Last night, I had the opportunity to be among parents without their children. We were primarily parents of new students at a special "back-to-school" night. Hubby and I mingled and chatted and exchanged the usual pleasantries with others. But there was clearly one conversation that stood out.
It went beyond the what's-your-child's-name and what-is-your-kid-interested-in and where-do-you-live kind of exchanges. At one point during the evening, I found myself one-on-one with another parent who told me, "frankly I just want my daughter to like school again" and continued, "she's a good student and a smart kid, but never would I have ever guessed I would spend the last two years trying to keep her from killing herself! So this is it - this change to this school - we're hoping this turns things around."
Wow. All around us people were smiling and chumming it up with others. And while this woman was perfectly charming herself and just a second ago had made easy, light-hearted conversation with the bigger group around us, this was her reality. And my reaction? Without giving away too much, I had an easy window of opportunity to divulge a little of my own concerns for my own children.
I thought about that conversation on my way home. Wouldn't it be great if we all spent a little more time engaging with each other face-to-face and being a little more honest? Maybe we wouldn't hear of so many "mean" girls out there making lives miserable for other girls. Maybe parents would have more opportunities to help each other and not feel so isolated. Maybe schools and parents could work together before a little thing becomes serious. Maybe we'd find compassion more easily.
I'm grateful to that mom for sharing. It reminds me how we are all worrying about giving our kids what they need to grow and thrive, no matter the appearances and the seeming abundance of fruits growing elsewhere. She is not alone and neither am I. As we start to plant ourselves in this new city, in a time of our lives when I am especially eager for my kids to feel at home and make a couple of good buddies, that conversation is a reminder that we are all in this same boat and - for goodness sakes - to be kind! We all hear what is happening outside our own front doors, but we also don't truly know what's going on behind the front doors of others. And so the responsibility begins with each of us: be kind.