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Climb Every Mountain! Then Wait For Help.

September 22, 2013 8 comments
Country Playing

Summer 1971 Playing at the “country”
(L) Oldest Boy Cousin (M) Younger Brother (R) Older Boy Cousin
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Unlike the song in the title of this post, there is absolutely no inspiration in the following story.

Although, it is true.

My parents are immigrants. I’m first generation American. Growing up was interesting—to say the least. Our extended family were all back in Europe except for two, older, boy cousins who grew up about an hour north of where we lived in Westchester. Their house sat on 6-acres of rustic, rugged and crude land which we lovingly called the “country”. Abundant in fields, woods and streams it provided a whole host of exploratory (if not dangerous) opportunities for kids who were allowed to roam free in the wilderness, which they were. I loved it there. Complete with a full-size barn and chicken coop, I have some interesting memories of our play-time together there as I’m sure they do too, for the times they came to terrorize visit us. Our environment was the extreme opposite. We lived on the 4th floor of a 5-floor walk-up that offered dumb-waiter service and pick-up kickball games with random neighborhood kids in the concrete parking lot behind our building. Instead of hiking through woods and streams in the summers, we walked to the local beach or tanned on tar-beach which was conveniently located on the rooftop of our apartment building and also doubled as a laundry facility for hanging clothes to dry. My cousins were a little “rough around the edges”. They had NO FEAR of anything or anyone and always left a clear and decisive impression if not ABSOLUTE FEAR in the hearts and minds of the neighborhood kids they encountered in our neck of the woods. When gone, the other kids often referred to them as “your crazy cousins” which, they were. Crazy and my cousins. Not that we couldn’t hold our own of course, but truth be told, it wasn’t the worst thing for a gal growing up across from one of New York’s many “Projects” to be able to say,

“Oh yah? You just wait til my cousins come back!”     Ahh, family.

Back to Europe.

When I was eight, my mom took myself and my younger brother to Ireland to meet her family. My grandmother lived in an authentic two-room, thatched cottage that had a red front door. The living and kitchen area was dominated by a constantly burning hearth. Inside, a black iron kettle always seemed to be bubbling or brewing something. I wasn’t surprised to later learn that the townspeople often referred to my grandmother as the local witch doctor. During our visit my mom got sick one day and whatever my grandmother gave her to remedy her sickness blinded her temporarily for several hours. My six-year old brother and I were my mother’s walking guide back to the outskirts of town where we were staying with my aunt. Later during that trip, my brother took ill and whatever was given to remedy his condition caused him to have fierce hallucinations in where he saw leprechauns in his room and feared my dad would be an old man when we saw him next.  Ahh, family.

Three years after that European vacation, I took a trip to Germany to meet the rest of my clan. While my other friends went to day-camp or Playland or the Jersey Shore, I was sent went to Germany.

For six weeks.

Alone.

I was eleven.

Did I mention I didn’t speak German?

Giving Oma a Rose

1976 Giving my Oma a rose upon arrival in Germany.
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The upside of that trip was that one of my boy cousin’s from America was also going to Germany later that summer with his mom. At least I could look forward to some English speaking kin after a month of speaking very slowly and loudly and using multiple hand gestures to try to communicate. Why is it that people think people who don’t speak their language can understand them if they just speak slowly and loudly?  It was fun and tough and a whirlwind of meeting relatives before my aunt and 13-year old cousin got there. Sadly, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s and didn’t know who I was or why I was in their home. After a few weeks I began to understand the language much better than I could speak it and I could tell she was confused about the strange child staying in her house. I’d overhear my grandfather trying to explain to her over and over again that I was her son, Guenter’s daughter.

When my aunt and cousin finally arrived from the U.S., it was a welcome reunion. After a few days of re-adjusting, my grandfather took us on a tri-country tour. By car. Compact car, that is. The five of us (six if you count my Omi’s over-stuffed white handbag) drove from Germany, to Austria, to Italy and back again.

Me and Opa 76

1976 Me and Opa in Austria
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich and TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The most memorable part of my trip lies within the Austrian mountains of Tyrol near the city of Innsbruck. We stayed in a small village surrounded by mountains for a few days of sight-seeing. After a day or two of exploring the village’s architecture and taking a cable car to the snowy top of one of the mountains, my cousin and I set out for some play-time of our own. After all, he was used to roaming free in the wilderness. Why should that be any different in Austria? And why wouldn’t I follow him when he said,

Hey, let’s climb the side of this mountain.

You never really know someone until you climb a mountain with them.

Instead of taking the dirt path that wound itself upward, we — he, chose for us to rough it, climbing partly on the mountain’s side and partly on the concrete boulders that were wedged into the mountain every 50 to 100 feet or so. There were several of them, leading upwards. Their purpose was to slow the onslaught of a rock or mudslide that could come crashing down into the village below. They were several feet wide and about 5 feet high, massive to a girl of eleven and vertically challenged. As height was not an attribute of mine, it was necessary for my cousin to climb first. He’d haul himself up and then extend a hand to help me up to the somewhat smoother part of each boulder as we made our ascent. Every so often the dirt pathway appeared off to the side of one of the concrete slabs and our intention was to take the path down when we were done with all of our climbing. Soon after our adventure began, my cousin started collecting “rocks” and insisted they accompany us on our journey. As the cool morning hours turned into a warm afternoon, his rocks grew larger and heavier and by mid-day there were far more than I wanted to deal with. I was exhausted hauling them up to him one, by one before he extended his arm for me. I was thirsty and hungry and tired and finally sometime in the late afternoon, I refused.

No, I cried. I’m not carrying your stupid rocks up this mountain anymore!

Fine, he said, then I’m not helping you up the mountain, anymore.

With that, he jumped off the concrete slab and onto the side of the mountain. He climbed his way up onto the pathway and vanished. After hours and hours of climbing together, he disappeared in just a few short minutes, leaving me with his stupid rocks, stranded, atop a huge concrete boulder, on a mountain, in Austria.

Alone.

I was eleven.

It was nightfall and several hours later before I heard the dogs barking and the men shouting. Flashlights blinded my eyes when the Austrian patrol finally found me and lead me safely to and down the pathway to a frantic grandfather and somewhat hysterical aunt.

Austria76

My Cousin and I in Austria 1976
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich and TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Life lessons I suppose begin when life does. I’ve said it before and it’s warranted again:

If it doesn’t kill ya, it’ll make you stronger.

I am a bull, who is afraid of heights BUT not afraid of being alone in the dark.

It’s all good.

I’m not quite sure what happened when my cousin descended from the mountain without me that evening. I remember being given “medicine”  when I got back to my grandfather’s room. He fished a bottle of pills out of my grandmother’s big white handbag and gave me two, to calm me when I started to cry for my dad and wanted to call home. Whatever it was gave me a similar feeling to one I had thirty-five years later when I was prescribed Valium before having a dental procedure. Only instead of lasting a few hours, it lasted the whole next day which I remember as a haze, literally. I didn’t call my dad and my fearless, crazy, rock-loving cousin was much nicer to me for the rest of our trip. Things resumed to normal. As they eventually do, with family.

These days my cousin lives far-away in another state and I don’t get to see him much but whether it’s two years or ten that pass between meetings, it always resumes to normal.

I miss and love him dearly.

100 Days!

March 10, 2013 15 comments

Fun%20Children's%20Group

This week elementary children all over the country celebrated 100 days of school. Teachers asked students to show them what 100 looks like by bringing in 100 of something. 100 is a big number and it’s a big task for a 5, 6 or 7-year old. They spend a lot of time preparing; thinking, plotting and reminding their parents to help them find, make or buy 100 of something to show off to their teachers and classmates. In some cases like the school I work at (and the one my kids went to up until the 5th grade) exhibits are set up showcasing the creative way students bring 100 to the classroom. Always excited to see what they come up with, this year’s exhibit met the bar with such items as 100 colorful ribbons hanging from a branch, 100 Cheerios strung together on a necklace string, 100 pieces of macaroni spelling out a child’s name, 100 different Hot Wheels cars, beautiful buttons and gorgeous gems to name a few. It brought back memories for me from when my kids were at this school. That evening when I was telling my now 6th grader about the exhibits, it brought back memories for her too.

Do you remember what you gave me to bring in for my 100th day in Kindergarten? She asked.

Um, y-e-a-h. I said, like a peacock fanning it’s plume. “In fact”, I went on, “I think I still have that Tupperware lid that says 100 Kisses on it. I couldn’t help by pause to give myself a little mental pat on the mother-of-the-year-award back for the clever pun of sending 100 Kisses into her class. Hershey Kisses of course!

Those were the days when all I ever thought about was how to be the best-est mother ev-ah! Lost in my moment of motherhood glory I almost missed the scowl on her face.

What? Was that not the best 100 Days ever? Come on, I said. 100 Hershey Kisses! How clever?

Um, Mom, I don’t mean to ruffle your (peacock pluming) feathers but that was not my 100 days. That was Noah’s.

Don’t you remember what you did for mine?

cupcake holderI thought I had. Confusion set in. She was right though, that was for Noah and I was drawing a blank. I’m lucky if I can remember where I set my car keys down when I come home from work these days. Surely it must’ve been great, if not greater than the Hershey Kisses I quickly convinced myself and then a vague, blurred memory began to clear in my head.

Yes, I remember. “Cupcakes! I made 100 cupcakes for the whole school!” I said, beaming.

Mom! I was 5, so excited and that morning you must have forgotten. When I asked you about it, you went to the cupboard and took out cupcake holders. You gave me cupcake holders! You told me ‘No other kid will have these.’ 

Now it was all coming back to me — like a bad dream.

“That wasn’t even the worst part”, she went on. “I brought them into class and when Susan (the teacher) saw them, she told me to count them.”

There was only 54!

Okay, cupcake holders for the 100th day of school are lame and math was never my forte.  I guess I wasn’t the super-clever-mom my mind’s eye seemed to remember me to be either — that time.

What can I say? Parents try their best – always. Sometimes, we come up short.

Like, 46 cupcake holders short.

Sorry, Han.

Do you have a coming-up-short parenting moment you can share?

This Dark And Quiet Night

March 3, 2013 10 comments

darksnow

It’s dark outside. It’s late and the snow is softly falling. My son is watching basketball and my daughter has a friend sleeping over. Giggles echo up from the furthest corners of the house; one of my all-time, favorite sounds. Life is good, even though the week was fickle and unsettling. Actually, it was me that was unsettled it seemed, at some point, every day. Things just never quite fell into place. The flow of the week’s current pulled in unfamiliar, unsteady directions. Our usual groove was littered with bumps and unexpected twists. My patience seemed to wear thinner and thinner as each day passed. By week’s end I felt a slight rumbling within, leaving me with an unwanted feeling of restlessness.

Usually I have some kind of a thought or an “aha!” moment during the week that presents itself as the topic for what I’m going to write about in my once-a-week post. That never came. All week I had nothing but a blank page surrounded by frustration in my head. You can’t force words to paper. They come when they’re ready. And for me, they’re not always what I expect them to be. By Saturday afternoon my page was still empty and my thoughts too scattered. I couldn’t string together a sentence let alone a few paragraphs even though I felt the gnawing. Too persistent to ignore, something was there, tugging at me. I just couldn’t find it.

Maybe I didn’t want to.

Not until I sat down this evening, at this late hour watching the snow fall quietly and steadily leaving behind a fresh, clean coat of white; beautiful, untouched white, did it occur to me….

Two weeks ago Diane, the parole officer assigned to our case called asking if I would speak on her Impact Panel again this March. Yes, I said. Ever since she started the panel two years ago and every time she’s assembled it since then I’ve said yes.

I always say yes.

How could I say no? I owe it to her, to them, to my kids, to me. To me.

It helps me continue to put things into perspective, a little better, each time.

Yes Diane, of course I’ll speak.

When I hung up, I did what I do and I buried the call. Deep. I Sent it to the very back of my head and tucked it away. I went back to work, too busy to think about all that stuff, again. Besides, I’ve moved and moved on. Haven’t I? I let it sit and stew until today, until it began to wrestle its way to the surface while I tried to squelch it down with my scattered thoughts and blank page.

Now here I am at the eleventh hour thinking about it, writing about it, as it breaks free demanding to be heard on this dark and quiet night.

Kids These Days!

December 30, 2012 21 comments
momscrystallball

Mama’s Crystal Ball

Every parent strives to do better than the previous generation, providing for their children that which they lacked or missed out on in their own childhood.

Nowadays, the reviews are mixed.

Kids these days have it too easy! They’re spoiled with less required physical activity and way too much couch-potato-encouraging technology that keeps them inside exercising their thumbs rather than outside, exercising their whole bodies and minds.                                            

~ Any Random Adult 

It’s an on-going challenge for parents trying to strike the balance for their children; keeping abreast of what’s current, necessary and useful and making sure they don’t lose sight of what’s important for them to know how to do.

Despite the difficulties, I LOVE being a mom. Always have. For many years I enjoyed being a stay-at-home-mom, eagerly performing what others might consider mundane tasks for my kids, like painstakingly working out ketchup stains from their favorite dress or shirt, making sure the same favorite dress or shirt (or batman costume) was constantly clean so it could be worn several days in a row or making extra portions of a home-made dinner so I could freeze them for my son who refused to eat a cold lunch at school up until the 5th grade.  I didn’t mind the endless task of picking up their toys and returning them to places they could easily be found the next day during their pre-arranged play-dates and I’d spend many hours searching and experimenting with new recipes I thought they might like to try. Even though my daughter is in 6th grade now, I still enjoy making her lunch for school every day.

These and so much more were—are, to me still, labors of love.

eyes

The eyes in the back of my head are blue. What color are yours?

As my kids enter their tween and teenage years however, the tasks are changing and I’m starting to focus more seriously on the notion that it’s my duty to prepare them the best I can, for (real) LIFE.

Parenting is unique to each unique child.

Babies don’t leave the womb with a ‘here’s how I specifically operate and what I’ll need to know, mom’ guide and even though the long-held myths about moms having eyes in the back-of-their-heads and a-future-seeing-crystal-ball hidden in their bedroom closets are absolutely TRUE, our eyes and crystal balls are often clouded and not exactly all-seeing. I’m not always quite sure, how to make sure, my kids have the life-skills and tools they’ll need to become high-functioning, productive, kind and considerate citizens of our future communities.

In short, much of what we put forth is a bit of a crap shoot, flung from instinct.

For example, myself and four other mothers of my 14-year old son’s basketball-playing school mates recently hired a culinary chef who has a school in New York City to give our teenage boys some professional training in the kitchen. Sure, they know how to boil water for Ramen Noodles but what do they know about using a knife or picking fresh produce, making their own salad dressing, gravy or apple-crisp? Not much and my crystal ball predicts the women they’ll eventually end up with 10-years or so from now will not be as interested in devoting the same amount of kitchen and laundry time me or my mom did while raising a family.

It’s a new era and they’ll be out forging new paths and making lives of their own.

rabbitfromahat

Easy access to information.

Our boys need to know how to cook and keep house.

Now that he’s been schooled, will he happily whip up a roasted chicken dinner complete with a fresh vegetable side and dessert when his future significant other informs him she’ll be coming home late from the office? I have no idea. BUT I continue to have faith and blindly put forth my efforts and babble, babble, babble on, hoping that somewhere in their premature brains my kids are processing what I say or make them do and will be able to pull out what they need, when they need it, like a magician pulls a rabbit from his hat.

Still, I can’t help but wonder how my kids will act or react when they get caught in a jam or circumstance that really requires them to step-up and take responsibility.

Thankfully, every once in a while however, the gods are good and toss out a bone, giving us insight as to whether or not we’re on the right track and we get a glimpse of what kind of an adult our child is going to be.

A few weeks before Christmas, I very suddenly and unexpectedly came down with pneumonia. I’ve never had pneumonia before. In fact, I rarely get sick. For the most part, I’m a Type A personality, leaving little time and patience for illness that would keep me from doing, let alone out of work. It’s not in my make up but this was out of my control. I had no choice but to succumb and was completely laid out for nearly two full weeks. With the help of a few family members and friends however, I was checked-in on, and my kids managed to get fed and brought to where they needed to be, including school each morning while I lay incapacitated in my third floor bedroom.

For days, I was completely unawares of the goings-on below and could barely hear my daughter moving about in the evenings.

note1

What’s this? A note?

I finally passed through the fever-delirium period and made it to the tolerating side of a hacking cough that cut like a knife in my chest. As much as I love my secluded bedroom, I desperately needed to make my way downstairs, if for nothing else but to reassure myself that I could still walk. It was sometime mid-morning on a weekday, when I took the last step down and rounded myself toward the kitchen for the first time in several days.

I saw a small piece of white paper taped face-down to the counter.

Reaching out, I flipped it over and this is what it said….

notes2

The gods are good.

Yes, the first word in the fourth item on my 11-year old daughter’s List after ‘work on gifts’ (because she hand-makes Christmas gifts for each member of our extended family every year) is sew and even though I don’t, apparently she does.

It’s the second to last item however, that stopped me cold in my slipper-laden tracks.

Take care of mom

Thank you, good gods.

And as if that wasn’t enough to bring an already weepy mom to tears, on my way back up to Never-Never-Land, I glanced down the short flight of stairs to the front door. One of the last statements and only instructions I recall making from my sick-bed to my daughter before literally entering the Twilight Zone in the first 24-hours of being laid out was …

You’ll have to buy lunch at school.

BUT like many other kids these days, she had her own ideas about lunch and apparently, made it herself.

Every day.

Even reminded herself, not to forget it from the fridge before leaving in the morning.

note3

Kids these days.

They’re pretty awesome!

Photo Credit #1-3 Google Images

Photo Credit #4-6 KarenSzczukaTeich&www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

My Boy is a Midget

October 28, 2012 18 comments

In 1929, the owner of a new factory in Northeast Philadelphia enlisted the help of a young friend, Joseph J. Tomlin with a recurring problem. Over 100 of the factories’ ground-to-floor windows were shattered in one month’s time by teenagers hurling stones from a nearby vacant lot. Since other factories in the area were also being affected by the same type of vandalism, Tomlin, a sports enthusiast, recommended the building owners join together to fund an athletics program for the city’s youth. Although it wouldn’t be officially titled Pop Warner until the 1934 football season, that was indeed the beginnings of this long-standing organization.

Today Pop Warner is the largest and oldest non-profit, youth football organization in the world with over 400,000 participants ranging in age from 5 to 15. It is also the only youth organization with an academic requirement. The program is divided into four separate age/weight categories referred to as Jr. Pee Wee, Pee Wee, Jr. Midget and Midget.

My boy is a Midget.

His team, The HudsonValley Knights just won the Eastern Region Mid Hudson Conference. They are the League Champions and are now in the Regional Championship. They are undefeated and three games away from playing in the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Walt Disney World this December at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

For 83-years Pop Warner Football has been keeping its participants out of vacant lots, off the streets, off the couch, off the internet and on the playing fields. Over the years its basic philosophy that athletics and academics go hand-in-hand has remained the same, propelling its success. Kids are taught the value of dedication, hard work, practice and teamwork. They are given countless, hands-on opportunities to learn what it means to be responsible, have respect, integrity and loyalty.

These are the character traits of champions.

The Other Side of Bullying

September 23, 2012 15 comments

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too 

~John Mayer

We have an awesome job as parents to guide our children. We often do that by example. Children watch what we do and say, all the time.

Bullying is no joke. When an adult labels a child a bully,  they need to make sure they have all the facts. Other children are watching.

Sadly, most of us adults have experienced bullying in one form or another, at some point of our childhood or adolescence and fully understand the hurtful mark it can leave.

I never took a school bus as a kid. My Dad drove me until I was old enough to walk on my own. I went to catholic school. I wore a white blouse, red sweater, pleated skirt, navy knee-socks and a sturdy shoe, every day. No sneakers. Sneakers were for gym class, worn in the gym; only.

School was a long walk, about two miles from the apartment building I grew up in. I was ten or eleven when I remember clearly, two girls who followed me home daily. They were also from my school. One was in my class, the other was a year younger. The route I took included a shortcut through a wildly-overgrown, empty lot between two residential streets. The lot had a path that cut right through the streets but concealed its foot bearers. The girls kept a fair amount of distance from me until I entered the lot. Once I stepped onto the pathway, there was no turning back and as soon as I stepped onto the pathway the taunting from behind began. Each day for several days in a row they’d make hurtful remarks about how fat or ugly or stupid I was, all-the-while, using their own sturdy shoes to take turns kicking up my pleated skirt from behind. Kicking up my skirt high enough of course to reveal whatever underwear I was wearing that day.

I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. It was painful.

So painful, that on the on the fourth or fifth day of “the following”, I finally summoned up enough courage to turn and face my “tormentors”.

Everyone has their limit and sometimes you need to let people know when that limit has been reached.

It surprised me as much as them when I abruptly turned and told them to “Stop!

They laughed and continued. I warned them again and told them to “STOP!”

They didn’t.

Instinct and impulse stepped in.

There was a full-force push to the ground, a stunned look from both ends of the assault and ultimately, freedom. The younger girl ended up on the ground, crying but they never bothered me again.

The question is, who’s the bully here? Maybe to some it’s debatable. Not to me.

I know what bullying is.

I would never endorse violence but I don’t believe in allowing yourself to be taunted either. Sometimes you have to tell people to stop and when they don’t, when they keep pushing or poking or pulling at you and you give them fair-warning and they still don’t stop; you need to push or poke or pull at them back; even if you are bigger than they are.

That’s not bullying, that’s setting boundaries.

Moms and dads who fail to see (or ignore) the whole picture and mislabel this as bullying are doing their sons and daughters an injustice, not to mention, sending a dangerous message.

As parents we have an awesome responsibility to teach and guide our children.

So, Mother’s — be good to your daughters.Teach them not to push, or poke or pull at other kids because they might get pushed, or poked or pulled on– back –and that’s not bullying; that’s setting boundaries.

Photo Credit #1 Mother/Daughter Silhouette

Photo Credit #2 Sturdy Catholic School Uniform Shoe/Google Images

Relax, Recharge, Repost #2: Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Names Can Break My Heart!

August 26, 2012 7 comments

Week #2 of taking a blogging break in August. For a few weeks, I’ll be Relaxing, Recharging and Re-posting some of what my stats say are YOUR  favorite reads.

Here’s one from January 2011….

Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Names…. Can Break My Heart!

“You know Mom, he’s lucky I didn’t SQUASH him like a bug!”

That’s what my 9-year-old daughter came home saying the other day after spending an afternoon at a birthday party. The “he” who is lucky “she”, didn’t, squash him like a bug, is a 10-year old classmate who was also at the party. “He” is her pal, her chum, her friend. He is her partner at school when pairing needs to be done. He is also the boy who tried to hold her hand when the lights went out in a Star Lab dome, but that’s not why she wants to pummel him.

There are some things you never forget: getting an award, your first sleep-over, punching a fella in the mouth for asking you to marry him (in first grade!), the soft, warm lips of a shy boy’s sweet and gentle kiss during a game of spin-the-bottle and of course, the first time someone embarrasses you in front of a group of friends by calling you a name. For me, it was buoy. And in 4th grade, I didn’t have a clue. So in a naive and unsuspecting way, I asked the boy who had just referred to me as a “buoy”, what that was.

You know, he said, it’s that round thing that bounces up and down, bobbing in the water. A buoy!

That was followed by what seemed to me, to be a roar of group laughter.

Painful. I forced a smile and walked away. I’m sure I could have flattened him but my heart had sunk to my knees and I was too hurt to react. I never forgot that feeling.

Like her mom, my girl is made of hardy stock. She is strong, confident and independent. She’s out-going and adventurous. She loves to laugh. Also like her mom however, she happens to be very sensitive.

He called me fat in front of all my friends at the party, she said. He embarrassed me. We were laughing about who would make the best Pińata and he said, ‘Hannah would, cause she’s fat!’

My heart immediately sank to that familiar place by my knees only this time, it broke.

He’s lucky I didn’t squash him like a bug! And you know I could, were the next words out of her mouth.

She’s right. She could.

Well then, I said, maybe next time, you should.

Okay, maybe that was wrong.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names…..

Honestly, I would have preferred if he threw the stone. That wound heals faster.

We spent a long time that evening discussing potential reasons why her friend might have said that about her. Insecurity. Bravado. Maybe he was trying to look cool in front of the other boys. Perhaps he didn’t mean it and it was just a poor choice of words. Most likely, he like, likes her. No matter how much we dissected it though, the result was always the same. She could get past the word. She knows she’s bigger and taller than the other kids in her class. She accepts that her body is changing and maturing faster than theirs.

It was the betrayal she had a hard time reconciling with. He’s her friend.

It was after midnight when she came into my bedroom and crawled into bed with me that night. She snuggled up close and whispered,

Mommy, why did he do that? I thought he was my friend?

Cue the breaking heart again. She slept with me for the first time in years. And it was a big wake-up call to me as a parent and an adult, just how omnipotent words can be. Life is hard enough without us hurting each other with the things we say. And I’m reminded of how critical it is for me to set the example, practice kindness, show compassion and be forgiving.

Words may not be able to break a bone but they sure can break a heart.

The flip-side of that however, is to know that words also have the great power to fill a heart! So in the end, my advice to Hannah was to have, an open heart.

We are after all, only human. We all make mistakes and good friendships are worth keeping. So, when the boy came to school the next day and said,

Hey, I was only kidding. I didn’t mean it that way. I can’t believe you thought I was serious!

That was all she needed to hear to buddy-up again and put it behind her.

Besides, she told him that if he EVER does that to her again, she is going to SQUASH him– like a bug!”

Photo credit:  Squashed Bug, Broken Heart

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