I've been thinking recently about being more purposeful about teaching my four girls how to be good friends to their classmates. With everything in the news lately about bullying and the horrid events that occur around that topic, I can't help but wonder what kind of friends they are at school.
They understand that everyone is different. They are generally kind. But if there is a kid who sits alone at lunch, do they join her? If there is a child who is being teased, do they stand up for him? Do they show others God's love by looking people in the eye, essentially validating them, showing the person he is seen, by them and by God?
I hope so.
When I was in elementary school our family moved from one side of the state of Michigan to another. I joined a class of kids who had all been together since preschool. After the novelty of being 'the new girl' wore off, I found myself often times alone. Kids teased me. My self esteem plunged low under the weight of their ridicule. I cried. It didn't occur to me to fight back.
One day at recess I stood next to the pole where you line up when the bell rings. Kids made a circle around me, mocking me. They threw trash and rocks at me. It hurt too much to tell my parents about it. I dreaded school every day after that. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep.
"Please mom, don't make me go! I have a stomach ache!"
Then one day, a girl named Brandi, who also was the 'it' girl in our small fourth grade existence stood up for me. "Enough!" she told the other kids. "There's no reason to make fun of this girl. I'm not going to do it anymore. Come sit next to me, Gill."
Everyone loved Brandi. They listened to her. Kids left me alone. I made friends.
Her words changed everything for me.
A lot of what society is dealing with: bigotry and bullying, etc... is about how we parent our kids. Bullying issues start at home. If we don't teach our kids to love and respect others and then model it for them, they won't. Without a doubt, they won't. Why would they?
I was at a parenting discussion last night at church. We watched a video by Ted Tripp on Shepherding a Child's Heart. He said a lot of good stuff. I recommend you check him out. The video is free to watch on-line.
But one thing stuck out to me.
"What are you impressing upon your children?" Tripp asked. "Be assured, you make an impression on them whether it's intentional or not."
Our kids watch us. They mimic us. Like an old fashioned paper press, our hearts push down on theirs and an embossed mark is left. No parent is void of this fact. Without God's help and without being intentional, I shudder to think what I impress upon Elaina, Zoya, Polly and Evie.
Oh how I want to impress upon my children God's love and the sacrifice of Jesus.
Oh, how often I fail at this.
Oh how I want them to be a Brandi to a kid going through a tough time.
Because we are all God's creation.
We all have value.
And because every child should know God sees her.