“Mum can I tell you something?”
I looked down at the sad little face of my four-year-old and tensed slightly, hoping it would be that she was thirsty or hungry (states often inexplicably accompanied by a sombre tone)
“Today the twins in my class – you know Sarah and Robert*? They brought in Christmas cards and gave them out to everyone in the class, except me – they didn’t have a card for me”
I did what every parent does in that situation – I hugged her tightly, smiled, kissed her, and suggested that maybe because she was out sick from pre-school for a few days, the twins didn’t realise she’d be in again before Christmas.
“But no mum, I was in yesterday. They saw me then”
True. I tried again “Maybe they brought the card and it got lost?” She wasn’t convinced, the anxious frown remained.
The lost card theory was probably correct, or perhaps there had been a mix-up – in fact I had met the mum-of-twins for the first time earlier the same day at the pre-school Christmas concert. She asked me which child was mine, and then said “Oh yes, I recognise the name from writing cards with the twins – you’ll see their card in her bag later!”
I know there’s another child in the class with a very similar name, so that might be what happened. Plus my daughter is only in pre-school three mornings a week, so wouldn’t be the name most frequently mentioned by her class-mates I’d guess – an easy one to miss if the parents are asking the kids to list out who is in the class.
Anyway, not a big deal. Not at all. But it still broke my heart a little, as these types of things tend to do. And when the following day, her big sister arrived home with cards from classmates in school, again, there was a sad face, and a little voice said “I didn’t get any cards for me”
My heart broke a little bit more, as I pictured my little girl standing in her classroom, watching with anticipation as cards were handed out, then slowly realising that there wasn’t one for her.
She is shy, so wouldn’t have mentioned it to the children or to her teacher. I know she would have stood there, wondering what to do, not knowing how to react; feeling left out, feeling confused, feeling unsure, feeling sad.
And I know that people will say “these things happen” and “it could be worse” (the Irish are a nation of optimists and regularly say “it could be worse” in all sorts of situations, but of course in this case it’s true – it could certainly be worse)
And people will say “it’s a life lesson; it’ll help toughen her up, it will help her to deal with situations like this in the future”
But will it? I’m not sure. I don’t know if because of this, she will be better able to handle not being invited to a party when she’s eight or not being asked out on a date when she’s twenty-eight. I think our ability to deal with life’s little knocks is probably more to do with self-confidence, self-esteem.
I think it’s OK not to look for silver linings here – not to say it’ll help her in the future. She was sad, now she’s fine (I think). It happened, it’s over. I’m still a bit sad. But that’s being a parent – we take longer to bounce back.
*names changed to protect the pre-schoolers!