Today something happened that broke my heart.
I took Ellie to the playground and there was a family there with 3 kids, probably ranging from about 4 years old to 7 or 8. Ellie wanted to play but the kids kept running away from her. At first they were just avoiding her but they quickly became more and more aggressive in their certainty that she not play with them. They pushed her off some playground equipment, blocked her way to the slide, hid their toys, called her a baby, and continued to devise ways to get her away from them. I simply observed and didn't get involved for a few reasons. One, Ellie is so young and innocent she didn't even know what was going on and she wasn't upset, two, i kept waiting for the adult with them to step in (never happened, I think she was a nanny and not a parent), and three, i honestly didn't even know what to do. I was also a little shocked. I know kids can be mean, but experiencing it yourself and then watching your (two year old) child go through it are two entirely different things.
As a parent you want to protect your children from such hurt. But you cant...and even if you could you shouldn't because only by experience can they know what it feels like. And that, that is the best way for them to learn never to treat others this way. I know I am making a big deal from a small thing, but it really upset me. It broke my heart to watch Ellie try so hard to make new friends and for her to be so thoroughly rejected. It broke my heart because i know this is only the first in a lifetime of similar hurts, and there will be much greater sorrow in her life too. It broke my heart because the children mistreating her were so young themselves. It broke my heart because I know exactly how it feels to be the one excluded.
I hope more than anything that I can teach Ellie to never, ever treat anyone this way. I hope to teach her love, compassion, mercy, humility, kindness, and generosity. I hope she can grow up to be the type of person who, when she sees things like this happen, she steps in and makes the singled out person feel welcome. I hope she seeks out the excluded, the isolated, and the secluded. I hope she can be a true friend.
I know this experience probably affected me more today because I am alone in a foreign country without family or friends and am feeling lonely (although to be fair we have already met some fantastic and very welcoming people, but friendships take time). I know I cant protect her from everything (and that i shouldn't). I know i really have no control...but that doesn't make it any easier. Being a parent is hard. I always knew it would be, and I know this experience was nothing compared to others we will have, but again, that doesn't make it any easier.