Suffer the little children? Really?

At this moment in time, I am not particularly fond of children.

Except mine.

I’ve dealt with this sentiment before, but not to this level of severity. In fact, prior to us welcoming Katherine into our lives, I was known as someone who did not tolerate children especially  well.

A good friend, Johanna, said she thought seriously of organizing an intervention when David and I announced we were adopting.

No doubt Jesus would have had sat me down and had a good talk with me, too, as I’ve never much suffered children to come unto me.

But that was BK (before Katherine). She burst into our life holding her head up high right from the day she was born.  This energetic, creative, dramatic, beautiful child breathes so much life into a room and into my life.

A dear friend Julie calls her an old soul. Godmother Paula delights in her antics. And me, I often marvel at the utterly delightful creation of Katherine Marida (petita) (tenacious) Thornton-Vander Plaats.

She’s as headstrong as can be. She far surpasses the level of stubbornness possessed by both her father and me and that says a lot. She’s funny. Insightful. Quick. She possesses a tremendous concern about fairness. Her heart is big, her laugh is delightful.

I cherish my daughter and I am finding it very hard to like the children who are not kind to her.

I want them to go away.

I want to  meet them in a dark alley and scare the bejeezus out of them.

And I want to take my daughter away from the hurt and hardship they inflict on her at school.

I was lucky.  I never felt bullied. I had friends all through school…friends I could depend on.  On occasion I felt betrayed by girls I cared about.  I remember losing a few friendships in high school and being confused.  Why did they no longer want to be with me?  What was wrong?  I felt a loss and a sense of betrayal.  But no cruel words were every spoken to me nor did anyone every hit me and ostracize me.

That is happening to my daughter now and I want to scream.  I want to scratch.  I want to pick up the little monsters and fling them into a dark abyss.  I want to yell at mothers and fathers who somehow teach their children that it’s ok to call children names, act superior, bully, push and punch other children because they can.

So you could say it’s been a rough morning in our household.

I woke to Katherine saying (again) she didn’t want to school. Third day this week. It’s day five. She blurted out the whole series of events from yesterday.  A boy who was her friend has now hit her, bit her, jabbed her with a pen, threw water on her hair (it’s just been straightened so this is a big deal, trust me) and twisted her arm.  Two other girls made fun of her for not understanding Spanish.  Katherine had spoken a Spanish word or two and one of the girls said, “Oh, look, she can learn.”

As a full figured woman in a small figure world, I know what it feels like to have comments made about you and to you.  But I’m an adult.  I can let it roll off me and decide whether to let it hurt or not.  Not so easy for an 11-year old in a new culture, new country, new home, with a new language.  Her desire to have friends and fit in is pretty intense.  And she feels excluded. Ostracized.  And put upon.

My mother bear blossomed this morning.   David called a taxi and Katherine and I headed off for school, Katherine feeling somewhat stronger to have a mama bear growling on her behalf.  We arrived and were able to meet with the school psychologist immediately.  School hadn’t yet begun.

Katherine sat quietly while I talked.  The counselor was gracious.  And surprised.  The boy in question is one of the best behaved in the school.  The girls….ah, the girls.  Sixth grade brings out the worst in girls, she said.  Not right.  Not acceptable.  They will be talked to immediately.  The boy will too.  Then Katherine will be called back in.  Then I will meet with the psychologist for a more indepth meeting.  I felt she listened.  I felt she understood Katherine’s pain.  I feel something positive will be done about it.

And I feel fairly certain I won’t have to box some mothers’ and fathers’ ears. Literally and figuratively.

How do parents do it?  How do you maneuver around this minefield of raising children without having your heart broken and your anger burning when cruel, unkind, unnecessary things happen to the one you’d give your life for?

I thought it would be different here.  I felt in a family-oriented, slower-paced, less materialistic world that children would be kinder.

They aren’t.

Katherine is not perfect. I know that.  But her imperfections don’t fall in the area of hurting others. Intentionally.  Cruelly.

How did Jesus Christ and other great peace-makers walk this earth and turn the other cheek?  They didn’t have kids, that’s how.  No, I don’t mean that.  But Christ, and for that matter, Buddha, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Sojourner Truth and all the other gentle yet powerful leaders in history —how did they walk with strength and power and also gentleness?

All I want to do is howl. Scratch.  Defend. Protect. Soften the blows and kiss the wounds.  I don’t want my daughter out in the world.  I don’t want her dealing with these things that I have no “control” over (ha!  there is no control!).

There are no pretty photos in this blog today folks.  I feel nothing pretty.  I want to be strong for Katherine and show her safety and comfort and a place to be herself –surrounded with love and acceptance.

Dear friends, new friends, family and mothers and fathers.  Please share your advice.  I want to charge into that school yard on a white horse and slay the pre-teen dragons.

But what of charity?  What of forgiveness?  What of tolerance?

And how do I best prepare my wonderful daughter for the harsh realities of life without her losing her very big,.kind heart?



17 thoughts on “Suffer the little children? Really?

  1. Hi, Nancy – I feel how you feel about the pain of others and wanting to do something to defend and protect. I’ve always been sensitive to the feelings of others and strived not to hurt anyone. You asked for advise, but I think you answered your own question with the blog before this one. The river says it all. It doesn’t worry, it doesn’t defend, it just keeps rolling along. With the help of prayer and knowing that God is always present for everyone, things will work out with you not having to do a thing. Katherine is a strong person and she will learn how to take care of herself as did we all at that age. I had kids hurt my feelings more times than I can count, but here I am not feeling that pain. Why? Because it doesn’t exist anymore. It’s forgotten and forgiven. We all grow in our pain, and so will Katherine. You are her mother and you will be there for her, that’s a given. She has a strong, loving mother who will help her make right decisions without the need of fear and regret. Sorry, I’m getting preachy. But you know what I’m saying. Take care you! -Gayle


  2. Oh. Eleven. That was a rough age to be a girl, and I’m sorry your daughter is going through all of that. But the best thing you can ever do for her is let her know you are on her side and will be there for her. She will carry that feeling through her adolescence and into her adulthood.


  3. Hugs, Nancy, My son had similar problems when he was in school. He’s all grown up and highly respected—world wide now. It sounds like the school will handle this. That’s much better than how things are handled in the U.S. these days. Take a deep breath.


  4. Hi Nancy, good that you have moved so swiftly to knock this on the head and that the bullies will know they are being monitored. Bullies like silence and you and Katherine are not giving them that. Clearly the best behaved boy isn’t the best behaved!


  5. Your post had me thinking back to bullying when I was at school, when my children were at school and when I was a teacher. There was no help from the school when I was young and I didn’t ask for it, just found escape in books, study and home. My children and I discussed the problems with the teacher but that didn’t help much. They survived but my daughter is bitter about the girls who were so cruel. When I was a teacher I would spend recess and lunch with the children in question and draw up plans and strategies to combat bullying, trying to find out why it was happening. It was a topic discussed regularly in the classroom. I suppose it toughens us up for life. Our instinct may be to withdraw and cocoon our child from the world as in home schooling but I imagine it would have to be an extreme situation to do that. Maybe the boy was being tease for his friendship with your daughter and so retaliated in the only way he knew how.

    This post made me think of a man who contacted me a couple of years ago. It seems he was in a group of boys who teased me at high school. He felt guilty and so forty years later arranged that he and his wife and my husband and I would have a Sunday breakfast together and “catch up”. I think he was relieved to find no permanent damage had been done.


  6. Nancy, we are so sorry this is happening there. You have handled it in the best way. Addressing it early and letting kids know this is not acceptable will hopefully send a message to parents and kids. Of course Steve has his own thinking about the boy. He says the boy likes Katherine. I hope he’s not being pressured to be this way by others. Will be praying for all involved.


    • thanks for writing. wow.. our days keep getting worse it seems. today Katherine had a performance at school. girls called her (and me) fat. not that I mind for myself, but it hurt her. how do I toughen her up. I want to punch the little girls in the face. then coming home, david had his iPhone stolen out of his pocket. very skilled pickpockets here in Ecuador. trained in Colombia! so Katherine and I have been crying we want to go home. but this is home. david is off put by the loss of the phone but he loves it here. things will get better…but it’s a blue day in the thornton-vander plaats household on Wednesday! I think steve is right. noel did like Katherine, but he says he isn’t going to be friends anymore. I hope they mend their differences. they were good for each other. it’s rough being 11 and 12! and 64.
      how are you guys? hope all is well with you. love you!


  7. I’ve often wondered why some people find it easy to “turn the other cheek” and others don’t. I’ve never found it that hard – I almost wonder if the “flight” response is more ingrained in me than the “fight” response. I don’t have kids – maybe that’s why! Once you have children, that “fight” definitely kicks in!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. wow. years in the future, it will be easier to look back and see how these challenges were helpful in many ways. she will have empathy and will be extra sensitive to others, as she knows how it feels to suffer for being good…. she has learned at an early age what it must have been like for Jesus, as well as those who cherished him….

    i hope that all is better now, and that the tormentors have remorse for their behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

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