On any normal day, my 6 year old comes off of the school bus grinning from ear to ear. She bounces off of the steps and bounds to the sidewalk. She is sure to disrobe her school bag and lunch box into mine or my wife’s arms and leaves only a cloud of smoke in her wake as she scurries down the sidewalk with her friends.
Normally, carrying a Hannah Montana school bag and matching lunch box is no big deal for me. Living with three girls has ended any hopes of Transformer bags or Batman lunch boxes(It has also meant the occasional makeover Daddy night at my house. And if I can say, Lavender really accents my eyes but I digress.) but I really don’t mind. It’s enough to see my little girl happy.
On this day however, my happy little girl, wasn’t so happy. There were no bounces or bounds. Her typical momentum and energy weren’t there. I’m not sure if a 6 year old can be downtrodden but if they can…she was.
That day in school, as I soon found out, she had a run in of sorts with one of her classmates. During a math exercise, Hannah’s math partner had an incorrect answer and according to the rules of the 1st grade land, it was my daughter’s job to circle said answer. Her classmate, obviously worried over the repercussions of a wrong answer, quickly wrote over her mistake with the right answer. When questioned by their teacher, my daughter’s partner firmly denied any wrong doings(either on the paper or by her actions). Hannah, when questioned, merely told the teacher the truth.
(As a quick side note, let it be known, my oldest either has yet to figure out how to lie well, the ease of lying, or may in fact just be an honest kid. As an impartial judge of character I am going with the last one. In any case, she is not a liar. Never has been. What the future holds I can’t say but for now, the kid is honest. Don’t get me started on her sister however)
Her classmate then preceded, after being spoken to by the teacher, to tell Hannah she was “mean”. And due to her meanness, she would be striking Hannah’s name from her friend list compiled several weeks ago. A list comprised of everyone in the classroom(and now you know what a 6 year old ‘run in’ means).
Hannah was upset. While tears welled up, she didn’t cry. Finding out that my daughter was the target of insults meant to hurt her, my first and most primitive reaction was anger. While slapping around the young lady who hurt my baby girl may sate my initial anger, it wouldn’t solve the situation and would surely end with me in a six by six jail cell. And besides, slapping around a kid is a trump card I don’t want to have to play until she starts dating.
I stowed the away those thoughts and cooler heads prevailed. We talked about it. I explained why telling the truth was the right thing to do and real friends don’t treat their friends the way her classmate did to her. Hannah’s shoulder’s picked up. She tilted her head in deep thought and then said to me, “Daddy, maybe she was just mad because she didn’t get the answer right the first time? Maybe she was upset because I got it right?”(my 6 year old may be smarter than I am) “Maybe she will apologize when she stops being mad at me?”(she is smarter than me). I told her that she is probably right and she shouldn’t worry about it because what she did, telling her teacher the truth, was the right thing to do. Telling the truth was the most important thing to remember(until the time I have to teach her about or she catches me in a white lie). With that she jumped on her scooter and I could see her demeanor change.
Me? I’m clouded and jaded with years of experience. Kids don’t usually hold a grudge(yet I still have one from college). They are wide eyed for all the world has to offer, even when what the world offers is not so nice. So Hannah’s eyes stayed wide open. Soon enough her smile came back.
These are all new experiences they are going through. Experiences they are sure to go through again and again and again while growing up. If we let our instinct take over, then we teach them nothing and end up having to talk to them through Plexiglas with a phone. I know we want to protect them. At all costs I want my kids to feel safe and be happy. Yet I know, sometimes, things like being called names can be good for them. Kids will be kids and I can’t protect her or her sister from everything and they need to know that and be strong(yes, even as a six year old). I know experiences like the one my daughter went through hurt but despite her hurt feelings, when she thought about it, she could rationalize it. And I don’t want it to ever happen again(but I know it will). Although she may not call on this particular experience to help, it is just one step towards getting her ready for when it happens again.
The next day in school, her classmate apologized(she may have even gotten back on the list too). And when she got off the bus, she was bouncing and bounding again.