There are days when my heart breaks into a thousand pieces. Today was one of those days. After having a lovely afternoon swim at my mother’s pool Mia decided she wanted to stop at a park we drive by on our way home. It’s baseball season so the elementary school boys were having a game. This inevitably means that the park is full of siblings; both older and younger. Today was no exception. Today the park was occupied by three girls around the age of ten/eleven, playing in the exact area that Mia enjoys sitting down and lining up her toys (something she must do, every time, before she plays on the playscape). She was excited to see them there, especially because they were using some of the equipment that Mia (as of yet) does not have the dexterity to use. She is happy to sit on the sidelines watching others her own age easily manipulate their bodies down a 45 degree decline on two thin railings. She thoroughly enjoys instructing the other children on how and when to go; mostly the other children oblige.
Not these three girls.
The moment our feet hit the mulch and Mia’s arms flew up in typical fashion I knew today was not going to be Mia’s day at the park. I knew this the moment their icy stares froze my own beating heart into a block of ice, making me want to abandon all reason for the easier approach of ushering my child out of the play area and into the safety of our quickly moving car. As we moved towards them I could envision us speeding out of the parking lot, wheels spinning, dirt flying. Going. Going anywhere but there. But we didn’t. We continued our slow motion trek towards the three girls at the far end of the playground.
I’ve grown enough over the years to realize that those feelings of reservations are my own problem. I have personal possession over them and I alone have the ability to decide whether or not they will shape our lives. It’s not always easy for me to keep marching forward; forward towards those who desire nothing more than for us to disappear. But, I’ve realized that disappearing doesn’t accomplish anything. It won’t introduce those children to the concept of inclusion and acceptance of those who are different. It will not introduce Mia to the world and its ways. It will not teach me to bite my tongue and ignore those who wish we weren’t there. It will only teach my child that running and hiding is a viable option.
I wish I could tell you that this day at the park ended happily with all four girls laughing and playing. It did not. I wish I could tell you that Mia wasn’t interested in playing with them and their stares didn’t matter. She was and they did. I wish I could tell you that the pieces of my heart were quickly put back together by the humanity of one or more of those little unknown girls, but alas, today that was not to be.
So, instead of allowing Mia alone to be the sole focus of their sneers, each time my child threw her arms up to flap I too flapped with her. Each time she scripted a line from a movie rather than having a conversation with me I scripted it right back. It wasn’t long after this that those three girls decided we were poison to their sacred playground and they vacated it to sit on the outer edge, staring.
On our drive home I couldn’t help but think, had Mia taken to heart their hurtful stares (how could she not?), had Mia thought my sudden desire to flap around with her was unusual (wasn’t it?), had she realized that people like that are a-dime a-dozen and we must all live our lives around them, trying our best not to let them ruin us (I hoped she had.)
When we got home I was lucky enough to get the answers I was seeking. My daughter’s unbreakable spirit prevailed once more as she ran into the room shouting “flap, flap, flap, Mom!” and as I raised my arms to flap she wrapped hers around my neck and whispered in my ear “We got the mommy and went to the park, and she, Mia, was happy.” And it was, once again, my own child who mended my shattered heart.