Because of that, I have a whole slew of them that I adore.
It’s the story of this confident little girl who gets the wind knocked out of her at school when other kids are so mean about her looooooong name.
Her parents try everything to console her, to no avail.
But one day all the kids fall head-over-heels in love with their new music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle. She is funny and kind and beautiful and all the kids want to be just like her.
When she overhears them making fun of poor Chrysanthemum she divulges what her first name actually is: Delphinium.
Needless to say, the “mean” kids whip themselves right into shape and wish they had long named-after-flower names too.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about that book.
Because sometimes when Lucy comes home from school I feel like Chrysanthemum’s parents.
My heart is broken into pieces.
And I just want to snuggle her up forever.
It’s not even that she comes home from school sad.
Most days she comes home from school with a flushed pink face from the heat, her glasses slightly askew, her bright blue eyes shining and even most of the time with a grin showing off her huge front tooth that has recently emerged right in the center of her smile.
But when we ask what she did at recess she tells us that she sits on a bench all by herself.
And when we ask who she sits by at lunch she mumbles that she doesn’t know their names.
And Dave and I, the worriers of all worriers are the ones who wilt.
I know we are extra sensitive.
We know she is different. In our minds, she’s the best kind of different in the world.
But to first graders I’m not sure that kind of different really cuts it.
Lately I’ve overheard some of them say a couple really hurtful things that have been daggers in my heart. Things that have stayed with me and made me droop for days and weeks. Things I thought Lucy would just brush off and not think about again, but things that she has brought up later in tears. I really don’t think those kids are trying to be mean, just making first-grader types of observations. I just didn’t think that sort of thing would happen for a while.
I just thought we had more time.
When she missed the bus the other day I dropped her off at school. At first she held her head high. She waved at one girl she knew and said hello with a big smile. I’m biased but I think she is such a nice, friendly girl. But as she walked closer and closer to the school her head started hanging low and her shoulders drooped. There were no little girls running up to ask her to play as I’ve watched with all my other kids. There was no one to care she was even there. I wanted to run to her and hug her and yell to everyone on the playground, “Do you guys realize how amazing this girl is!?! Have you noticed her beautiful blue eyes and her long, curly eyelashes? Have you noticed what an artist she is? Have you noticed that she’s kind and good and will share any toy or game with you? Do you know that she can read chapter books?”
Instead I sat and let tears roll down my cheeks in the car.
That night I took her cheeks in the palms of my hands and kissed one, then the other over and over as her eyes got more and more sparkly right there so close to mine, and I could see that big front tooth peeking out.
I don’t think I could have loved her more if I tried.
I know Lu is just fine. She is confident and it seems like every time I quietly worry about her one of her siblings swoops in to do what they do: help her with something, make up a dance with her, jump on the trampoline with her.
And I am reminded once again that no matter what happens at school she has the four best cheerleaders she could ever ask for right here at home.
For that I am forever grateful.
But it has made me stop and talk to my older children a little more carefully and a little more often about looking out for kids who may need a little extra love at school. We’ve talked to Lucy about looking out for kids who need her too.
Because they are there, whether they are really visible or not. There are all kinds of kids who just need someone to say hi with a smile. Or to invite them to join in a game at recess. Or to just make a nice observation. Some little thing like that could make all the difference.
All this worrying business has also made me incredibly grateful for the few and far between birthday invitations Lucy has received and for those kids who are just unconditionally nice.
How I hope they will stick with her and make her shine.