Miss J is a better person than I am. I am the mother, the one whose job it is to guide and teach, yet these roles are sometimes reversed.
I anger quicker than I would like to admit and I can be slow to forgive and slower to forget. I can hold on to anger, even though it eats at me. I know there is a certain roughness that exists along the edges of my heart.
Miss J is different. She is kinder. Warmer. Gentler than I. She is wise. Loving. Strong, but soft. Quick to forgive. I wish I could say these traits were learned from me or inherited by me, but I would be lying. This is just how Miss J is.
When Miss J was in kindergarten, she went through a period where she struggled daily with another child who would pick up grass and wood chips and throw them on her head. Each afternoon when I would pick her up, the story would be the same. She and I were both growing weary of the situation.
I suggested she tell the teacher on recess duty, but Miss J, at the age of five, was determined to handle this situation on her own. I told her, "The next time Miss Thing decides to throw grass on your head, you tell her that you've had enough and she needs to knock it off! You need to make her stop." I let Miss J know that unless she said anything, this child would continue throwing the grass.
Miss J told me two things:
First, she said, "Mama, don't you think I have already asked her to stop? Do you think I just say nothing and let her keep doing it?" (Good point, kid.) And then she said, "Mama, I think about this a lot. Happy people don't do this. Only people who are unhappy and angry do mean things. I think what she needs is a friend. Instead of fighting with her, I will just ask her to be my friend."
I had to admit that my five year old had found a kinder, more peaceful resolution to this problem.
The next day when I picked Miss J up at school, I was anxious to hear how the day went.
"Well?" I asked once we were in the car.
"She did it again."
"What did you do?"
"I asked if she wanted to be friends. She said no."
For weeks, we had the exact conversation. For weeks this child would throw grass on Miss J's head and for weeks Miss J would extend an invitation for friendship. I began to wonder what the heck was up with this child (and her parents.) but Miss J kept her calm. She never angered. She never gave up on this child.
There is no moral, no magical happy ending to the story. The child did eventually stop throwing the grass but the two never did become friends.
I did gain so much respect for Miss J, who knew at the age of five, the best approach in this situation was to try to diffuse it with kindness rather than to aggravate it with hostility or retaliation.
I wish I was more like Miss J. Too often I let my pride and my ego stand in my own way.