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