Every day before my daughter’s school starts, she has 15 minutes to run laps with all of her K-4 classmates.
The idea of moving to the track was very daunting for all of the kindergartners and their parents.
We started off at the Kindergarten-Only playground for the first couple months of school.
It was like a little bubble with our Kindergarten tribe of kids, parents and teachers.
It was contained and known.
And having a daughter on the Autism Spectrum in a general education classroom was daunting enough. The little playground area was an even playing field – no blind spots and lots of supervision.
Moving down to the track with the “older kids” has been a smooth transition – for the most part.
I discovered my daughter’s gift for running – when she is in the mood – and how running/walking before her day really calms down her nervous system.
I have also discovered the angels, the saints, the cheerleaders, the mean girls and the “jokesters”.
When I would see my daughter being treated poorly, I would use all of my tools plus the power of breath and prayer to connect with each child to understand his or her choice of behavior.
And when I shared these interactions with her teacher, I was told I needed to go find a teacher to address the issue instead of me “handling” it on my own.
I was told this would foster better community.
My rule-follower default was a bit fritzed by my momma-bear instincts. But I listened to Teacher and continued to breathe and pray.
In the weeks to follow, I saw how this new system was wise to follow.
When older kids showed signs of bullying and disrespect, she addressed them as people with dignity and with authority in conversation. I saw her build relationships, listen, set boundaries, cultivate courage and bravery.
No punitive principal meetings, threatening, shaming or making a joke and saying “kids will be kids”.
Recently, I observed two fourth graders joking about my daughter going back and fourth about which one was going to be her boyfriend.
“And so it begins” I said to my Mommy Friend and went to check in with my sweet girl as she trotted by on her morning laps.
She was laughing and seemed to be rolling with it. I also did not get my mamma radar triggered with these two spitfires, so I stepped off the track with a deep breathe and a prayer.
A few minutes later, Teacher came up to me and with one of the boys I had just witnessed interacting with my daughter.
A beautiful exchange ensued where this busted teaser saw my daughter not as an object but as someone with a mom, who was celebrating her birthday that day with friends and interests.
As Teacher sent the youngster back to finish his time on the track, she looked back at me and said, “And this is how we will create community. Where everyone understands we are all people with feelings, struggle, interests and a life. Thank you.”
It goes both ways, too. The young man is not an object of my rage, my pain, my fear, my hurt. Because I connected with him, I know he is like all of us stumbling, testing, scared, curious, desiring to belong and to be seen.
He is human.
Does it excuse bad choices? No.
But that is not the point.
When we step into the space of vulnerability, there are so many ways to respond.
The shift in perspective – seeing how we are all in it together – helps us create community instead of an “us vs. them” culture.
It is a challenge to push back on fear, blame and shame.
And I do not know about you, but some days I am swimming in the deep end of disconnection and everyone is an “other”.
In that space blame, shame and fear have a party in my head making fertile ground for some not so pretty responses.
I do know my shame resilience practice has drastically reduced my reactivity when my tender spots are triggered.
Indeed, it is hard to be human. Desiring to be loved and understood can result in some serious hurt.
Yet, I still truly believe it is worth it to feel the tough stuff so I can feel also feel love, joy, peace – even if I am in a season when the good emotions are fleeting.
A few days later, I was back at my post on the sidelines of the track.
As he ran by, I waved at the young man who I had a chance to get to know the other day. In response, I received a half-cocked smile with a side glance and a casual wave back.
I called him by name and said good morning.
And the community building continues…
Cheering you on from the track field –
PS – If you are ready to start your own life-long shame resilience practice, please join us at one of our upcoming (re) define Courage workshops.