See that girl hovering just a bit behind that group of girls, wanting to join in, smiling and trying to laugh at the same time with that group…but just failing to be included.
See that girl watching that mother drive off with a carload of girls, whom she thought were her friends, whom she spends lunch and recess breaks with, wanting to be included…but just failing to be included
See that girl desperately trying to find a group to work with on a class project, flitting from one group to another, wanting to be called up…but just failing to be included.
We all see that girl.
Two girls are playing and chatting a mile-a-minute together. Another girl stands to the side, seemingly pretending not to notice. The mother of one of the two girls pulls her child aside quietly and whispers something to her. The next moment you see her child pull at her friend and together they open their arms to include the third.
Thank you to that mother. Thank you for noticing.
Let me give you another. In all aspects, the same scenario, but with a different set of mothers.
Two girls are playing, cartwheeling and running off together to the trampoline. A third stares at them as they run off whispering, arm in arm without her. She sits in the garden and buries her face into her dog. It is impossible not to notice that she has been excluded on purpose, yet the two girls’ mothers say nothing.
I see you, my love, and my heart is in little pieces. I want to pick you up and whizz you through these years. I want to pick you up and go back to the days when you still sat on my lap.
I am in my mid-forties. But still, I remember witnessing, all those years ago in high school, an act of kindness shown by one girl, I shall call her Kate. Kate from the “it-crowd”. There was “That Girl”, whom I shall call Sarah. Sarah who hovered. Sarah who stared. Sarah who sat by herself. Sarah who desperately wanted to be included.
Kate, who despite her “uber-coolness” was kind to Sarah. I saw her sit with Sarah on occasions, talk to Sarah, never rolling her eyes or smirking (oh believe me, there were a lot of smirks and “OMG is she seriously talking to me” glances, and believe me, that 11 year old, that 12 year old…that 16 year old Sarah noticed too). I saw Kate befriend Sarah and on occasions, include Sarah in her team. This was throughout our six years of high school. Do I know if Kate invited Sarah to her birthday party? Or for a sleepover? No I don’t. But I wasn’t part of Kate’s crowd. AND I didn’t talk to Sarah either. So I’ll never know.
I wonder now if Sarah remembers me. I was never mean but I certainly do not remember including Sarah, taking the time to talk to Sarah aside from a casual hello by the lockers. I would not be remembered by Sarah for being kind. Is that important to me? It is now, as a Mother.
I am sorry Sarah, I am sorry for not seeing you. Thank you Kate, thank you for being kind.
I tell my daughters, “it is better to be remembered for being kind than for being the most celebrated sports person in school”. I can hardly remember who the best sports person was or who all the smart girls were at my school. But I remember Kate. Even though it has been 25 years since I left school. I tell my girls to be aware, to use your words carefully, to remember that texting does not include facial expressions and sometimes, intended tone. I tell my girls to include that girl who sits on her own, that girl who has no group to complete a class assignment with, and I hope they listen and act.
What can we do as parents?
- Please don’t be that mother who invites 10 of 12 girls from the class to a party and then allow your child to post about it on social media. The two that didn’t go, well, they see.
- Please don’t be that mother who allows your child to hand out party invites at school if you are not inviting everyone, or at least all the girls (or boys!).
- Please BE that mother who educates your child about inclusion not exclusion.
- Please BE that mother who educates your child to “see”, to support, to empathise.
- Please, BE that mother that sees. The one that notices.
You are the key. They learn from you. And oh yes, of course there is a lot more that you CAN do. Please do share.
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