When I was six years old I did a bad thing. I mean who didn’t have moments of being naughty at six? But this bad thing has haunted me more than 30 years later.
There was an “older” girl down the street from me named Becky. Looking back I bet she was only about two years older but I was a tiny little squirt and she was on the bigger side so she seemed much older. Next door to me was a girl one year younger named Trish. She was really, really sweet and I played with her when I saw her outside but she was a little “different”.
I was what I call a “floater” through childhood. I wasn’t popular but I wasn’t unpopular. I had a tiny circle of friends and was pretty shy but I could stay on the perimeter of the “cool group” and I wasn’t asked to leave.
One summertime afternoon Becky and I were playing outside in her front yard when Trish walked down the street near Becky’s house. She asked what we were doing and Becky sort of waved her over and said we were playing a game. I was a little confused but stood there quietly to see what this “game” was. She told Trish to put on a blind fold and to start spinning around and she would lead her around the yard by her voice and tell her where to go. Seemed pretty harmless so Trish obliged and put on the blindfold and started spinning in a circle.
Becky started shouting out commands to an eager Trish. “Spin over to your right, farther, farther, farther.” I remember Trish smiling, her dirty blond locks a little matted like summer-time hair gets flying out around her shoulders as she picked up speed edging to her right.
Becky tried to to stifle a laugh as she beckoned Trish just a little farther. I knew something wasn’t right. Then I saw it.
A sticky, brown pile of dog poo on her lawn and an innocent, blind-folded, happily spinning Trish going right towards it…IN HER BARE FEET.
I knew that was my moment. You know that knot you get in your throat, the instant neck sweat that happens and your blood pressure starts pulsing through your temples? I needed to say something and fast. It was wrong and humiliating and I felt sick inside. It was pure meanness on Becky’s part taking advantage of Trish’s innocence and desire to belong.
But I choked..not literally…but figuratively. I stood there in complete silence and let her spin merrily through the dog poo. For an extra twist of the knife Becky told her to stand still and spin in place. RIGHT ON TOP of the pile of poo. I was dying inside…for Trish, for my puny backbone, for being alive that moment in time. Trish had no idea until she took the blindfold off and started smelling the poop but it was too late.
Of course Becky played dumb, “I didn’t see it, sorry” she says with a nonchalant shoulder shrug.
There was Trish left to hobble down the street in humiliation trying to wipe her feet and poo smashed toes on the lawns as she walked those two doors back down to her house.
I just stood there. I said nothing. I was an accessory to the crime. I didn’t even help when it was over. I have to own that.
At six years old I was tested, to a high degree, on my moral and ethical code and I came out the loser. Seriously, I watch that show “What Would You Do? on ABC and I am so physically uncomfortable watching the different ethical scenarios they test people with and I wonder….thirty plus years later…what would I do? Would I break through my introverted wall and stand up for what I know is right. I’d like to think I would at this point.
Mean girls are not a new phenomenon. Nothing much has changed in thousands of years of humanity. We can look in chapter 16 of Genesis and see a prime example of “mean girl” ways. I mean Hagar becomes pregnant with Abrahams child and starts to taunt a barren Sarah. Pride and arrogance her fuel. In a twist of “mean girlness” Abraham allows Sarah to do as she wishes with Hagar and because she drank the cup of jealousy she casts her out into the desert. Peace out…good luck in the desert with you and your baby. I think we could call that a sinful touche.
Is it any surprise that my daughter is already encountering her first “mean girls” at school? It started last year in 1st grade. FIRST GRADE!!!! There was one ring leader in her class and she had two cronies. They decided who made the cut and who didn’t and they made darn sure on the playground and at lunchtime that the pecking order stayed in tight formation. Chloe didn’t make the cut last year but Chloe had two VERY SWEET friends in her class so she didn’t care. Sadly one of her BFF’s moved half way around the world. The girl who understood Chloe the very most in her life. Ours hearts grieve the loss of Lilly.
If you’ve seen the movie series “Anne of Green Gables” (LITERALLY my most favoritist movies of all time) then you would have a pretty good picture of Chloe’s personality. She’s a very intelligent kid, a little socially awkward, very sweet and innocent, quirky, sure of her opinions and beliefs and loyal to her dearest friends. She doesn’t seek out or require many friends and so I always pray that she finds her “Diana” in life. The one friend who will get her and think her quirks are interesting and endearing as we find them to be. Lilly was her Diana but Diana has moved so Anne is a little lost at school now.
Once my kids started public school last year it became quite obvious to me that they have an innocence about them that never stood out because of the community that we share life with. We have been careful about what and who we expose our children to. We aren’t raising “Children of the Corn” but during there very formidable years I have made sure that they do not come to knowledge on many things before the proper time. I mean our house is a revolving door of guests and ministry so they are learning about kingdom living inside our home and loving MANY different types of people.
My kids still love stuffed animals and playing dress up. They play Pet Shops for hours together using all sorts of different voices. They run through the woods with wooden swords and use their imaginations. I feel a deep conviction to let them be kids as long as possible because once it’s gone…man it’s gone. Which leads me to this side bar and favorite Jack Handy quote.
But I digress. So all that to say, Chloe sticks out a bit. She is the “weird” one in class not because she is weird but because she has that naive innocence about her. She would rather talk about Polly Pockets on the playground then talk about the boys in class. It’s caused her to be an outsider amongst her peers.
Last Monday on the first week of school it started. She tried to play with one of her sweet friends from last year but was told by one of “the cronies” that she was not allowed to play with them and “Stop following us around!” Period…end of discussion.
2nd grade Kelly would have been devastated by said rejection but the Lord has implanted such a resilient and positive spirit in Chloe that I marvel. She recalls these events on the playground with a dry, “matter of fact” tone. She states that she is lonely but “It’s okay, the rest of the day was GREAT, I love school!”
My mama bear heart wants to show up at the playground with my clubs and chains and whoop some sense into “the ring” but I know at the heart of meanness is a wounded child. The issue is greater than me ripping them a new one for being mean and ostracizing my child. I’ve also come to realize that I could shelter my children from pain and rejection but the Lord can use these seasons of being marginalized to be extremely teachable and instill a strong sense of compassion and empathy in my children that a perfect education bubble could never teach.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no delight in seeing my children rejected but I also know it’s much easier to deal with this now than when they are a young adult and finally on their own. Life’s rejections only get bigger.
This is the reality of the fallen world. People are mean, REALLY mean. Our freedom of speech and accessibility to everyones intimate details of their life makes us prime targets for vicious words of attack and harsh judgement. We’ve had some really great discussions this week already about how to handle being left out. When you hear your child pray, “Lord help me to have eyes to see other kids alone on the playground so I can ask them to play.” Well my heart swells a little with pride. That’s exactly how the Lord wants us to take these situations and turn them into acts of strength and love. We have prayed for “her enemies” that they would learn to love and accept everyone.
I’m not over here blowing a hot puff of air and shining my parenting trophy as well as hanging up a medal in Chloe’s room for most spiritually mature 2nd grader. We are walking this out together. My heart has BROKEN for her this week. I’ve cried and felt confused about what is best for my children. I’ve come full circle that this is a very good thing for Chloe to go through to build strength of character and to understand the Lord has gifted her with all the power of the spirit. She is PERFECTLY made and her sense of wonder and imagination is a true blessing from the Lord. She need not change or stoop low to belong. Dollars to donuts there is another little girl on that playground each day that feels the same way and they just haven’t found each other yet. We are praying her into Chloe’s life.
Do you have some “mean girl” in your past? Maybe you were like Hagar that was arrogant and proud and you kept those you deemed “less than” under your thumb. Perhaps you were more like Sarah that brimmed with jealousy so much so that she would do whatever it took to get her enemy out of her life. Maybe, like me, you were Abraham who sat silently by, watching it all unfold, and not stepping in and stepping up for what was right. Even worse…maybe you are like Ishmael. An innocent victim of the sin around him. Born into the bitterness, jealousy, pride and envy and paid a high price because of the lack of morals and ethics of those around him.
Each morning I sing a song of blessing to the kids before they get out of the car. It’s not gonna win me a Grammy but I can hold my own. The words are so apropos for children. They don’t begin to understand the depth and power of these words but I do. To hear the full song go here.
I BLESS YOU by Dennis Jernigan
I bless you with joy and peace and love that won’t let go.
I bless you with grace and faith and fire in your soul.
I bless you with dreams and visions most men don’t know.
I bless you with deeper knowledge of the Father’s love.
I bless you with joy and laughter.
I bless you with a steadfast faith.
I bless you with the hopes and the dreams that your heart goes after.
I bless you with amazing grace.
I bless you with the heart of a warrior, grace to stand and fight.
I bless you with brothers (sisters) who will stand right by your side.
And I bless you with courage till the battles have been won.
I bless you with the faith to hear your Father say “Well done! Well done!”
Photos of Chloe taken a few years ago by my dear friend Sara Ernst.