Her name was Debbie.
She was tall and had long pigtail braids.
And she was different. Developmentally, she wasn’t like the rest of us. I didn’t know why she was different. I just knew that she was.
Debbie didn’t have any friends. I can remember her playing hopscotch on the play yard alone. I think she may have lived with her grandmother.
And that is all I can tell you about Debbie, because my 10 year old self didn’t make an effort to know her any better.
The friendship boat I was in wasn’t too much better than the one Debbie was in. I had one reliable close friend.
Some days I was “good enough” for the cool kids and some days I wasn’t. I tried to stay under the radar. The teasing I endured for my skinny legs and buck teeth would stay with me for years.
Mostly, I simply noticed Debbie on the playground, and though I wasn’t really part of the problem, I certainly wasn’t part of the solution either.
I have a vague memory of kids standing around Debbie, swinging her pigtails in the air during one recess time. I don’t remember if I participated in the swinging, or was just enjoying some time hanging out as part of “the group,” but either way, I didn’t try to stop it. How horrible for that little girl, to feel so helpless. I’m ashamed. I know how she must have been feeling, to be so powerless, because I had lived through the bullying too.
I’m sorry, Debbie, wherever you are. You deserved kindness. You deserved respect. And you deserved a friend.
Fast forward 25 years to where I am now trusting the other children of the world with my boys’ fragile and precious hearts, and trusting my boys that they will do the right thing when they cross paths with the Debbie’s of the world.
I’ve thought a lot about Debbie since having children. How do I raise my boys to be kind? To not only NOT be the bullies, but to go farther and to be the child who sees that kid on the playground, all alone, and says, ” Hey! Do you want to play with me?” To recognize a sad heart when they see it, and recognize the opportunity to do good in the world. How do you teach them that to be kind is more important than looking “cool.” That being kind is cool.
These are difficult questions. Questions that I’m not sure I know the answer to. This parenting gig is tough, and I’m kinda learning as I go. Flying by the seat of my pants, if you will.
I think it was Glennon over at Momastery where I read the suggestion that we can teach our children to be kind by being kind. Teach them to have respect by showing respect.
I think she’s on to something there.
So that’s my plan. To model compassion. To model kindness. To model respect. And to hope that those seeds that I plant within my sons will help them grow into kind, compassionate souls.