After hearing from Noah yesterday afternoon that a former classmate said to him in front of a group of peers, “you are home schooled now because you aren’t smart enough to be at school.” Well, I just about blew a gasket. Oh, every Mama knows the moment, the gut punch from knowing the hurt and for those of us who care about right and wrong we are faced in those moments with the challenge of practicing what we preach, modeling what we teach. We must be angry and sin not. Oh sisters! I’ve got the “be angry” down pat. It’s the “sin not” that I fight!
Disclaimer: My kid (kids) have spoken their own unkind, ugly words. I’ve spoken unkind, ugly words. The goal: To STOP the cycle and live well.
Thankfully, Noah knows the real reasons he is home schooling this year and it has nothing to do with lack of aptitude. However, I’ve pondered, what if that had been true? The anguish upon anguish of one who struggled in that way…Cruel world, huh?
The meanness of kids, it’s not new. Reading from a novel last night, a little girl recounted school days and the difference between schools she attended. One, she said, had typical kid meanness while the other was cruel. There is a difference.
It’s not just kids, though. I remember…
I remember my early years of struggle. Around, oh, age 8, I was in the throws of anxiety, My young body, racked with feelings too intense to process, would do the only thing it could to cope, vomit. I did this frequently. Because of this I often asked the teacher for a restroom break. She tired of my near daily request and decided to halt it. She took a small piece of paper and on it wrote the word, “no.” Handing it back to me she said, “whenever you think to ask to go to the restroom, this is my answer.” Moments later, unable to hold back the nausea, I excused myself to the restroom without permission.
You can imagine this was deemed unacceptable and my parents were called. Daddy demanded I honor the teacher’s rules regardless of my need. In fear I asked, “but what about when I have to throw up?” He replied, “you do it right there in the floor. You had better NOT leave the room.”
The next morning, queasy as usual, I took a piece of gum to school with me, also contraband, but hoped it would ward off my sickness and spare me the shame of what I feared. Not long into the morning with mounting distress, I took out the piece of gum and slipped it into my mouth. Unfortunately, it did not save me. The vomit came forth and right there in front of everyone lay my disgust. Can you imagine the exclaim from others? I wish I could forget.
When yelled at by my teacher, “why did you do that?” My reply, “because my daddy told me to.”
This is a snapshot of being me at age 8. No pity, please. I’m no longer 8. Quite functional and even happy on most days and thrilled to no longer be a child. You see, as an adult, I can choose many things that children are not able to choose. I can choose what I listen to, who I engage, and what I believe. I realize that those beside and all around me suffer the same malady I suffer. I, we, are imperfect, flawed, and always will be. We are far more alike than different. This is something I did not know as a child. I’ve also learned my value is in no way altered by others’ opinions of me. This, my friends, is quite the relief 😉
I remember the dawning even then, the curtain rising and revealing to me, one day at a time, the lack of wisdom of those who were supposed to know better. I lived the lack of care and compassion and understanding that was needed. I forgive. Sure I do, but I don’t forget, nor should I. God gave us the ability to learn from experience. We must remember the learning in order to retain the lesson. The lesson? Care…Live it. Teach it. Encourage it.
As I walk through childhood after childhood with one child and then another (not just my own, mind you, I have loved many a child who isn’t from my own womb) I revisit my own memories noting how little things change from one generation to the next. Sure, we have many influences now that did not exist years ago, but the same old ugly, hateful, mean, and careless is as alive and present as ever. The shape and form change, but the substance remains the same.
I can’t help but question how different it would be if we chose, as adults, to care equally for all. How different would it be if we wanted the same outcome for others’ children as we want for our own. Some do. Many don’t. It’s clear. And it is a problem, a HUGE problem. Teaching your kid, “you are the best!” is not the way to a better world.
It goes back to arrogance and pride. My mama has a funny saying. “Every old crow thinks his little one is the blackest.” Might we realize that the special we see in our own children is seen by others in their children. They ARE all special, just different and the difference is by design. Might we realize we as adults have much to learn from each child as well from one another? My goodness! How did such a divide ever begin?
Could it be that the Good Book is true? There is one who roams about seeking whom he may devour, to kill steal, and destroy. How better to destroy a life than to have one come to believe he is worthless, despicable, pathetic? The question then must be, what role am I playing? Am I one who affirms others? Do I build others up? Do I encourage? Do I foster life and joy or do I demean, discount, devalue?
These are REAL questions that need to be asked by all, regularly, with openness to know the truth of ourselves.
I wonder, every year when I teach about teen suicide, how many wounds it took before the young one could take no more, before he decided all those retorts against him were valid and the world would be a better place without him? Think I’m being dramatic? The statistics ARE dramatic. What are we doing to reach the lost? What are we willing to do? If the answer isn’t “everything I possibly can” then it isn’t enough.
I’m home today with my boy, wondering, wondering how many have decided, like me, that peace and truth matter most, that life is too precious to waste being demeaned. That if I have to give up everything else to know I’ve done all I can to instill in my son that goodness, kindness, and love matter most, I’ll give it up, everything, everything, everything because it matters that much. No life is to be devalued. No throw away people. No hopeless cases. Every life matters. Jesus proved it, and I believe it.
If you’ve taken the time to read this, you have heard my frustration. I have shared bits and pieces of my personal story before. There’s more. So. Much. More. Yet, for it, I have learned to give sincere thanks. I am still far, FAR, from perfect, but I know my struggles have given me insight that I would never have gained apart from them, and this insight lights a fire of care in me for all daily and reminds me how important a life of genuine honesty and care is. If I can bring nothing else to the days I’m granted upon this earth, I can bring a heart that cares and in this world of hurt that is enough.
One more thing…because of all the humiliation in childhood, I am able to stand and speak or write and publish what I believe without wavering because my worth and value is not rooted in the response of my audience. I learned a LONG time ago in a much more vulnerable condition that I can endure rejection, criticism, and harm and these experiences do not and cannot change truth or diminish my value. It was one long, rocky and rugged road that led to this discovery and thus one not easily shaken. May it be so for all those who struggle while young and small that they may be strong and whole and defenders of the weak in days to come…