This morning on the way to daycare, Lucy was happy for the first few minutes because I had downloaded a Meredith Andrews album on the iPod as a surprise for her. We listened to that, then Elaine demanded, not very graciously I might add, to listen to HER music, which is currently Vivaldi's "Gloria" and "Laudamus Te"--yes, that is a little surreal--and then sang along to it in her basso profundo voice while Lucy stared out the window the rest of the way.
Lucy does not want to go to daycare on Mondays. She loathes it. She's been going to the same daycare facility ever since she was 11 weeks old. Don't get me wrong; it's been a good place for us--nice teachers, wonderful director, clean facilities. I can still feel the stress of that first day though when I left a baby so small in the care of strangers that they had to put her bouncy seat in a crib. That was so she could still see around, but the bigger babies wouldn't maul her. Yeah, note to self: do not wear mascara on first day of work after maternity leave. No worries though, she quickly adapted and adjusted and absolutely loved it. In fact, when she was one of the bigger babies, she used to crawl around to the others and tap on the side of their cribs so that they would wake up and play with her.
Last summer, I gently broke it to her that she'd be going to a different school in the fall. Whenever she thought about it, she'd cry and ask if she could stay where she was or even just stay home with Elaine and me. But then she went to school, took to it like a duck to water, and went on her easy way as she always does. This summer she was looking forward to going back to daycare and seeing her teachers and friends. She couldn't wait for summer to start.
It hasn't turned out that way. She hates it. HATES it. Did I mention that? Hates it. The other children are mean to her. She doesn't have friends. Apparently no one wants to play with her. The boys are particularly brutal. Remember the infamous Anthony who hit her with a book and spit on her? There's another boy who tells her repeatedly he doesn't like her. Last week he said, "Hey, come here, I'll tell you a secret." You know how she loves secrets, so she went right over and leaned in. He said, "Guess what? You're stupid." She said that at the end of the day, the other kids were sticking out their tongues at her, even the little girl she thought was her friend.
Hey, wanna know the absolute worst part about being a parent? Yeah, this is pretty much right up there. Last week she was up 2 1/2 hours past her bedtime, crying. I held her while she sobbed and said, "I want to stop thinking about it, but I just can't." I talked to her about how I was her friend forever and Daddy and her dear sister and remember all her wonderful friends she made this year at school and church. Then I reminded her of Jesus, how He's always our friend and never changes and never leaves. She cried and said, "I want to smile at you, Mama. But these feelings in my heart hurt so, and it pours everything else out so that I forget I have any friends." I know what that feels like.
Today I watched her in the backseat, her yellow headband in place and her big yellow sunglasses with rhinestones, a la Jackie O., juxtaposed with Rabbie and her thumb in her mouth. I knew how much she was dreading getting to daycare. I tried to ask her questions like, "Does your class play outside on the playground? Do you play anything special?" She took her thumb out and said, "No, we just play. And no one will play with me, so I play by myself."
OK, I almost started to cry when I just typed that. I could probably write a whole impassioned post about bullying and how we always are teaching kids to handle being bullied rather than teaching kids not to be bullies. Or whatever, but Ann-Marie's done a much better job at her blog (check out her "Bully Chronicles"). The whole thing just makes me miserable though. And mad. I'm so torn between the "turn the other cheek" principle and just wanting to dropkick these hellions into oblivion. (Just keepin' it real, people!) I would a million times more rather have someone hurt my feelings than Lucy's. Elaine's either, but man, she is different. That is a girl who vociferously demands to sing Laudamus Te in the car. Future bullies of that little girl: beware.
Lucy is my tenderhearted little one, the girl who never wants to hurt anyone's feelings. The girl who, last week at swimming class, knelt down by the side of the pool to help another little girl who had trouble getting out. Who makes sure her dolls and animals are all tucked in at night and never wants anyone to feel lonely. Who, when we play Candyland, makes me move my gingerbread man up by hers, even if it's a lot of spaces, so that we'll be together. This is my girl who loved the dead bird.
So, Darren and I have been talking it over. Oh, and if you think I'm enraged on our daughter's behalf...heh. Watch out. Daddy's ready to gas up the truck. I'm not sure exactly all that entails, but it doesn't sound good.
One thing we didn't want to do though was fight all her battles for her. We've been talking about the book of James, how the first few verses say, "Count it all joy my brothers when you encounter various trials because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance." We were talking about Kent Hughes' commentary on it and how he went through a very similar situation when his daughter was 6. We can't go out and mow everyone down and smooth her path all the way through life. She has to do some of it herself. We want Lucy to know how to be joyful during trials and how to have perseverance.
However, there are still five weeks left until school starts. Five long Mondays for her to endure, and she's only five years old. So we've decided on a compromise. She'll finish out July, the next two Mondays, at daycare. Then we've asked her dear beloved Mrs. Pope, who watches her on Mondays during the school year if she would mind starting in August rather than September. And we're not going to tell Lucy the plan until that last Monday is over. I can't wait for it.
I really hope we're doing the right thing. We think we are.