|My incredibly talented sister-in-law shot this. You should check her out!|
Enter the "tween" years, and all the fun life lessons that come with them. All of the sudden, my sweet, happy, tender-hearted girl has discovered meanness. And don't get me wrong, I'm not only saying she's fallen victim to it, but she's also turned it around on others. (Usually, her sisters, but there have been a few times where she's been less than innocent in her circle of friends as well.)
The first few times it happened, every fiber of my being wanted to go in a dozen different directions. I wanted to be angry and share a few words with those who hurt her; I wanted to sit with her and cry over the very familiar pain of the situations; I wanted to figure out a quick way to siphon her hurt; I wanted to figure out how to thicken her skin to better protect her for the inevitable next time. In the end, I chose to use these times as opportunities to learn about human nature, and to try to be a better human herself (and myself). Recently, it seems as if we've circled back into a season of this sort of thing with some of her girlfriends - exclusion, manipulation, and general meanness. It's nothing out of the ordinary, and though it's no fun, it will pass. But it's brought these thoughts fresh to my mind so I thought I'd share them with you.
Something I've learned over the years is that hurt people, hurt people. When Olivia first encountered "bullying" (used for lack of better term, not to be dramatic!), this is one of the first things I explained to her, and I did it partially because I could already see her processing the pain in part by turning that meanness onto her younger sister. TIMEOUT for the Carrick girls. Not a real time out, but I pushed pause big time so we could sit and process properly. I explained how even just then, Olivia was hurt, and her first instinct was to hurt someone else. This is the cycle of meanness that I wanted to help stop, rather than perpetuate. I told the girls that when someone hurts them, probably along the lines somewhere they themselves had been hurt. It doesn't take away the pain, but it brings perspective, and for us it fosters grace, and ultimately, forgiveness, which I feel should always be the bottom line. It's much healthier that way.
I know my children are human, and they will more than likely have MANY moments in their life where they are less than nice to people, but I will fight every day to teach them that their goal in life is to show love to others, and to foster KINDNESS in every situation they can. It's a harder fire to light sometimes, but it can spread just as effectively as bitterness or meanness, and have a way more positive end result!
If you are a parent, I am asking you, please teach your children to be kind. Not weak, not pushovers, or anything like that, but kids who are willing to look past exteriors, to go an extra mile for someone, to bite their tongue when a really good comeback is on the tip of it (hard, I know!), and to show extra grace for those around them. We help to create the culture we exist in, and we are training the next generation to do the same. Create kindness. Pass it on. Even when - especially when - it's hard, it's worth it. They're watching, learning, and imitating us, and it's their world at stake, so let's make it a good one.