Some bad memories make us better…
With my head in her lap, I lay there sobbing, my 8-year-old frame shaking with each fresh breath. “Why don’t they like me?” I asked between sobs. My mom just held me. The memory is so vivid, so gut-wrenchingly fresh in my mind.
I struggled to find my “group” as a child.
Try as I might, I never seemed to inch my way into close friendship with the girls in my grade, and because I attended a small school, the options were slim. My two best childhood friends, one a year younger and the other a year older than me, developed “groups” of their own over time. One sweet girl from my class befriended me , but she seemed to also find acceptance in any group, and she moved before we completed elementary school. There I stood, stranded, just trying to fly under the radar so as not to be a target of ridicule.
Looking back at that moment in time, with my head in my mother’s lap, two things stand out: First, how heart-breaking it must have been for my mother to sit there and hold me as I cried, unable to do much to ease the pain in that moment. As a mom now, I ache thinking about one of my girls crying those words into my lap.
The second thing that strikes me, though, is that my mom didn’t rescue me from the pain. She didn’t swoop in, promise to talk to the other girls’ mothers, or offer suggestions or tips. Instead, she held me and told me how much I was loved, that she didn’t understand it either, but that we would get through this together. And we did! She taught me to be kind, to love others well, to be a friend even when someone was unfriendly. We would have many more conversations about friendship and kindness as I grew. I’m so glad she didn’t “save” me that day, because I am better for it today.
Pain, disappointment, rejection, and heartache are part of the human experience.
To deny them their place in our lives only makes us good at avoiding the hard things. Because my mom refused to “fix” this and other problems in my life, I learned to navigate life’s more difficult moments. I learned to be kind to everyone, regardless of who was kind to me. I even began to see others who might feel the same way and empathize with them, extending to them the offer of friendship. More importantly, though, I became more comfortable and confident in who I was instead of who others thought I should be.
The pull to “fit in” doesn’t go away with age, at least not for most of us.
It is completely normal for us to desire those relationships. To say that I haven’t felt rejected as an adult by my peer group would be an outright lie, but to say that I’ve learned healthy ways of navigating those feelings would be absolutely true. Sometimes, I’m still that 8-year-old little girl; I still call my mom, and we talk it through. She reminds me that I can only control me. I can only control who I am and how I treat others.
I hesitated to share this story, because it definitely is not a “feel good Friday” kind of memory. But I’ve learned that most memories are important in some way, whether they are good, bad, funny, or “markers.” In this case, this memory reminds me that as moms, we can’t control everything in our lives, much less our children’s lives. We can only give them the tools to come through stronger, kinder, and more loving in the end.