I was drinking my coffee in the living room when Haylen sat down and started talking to me. She mentioned that she was afraid to take her lunch to school. I asked her why she felt that way. She proceeded to tell me that she didn’t want one of her friends to eat alone. Then there was silence. I looked at her closely knowing that there was more to this story than what she was telling. It was the feeling that every mother gets when they know something is wrong. I looked at Haylen straight in the eye and asked her what was really going on…
[For the purpose of this blog post the letters represented as names do not reflect the actual names.]
Haylen began telling me a story about her friends. She told me that one of her friends, “A”, didn’t like playing a certain game and she began giving attitude to the other friend, “B”. Haylen at one point felt the need to step in because her friend, “B”, began to cry. She said to “A”, that she needed to stop because she was making friend “B” cry. Friend “A” then said who’s side are you on and gave haylen a mean look. Haylen told “A” that she was on no one’s side and that how “A” she was acting wasn’t nice. Friend “A” walked away and so did Haylen. Haylen the timid person she is began to cry a little, but pulled it together to tell the teacher. The teacher informed Haylen and her friends that at this point it was best to separate and play with other students.
After hearing this story I was both sadden and proud. I was sadden at the fact that this type of intimidating bully behavior starts so young. Haylen is only in the second grade. In that same exact moment I was also proud because Haylen stuck up for her friend and didn’t back down. She responded rationally and confidently. Haylen told me that the friend that was mean always bosses them around and expects all of them to follow. Haylen said that after this incident she has no intentions of continuing the friendship because this wasn’t the first time. Which in my mind was a very adult response to this type of situation. Secretly I was jumping up and down because I was hoping that would be the case. However, I have always told Haylen that I cannot tell her who she can and cannot be friends with at school. That is ultimately up to her. I told her that if after time passes she decides to fix this friendship she just needs to be mindful of these moments.
The world needs more Haylen’s. She has such a huge heart and always has other peoples interests in mind. She finally spoke up and didn’t compromise her morals. To me, Haylen is that little baby I brought home eight years ago, I sometimes forget that she is growing into a young lady. She is a lot stronger than I was when I was her age and definitely has more confidence than I did. She was the girl that I needed when I was her age. I remember times when I was bullied by the other girls in school and I felt so alone. All the other girls just followed the “popular girl” because they thought she was always right and cool. Yet, Haylen explained to me that the way this friend treats people isn’t right. Even after a week she still feels the same way and just gives a friendly hi in class.
As a parent we always want to protect our children and will continue to do so as they grow up. But at the end of the day the whole point of growing up is allowing them to go through life figuring out how to “survive.” They will make mistakes and they will succeed. They will fall and they will shine bright. My daughter is far from perfect, but it’s comforting to know that whatever I am doing as a parent is reflecting in the way she handles conflict. She can stand tall on her own two feet. I’ve said it many times before we cannot choose the path our children land on, but we can build a strong foundation to help them troubleshoot this journey of life.