What To Do When Your Child is Left Out

Ugh, social media… It’s a beautiful way to stay in touch with old friends, keep up with the latest news, and share adorable baby animal videos.

It’s also the source of lots and lots of information. And sometimes that information is more that one would like to see.

Recently I opened up my Facebook feed and got way too much information: a cluster of photos of tween girls. These kids went through all six years of elementary school with my kid. These are the girls that my daughter considers her closest buddies.

The caption? “Halloween with Friends.”

They looked super cute in their costumes by the way. Their arms were slung around one another’s shoulders in that easy, unself-consious way of eleven year olds. There were all of the elements of a great Halloween celebration. Laughter. Awesome costumes. Fun decorations.

From my perspective there was only one thing missing… my kid.

Now let me stop here to say that I’m perfectly aware that this is just a normal part of life. Sometimes we have get togethers and don’t invite everyone we know. It’s not necessarily personal. We can still be friends with people who don’t include us in every single plan.

Maybe she would have skewed they dynamics in a way that wouldn’t have been ideal, or maybe the host was allowed to invite two other kids and she didn’t make the cut.

And that has to be okay.

My logical mind understands all this. It’s my emotional Mama Bear heart that was left sitting in the pit of my stomach like a flat disc of cold metal.

Just when I think I have this parenting thing under control my feelings get involved… and it isn’t pretty.

Here is the thing…

  • I want to teach my daughter the importance of long-term friendship.
  • I want to teach her to be resilient.
  • I want others to see all of the beauty and fun and light that she possesses.

Ironically I work with families around these kinds of issues all the time. And while I encourage them to nurture friendships and teach their children social skills and all of those other things that matter, none of those things guarantee smooth sailing. Growing up is bumpy, and the only thing that we as parents can truly control is to provide a soft place to land.

Here is what I know for sure:

  • I can’t always force the world to be kind to my child, but I can celebrate her for who she is.
  • I can’t make her something that she isn’t, but I can do everything in my power to help further develop her quirky sense of humor and incredible empathy and killer imagination.
  • I can’t control her social life, but I can support her existing friendships and encourage new ones.
  • I can’t force everyone to be kind to her always, but I can tell her “I love you just as you are,” and back that up through action.
  • I know that this isn’t one of my typical “how to parent” posts. It’s me admitting that this parenting stuff can be hard sometimes, for all of us…

Real life is messy; it’s glorious, and beautiful and awe inspiring. It’s also a series of blows and challenges and failures. After a knockdown it’s a lot easier to get back up when you have someone solid in your corner.

So I vow to be my child’s soft place to land. That doesn’t mean that I will coddle her, or spoil her. Only that I will start from a place of love. That I will be her biggest fan. And that I will control my Mama Bear heart.

It’s the best I can do.

In the end my kid had a great Halloween. She hung out with an old friend. They had a sleepover, and their candy count was impressive.

If you were to ask her, I am pretty sure she would say that she had a perfectly wonderful Halloween.

And that is all that matters.

Originally published at parentingpaths.com on November 6, 2015.

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