Interesting fact I learned after starting my blog...my momma had one first. Apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, I guess. All of her entries are quick reads that packed full of insight (A double win, in my opinion!) The best part about them: everything she writes about is referenced to different kinds of shoes--genius!
(I hope she doesn't mind that I'm sharing her blogspot here. If you don't hear from me for a while, it's because I've been grounded. http://slhart365.typepad.com/blog/#)
Anyway, I decided to take a cue from my momma and try my hand at this whole shoe-business. After all, mother knows best.
A couple days ago I had taken the kids to an Easter celebration at one of the parks on post. There must have been a thousand people at this thing. That's the deal with these military events--you say "free" and everyone and their neighbor's dog is going to be there. (Ok, maybe not the neighbor's dog since they are not allowed at the park. Seems unfair considering the park is one of the few places in El Paso with grass...but I digress.) Anyway, in the massive crowds of people, my daughter sees one of her friends and races across the park to the playground to meet her. All at once I threw my son on my hip and ran across the park after her, all the while pushing the stroller laden with balloons, cotton candy, and the like. When I met my daughter, she was in tears.
Out of breath from the chase and exasperated because I am having to deal with a whiny kid in the midst of all this free fun, I lashed out.
"What is the matter with you kid?!"
Completely breaking down now, she sobbed, "She said---she already has a friend ---to play with--- and she doesn't--- want to play-- with me-- today."
I felt so bad for her. It was her first experience with rejection. Trying to console her, I asked if she would like to find her friend and see if she could play with both of them. She came back to me a second time, rejected again. It was at that point I decided our "fun day" needed to wrap itself up, so I loaded up the stroller and headed out toward the car.
After about a minute of sniffles, Sammi asked me, "Mommy, do you think she didn't want to play with me because she didn't like my shoes?"
(I laughed---which probably confused my daughter. But I laughed because it was right then I realized it is at age 4 that girls become critical of their shoes.)
"No baby," I answered. Your shoes are just fine."
It is here in the story that I have to break to say there are golden moments in motherhood where you are given an opportunity to re-teach a big lesson that you weren't sure how to teach the first time around. Weeks before this incident, Sammi had told me that there was a girl in her Sunday school class that was getting left out. (Four-year-olds have the tendency to tattle on themselves in that way.) When I asked Sammi if she wanted to invite the girl to play with her group, she said "No, we told her she couldn't play with us because she wasn't one of our friends." I told her that she should include everyone, because she wouldn't like it if she were the one being left out, but I could tell Sammi wasn't grasping the lesson--or at least I thought she hadn't.
To answer her question, I said, "sometimes, our friends can leave us out because they are already busy playing games with other friends, and they are not sure how to change the game to include another friend. I'm sorry you were left out. I know you feel bad, because that wasn't fair."
I could tell my daughter was lost in thought. And after a little more silence, Sammi replied, "It's not good to leave other people out. God wants us to include everyone, right Mommy?"
I, overcome with happy shock, responded, "Yes baby girl. You are exactly right."
(At that point, I was honestly looking around for the person who should be handing me my trophy...VICTORY!)
It is one of the first and arguably most important lessons we learn in our childhood--to put yourself in the other person's shoes. It is a hard concept for children to learn, because cognitively, they have real difficulty envisioning other people's emotions and circumstances as their own. But I think even as adults we struggle with this. We tend to get so wrapped up in our own problems that we become totally oblivious to the problems we create for others. We are just taking our fancy shoes and walking all over each other, if you will.
I'm guilty as anyone of this. I stomp on other people's hard work with my criticisms, I parade around people with my self-imposed titles, I skip out of social obligations and responsibilities, I run away from confrontations instead of dealing with them...(I've got a lot more of these sorts of puns, but I'll stop now because I think you've got the point.)
And the point is, so much hurt could be avoided if we think before we act, if we treat people the way we would like to be treated, and if we walked a mile in the other person's shoes. It's a lesson--and a lifestyle-- one should never outgrow.