"Mom, I'm not going to tell you who I played with today."
My mommy radar goes up.
"Oh really? Was it someone younger than you?"
"Nope, it wasn't a girl at all."
"Oh, was it a boy then?"
Then comes a story of innocent teasing as is common with most children. It's nothing major. But it hurts.
As she sits there, shoulders heaving with the effort of unloading, my mind races back.
I'm in sixth grade. We're in line for the restroom. He stands a few people behind me in the boys' line. The cool guy. The cute one.
"Nicole has a little horse, little horse, little horse. Nicole has a little horse, and oh she loves it so." He sings.
Innocent? Maybe, but it was done in jest and it stung. I shrunk a little inside myself to keep from crying. I wanted to hide. The teacher didn't notice. I felt ashamed by my love for horses.
"I just don't get it. I mean, I can play with boys and it doesn't mean I love them."
I'm sitting in fourth grade, a knot in my stomach. She's going to beat me up she said. Tomorrow. Before school. The principal said he can do nothing if it happens outside of the school building. What can I do?
She pushes me. She steps on my foot and pushes hard. "Fight, fight, fight" they all holler. I stand there, not sure what to do. Turn the other cheek. Don't hit back.
My dad. My wonderful dad, comes across the parking lot. My hero. He rescues me.
"What happens if you ask her to stop?"
"She stops, for that day, I guess"
"If you have fun playing with boys, then play! Don't let what someone else says change who you are."
The conversation is over, but not my flashbacks.
I'm in the classroom where we changed after gym class. All the girls are looking at a notebook. She had written "most likely to succeed, most likely to get married, etc.," I look for my name. There it was.
This was before the term "nerd" was cool. Hot, wet tears sting my eyes. I won't let them see me cry. It's too late. The tears are falling.
She sees me.
"Oh, um, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for you to see that."
We head to class, tears streaming. Can't stop. The teacher notices. Quietly, she sets a box of tissues on my desk and continues with her lesson. No one knows how deeply I am hurt. No one realizes those words will live with me for years.
I'm a mom now. I have three (three!) little girls in my care. Sensitive souls who take every word to heart.
I want to raise them to be tough. I want to raise girls who can ignore the teasing.
I don't know how.
I want them to realize their worth comes from within, from a family who loves them and a Savior who died for them. They are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I don't know how. I never learned, and I had the best, most supportive parents on earth.
When I hear these stories. I want to protect them. I want to make the teasing stop. It's part of life, I know, but it's something I wish in my deepest heart I could protect them from.
Yet, kids are cruel. And kids sometimes don't mean to be cruel but things are taken the wrong way.
This mommy gig? It's a hard one.
I pray I can teach them not to perpetuate the teasing and to love being different.
I pray I can show them their true worth, which comes from more than what others think of them.