Fitting In

Mommy, no one will play with me at recess. Those words sting for many reasons. First, as a mother, it breaks my heart to know my child is hurting and for the most part helping her is out of your hands. Secondly, they sting because it brings back memories from my childhood that I chose to push away. My own mother tries to reassure me that all children go through this at one time or another and this too shall pass, but kids are just downright mean. I don’t know what’s worse the cattiness of a coworker or competitor stabbing you behind the back or blatant disregard to a child’s feelings to their face on the playground.

Wouldn’t it be so easy if the teacher could just say, ”ok, Susie you play with Donna. Julie you play with Mary.” But life doesn’t work that way, and it wouldn’t really solve the problem. My daughter came home and told me this last week, and I have been feeling the need to write about this. I am by no means a child therapist, I just have over 20 years of experience teaching and working with kids, I am a mom but more importantly it happened to me as a child a lot.

I would say some of it is her fault, some of it is not. One group plays something she has no interest in, one group has some children that are troublemakers in it and she chooses to avoid them. But often, it’s pairings of two and they make it painfully obvious 3 is a crowd. For me, it was some similar reasons it happened and some different. I was an overweight child, which had its own set of trouble and bullying that went with it. So, although my daughter, mine and countless other children’s playground stories might have different causes, the hurtful behavior of fellow students is universal.

Like my daughter, I often thought if I had a similar toy then them or wore the same clothes or hairstyle as them, that I would fit in. But, none of that made a difference. It wasn’t until much later in life did I realize that relying on other’s people acceptance isn’t what makes me happy. It’s being secure in the fact that I am unconditionally loved and accepted by a loving God and I am happy with me and that’s all I need. But, how do you teach that to a six year old or a middle schooler who is in the throws of what seems to them the most miserable point in their life?

Recently, at my church we have had a series on in the meantime. What do you do when you feel like you are going through the lowest point in your life and you feel like this is the end and there is now way out? For grownups, these points are catastrophic and sometimes life changing or life ending, but for a youngster, their low points seem trivial to an adult but to the child seem like an insurmountable mountain. The take away from this series, is basically there is a purpose and promise in each person’s trial and we need to look at it as a gift and God puts us through the situation so that by him comforting us, we can comfort others in a similar situation.

I am sure, my daughter is not the only one on the playground feeling like her, just as I am sure there are millions of children everywhere that feel like they don’t fit in for one reason or another. Wouldn’t it be great if they could comfort one another? For me, theatre helped me do that. I was able to find kids in similar situations as me that just knew my situation without me having to say a word. They understood, the hurt of not being invited to a birthday party, or being left out of the game on the playground. Theatre became a safe place for us where we were supported and loved unconditionally and not judged. We could be ourselves. Now, I am not about to suggest theatre can solve every child’s problems, in fact my daughter has no interest in it, but I am suggesting there needs to be a place just like that for every child to feel accepted and loved for who they are. What are your thoughts?