“She doesn’t want to be my friend, Momma” my four year old daughter tells me one afternoon when I pick up her up from school. There are little tears on her face and she takes her forearm and wipes her runny nose. As I buckle her in the car seat, hearing the familiar click, she says again, “Momma, she doesn’t want to be my friend.”
“Why?” I ask, afraid of the answer, wondering if I will be prepared enough to offer her some comfort.
“She wants to be friends with another girl.” My daughter is calming down a bit, surprising me with her coherent answers.
“Honey, it is ok. She didn’t mean it. We should still be friends with everyone.” I look at her in the backseat and sense by the man honking behind me, that the light has turned green.
I turn on CD player in the car, my daughter is humming a tune, and has already forgotten about her classmate. I cannot forget it though. For some reason this conversation lingered with me, because of what she said and how I responded to her. I really didn’t like my response, but I really didn’t have a better way to answer her. It is my responsibility to shield my daughter from sadness, feelings of being left out, because there is a whole life time of those kind of feelings.
It made me think about how children are honest at all times, while as adults we often want to accessorize the truth. My daughter, much to my chagrin, will point out the fat person in the supermarket, the person with too much acne, and make a public announcement in her loudest voice possible. I am cringing inside, hoping, that these people didn’t hear her. I admonish her for saying these things, even though it is the truth.
As adults, we are not prepared to handle a child’s honesty. Children don’t have an internal censor or the concept of hurting other’s feelings which makes the things they say so raw, untouched by manipulation. Along the way, though, they learn that honesty isn’t always rewarded. It happens in subtle ways, like when I tell my own daughter, you should be friends with everyone. The truth is, even if you have the best of intentions, it is still impossible to be friends with everyone. Because, as much as it may hurt, there are people who don’t want to be friends with you, sometimes for no apparent reason. So the little girl in my daughter’s classroom told my daughter the truth, she didn’t want to be her friend. My daughter got over it after a few seconds, but it was me, the adult, who had a hard time coming to terms with the truth.