Words Hurt; Words Heal

We’re all tired. Moms are tired. Teachers are tired.

But each child is somebody’s child.

As a mother of a 12-year-old pubescent girl, most days I’m met with tears. Somebody hurt her feelings. A few days ago, it was hearing that a group of friends got matching air-brushed t-shirts to wear to school, and they did it without her because someone in the group didn’t want Angela’s name on her shirt.

I get that my youngest is hard to get along with. She has a temper that stays on simmer. She can gossip. She comes across as very needy. She answers with sarcasm. Complains about everything. But here’s the thing – she still has feelings.

I know she’s hard to deal with. I get tired of the drama. It’s always a new person who has hurt her feelings or something that has not gone her way. A few days ago, she actually got angry with me and threw her bag across the classroom. I want to throw my hands up because I feel so helpless dealing with her pent-up rage. It feels like 80% of our school days have ended with her in tears. Her coming to my classroom and starting to cry.

Is it hormones? Are girls really being that mean to her? Or is it her own insecurity?

I think it’s a combination of all of the above.

But she is a reminder that everyone has feelings. Somehow we have to figure out how to treat others kindly even when they get on our nerves.

Her own insecurity has caused her to be mean to other girls. What goes around comes around. But even the mean girl has feelings.

So how do I handle this?

Yesterday she said she wished she got a do-over for the beginning of the year. She would have chosen different friends. She wouldn’t have tried so hard to fit in with the popular girls. She knows she would have saved herself some drama.

There are other moms who are looking at me and judging me. Why does your daughter act the way she does? It’s a reflection on me. Except it isn’t.

I didn’t have her the first 5 years of her life. We didn’t get to adopt her until she was 7 ½.

She told us that she used to think every time she got in trouble or we got angry that we would send her back. And this is even after the adoption.

Trust is a tough thing to win.

She is teaching me things all the time.

She reminds me that there are kids who are tougher to love than others.

The 12-year-old kid who acts like he doesn’t care. Has an attitude and a mouth. Turns out he doesn’t have a mother.

The 12-year-old kid who will curl up in a ball when he doesn’t want to do work. Scream and cry in the car. Not wanting to get out for school. Throws a pencil in anger just so he can be sent home.

The 12 year-old-girl who sneaks baby dolls, toy cars into school. Skips down the hallway. Wants to call her dad every day. Insisted on holding my hand on the escalator and elevator on our recent field trip. I don’t know what has caused her to be this way. I may never know.

And I teach 147 other children who all are different, yet all are someone’s child. I see the look on someone’s face and read his journal entries about not having any friends. Their time capsule letters to their future selves about wanting friends.

It is no wonder that your child’s teacher is tired. Yes, that teacher may not get teacher of the year, but I can almost guarantee that they care deeply about your children. Yes, they’re tired when the kids don’t listen. When they are disrespectful.

But something made them go into teaching. Something made them stay.

Just like the teacher needs to realize the weaknesses and the hard things to love about your child, you need to realize the weaknesses and the hard things to love about your child’s teacher.

They may have a child at home who has just started school and learning disabilities are suspected. You know what a long road it is to diagnosis, not to mention getting the right treatment.

Maybe her husband has lost his job.

Maybe her marriage is headed for divorce.

Every person we meet has a story. The gift is being able to empathize. Being able to realize that their behavior is not aimed toward us but comes from a hurt deep inside of them.

Unfortunately, many adults still hurt.

I wish that the 12-year-olds my daughter encounters could give her grace. Appreciate her strengths. But that is probably asking too much when not many adults do the same for others they encounter. All we think is they get on our nerves. Step back and think about what hurt would cause them to act that way. To be so negative. To complain. To gossip.

No, treating them with compassion and patience might not change them. It will be hard. You’ll want to complain. Or gossip. Or ignore.

Fight those urges. Realize your weaknesses. That’s the biggest motivator to empathizing with others.

If you want to empathize, but think it’s hard, be thankful and pat yourself on the back. It means you are an emotionally healthy individual. Many people you meet aren’t. Spread the love. Spread the grace. It will make your part of the world a better place.



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