened. She started crying pretty hard. I was helpless to comfort her because I was driving.
But we kept talking and I asked if her friend apologized and E. said that not only had her friend said she was sorry, she even did it before the teachers told her, too.
So then we talked about how sometimes people lose their tempers and do things before they really think about it.
E immediately piped in with, “It’s like that one time when Ho Ho kicked Rintoo because he got mad, too!”
I don’t understand why TV is so vilified. Thanks to “Ni Hao, Kai-Lan,” I had a “real-world” example to use to make my point to E. Well done, Nick Jr.!
E. told me that the two of them didn’t play together for the rest of the day, though, so I knew it was still weighing heavily on her tiny little heart.
As soon as we got home, I hugged her as hard as I could, bracing myself for what I know will be many more heartbreaks in the years ahead. I vividly remember the hurt of being cast off as someone’s best friend in 5th grade or not being invited to a sleepover in 7th grade. That shit hurts.
This week I realized that not only will it be impossible to shield my darling girl from similar hurt feelings, it’s going to hurt me just as much (if not more) as it hurts her.
Thankfully, for now, such incidents are more easily forgotten. When we got home, instead of asking to watch a show like she normally does, E. instead wanted to climb up into my bed with me. And she sweetly said, “Mommy, can we play the ‘I love you more’ game?”
The ‘I love you more game’ is something I started with E. before she could really even talk and now it’s one of her favorite things to do. We go back and forth saying things like, “I love you more than all the sand on the beach” (me) to “I love you more than all the times Daddy toots!” (her). The game tends to get sillier and sillier with each turn, and by the end, we’re both trying to out-do each other with outrageous things — the wrinkles on Yoda’s face, the number of times E’s watched “Wizard of Oz or the number of pancakes she’s eaten in her life.
And before I knew it, my happy girl was back.
I’m terrified for her to grow up. I’m terrified for her heart to be broken. I’m terrified that I won’t know what to say to help, comfort and encourage her. I’m terrified that she’ll someday doubt how truly wonderful, smart, funny and awesome she is just because some girl is mean to her.
(And, for the record, she and her friend were back to being best pals again, too. All is already forgotten, thank God!)
When I was pregnant, I knew what I needed to do to keep her safe. I avoided lunch meats and alcohol. I (begrudgingly) forced down salad after salad and awful prenatal vitamins. And for E’s first couple years, I won’t say it was easy to keep her safe, but I had a gameplan — I nursed her exclusively for six months, then until she self-weaned at 16 months; I baby-proofed every inch of our home; I cut each of her grapes into 28 pieces and even halved Cheerios. She had swim lessons; she has never been in the sun for extended periods of time without sunscreen. She’s still in a harness car seat, even though the state of Florida inexplicably says she can just rock it in the backseat of a car. In terms of taking care of her needs, I had her covered.
But this stuff? I feel like I’m just winging it. Where’s the What to Expect When Your Daughter’s Heart is Being Smashed book? Suddenly worrying about outlet covers and those deathtraps crib bumpers seems trivial when you’re looking into your child’s tear-streaked eyes.
How do you child-proof your kid’s heart?
This is so incredibly well written. Unfortunately, there is no way to shield our kids or our hearts from misfortune. But you are listening and letting her talk and hugging her and playing the Love game…all the right things. It is a fact that once you give your heart to your child, even pre-birth, it is all over…it never, never gets easier…
Thank you! And I’m learning day by day that it never gets easier. It certainly gets more fun and rewarding and there are many elements that are easier now than the first couple years (sleep is nice) but the big stuff gets harder and harder all the time. But I know how good of a job you did mothering your little ones so I’m glad to hear you think I’m on the right track!
Paula @ Eat: Watch: Run says
Aww, this is the kinda stuff that makes us the people we are. You shouldn’t want to child-proof your kid’s heart even if you could.
Sure, I could have done without 6 years of my last shitty relationship, but it helped make me into the (stronger) person I am today. Same with E. All these experiences just make her stronger.
You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right. It’s actually probably a good thing I can’t child-proof her heart because in a moment of weakness, I would and then she’d be insufferable as an adult.
But knowing that some of these experiences are going to be “character building” isn’t going to make them any easier to witness.
Theresa @ActiveEggplant says
It’s posts like this that make me want to have a child *so badly* right now! The love you have for E is amazing and I hope I am lucky enough to experience that kind of love myself someday.
And I agree with Paula-as shitty as that run in was, E learned a valuable lesson and will be able to handle future situations more easily. You definitely don’t want to child proof her from this stuff, no matter how much it sucks to see her going through it.
Oh, you’re so sweet. No matter how a child comes into your life, you’re going to love him or her with more force than you thought possible. It’s one of those things that you always think, “Oh, of course I’m going to love my child.” But then when you have one you realize you had no idea what unconditional, all-consuming love really meant.
And then you’ll never sleep again from the worry of it all because as you said, it sure as hell sucks to just stand by as they learn these hard lessons. Ah, life.
Were you rooting around in my brain recently? Because I swear I’ve had every one of these thoughts. Particularly in light of terrible events, such as: the 3-month-old victim in the Colorado shooting, an 11-year-old boy who drowned in a nearby lake, the eight-graders on the fourth season of The Wire who only know how to live by selling drugs on Baltimore street corners. It all makes me so sad and so terrified for C’s future.
But you and Paula are both right. Crappy things WILL happen to them, and, yes, they’ll be what builds character in our children, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Hell, I tear up every time Charlotte gets shots or when she cries because she can’t reach her favorite stuffed dog.
Anyway, thanks for this post. If nothing else, at least we know that, as moms, we’re all in the same boat. I’m just hoping that the boat has a captain that will serve a ton of wine.
Darnit! I was hoping I was able to get in and out of your brain without you noticing I’d been in there poking around for blog ideas! 🙂
Yeah, the Colorado thing has rocked me too. We go to the movies so frequently. It’s a cliche thought (oh, that could have been us or my child) but I’ve thought it many, many times. It’s so funny you mention the kids on The Wire. We were talking recently that we want to rewatch it and I realized I haven’t seen it since becoming a mom. It was traumatizing enough when having a kid was only theoretical. It would slay me now!
I can remember hard things from E’s infancy — listening to her cough through the night or battle yet another ear infection or cry as I left her at daycare (still one of the hardest things I think I’ll ever experience). But those were all physical hurts. These emotional ones are a whole new world of hurt for both of us.
Yes, we’re all in the same boat. Captain Wine better keep those glasses coming!
Kashi @ Cape Island Runners says
I really love this post. I think you are already doing exactly what needs to be done – help her understand why people don’t always act nice and then give her some more unconditional love at home. Super sweet. Good job, mama.
Great post. I worry about this also with Lucy. I know that right now she is too young but I dread the “mean girl” phase because it is coming…
Oh, it’s coming. Thankfully in preschool, these little spats tend to be over and forgotten pretty quickly, but lately, I’ve been hearing horror stories about kindergarten. For example, did you know that KINDERGARTENERS care about where their clothes come from? How can they possibly know brands by then? I’m terrified. Can we outlaw Justice some time in the next two years? I need to get on that.
Jocelyn | ScooterMarie says
I am terrified of this too!! Seriously, it’s like you jump inside my brain and pull out my exact same thoughts. I know just how badly it feels when your feelings or hurt or you’re excluded or someone’s just not nice, and it will definitely break my heart if/when it happens to D. I think I’ll cry more than she will! Ugh, I’m not looking forward to this part. I’ll just have to remember your stories and take your lead. 🙂
Victoria @ Running Peanut says
Ugh, I have to admit that I am still scarred by the nasty seventh grade girls in my middle school. Girls are flat out meaner than boys.
I’m glad E and her friend are back to being pals, but man, it makes MY heart hurt to read about E having her feelings hurt. I cannot imagine the pain you felt. I suppose there is some consolation that E’s pain is fleeting. But just to hear a 4 year old say, “That hurt, Mommy.” Wow.