On the Outside

Here comes the whole 5th grade out to the field, ready to run. It’s their annual walk-a-thon and everyone’s amped up with excitement. I see Gabe walking along with his friends, pretending he doesn’t see me and stealthily avoiding my camera. I am so excited to watch my oldest two let loose and have fun during their last elementary party.

Finally, here comes my girl. She has the biggest smile on her face and she’s ready to run. I shoot pictures with lightning speed as I want to capture as many moments today as I can. She makes a few laps around the track with her aide. I notice that, for the first time since we’ve been here, no one else is with her. I noticed this seismic shift over the last year; the girls her age have simply moved on. They’re interested in make-up and hair and boys and One Direction and, even though she is interested in some of those things too, she’s more interested in Disney movies and her stuffed animals. As much as my brain understands and accepts it, my heart hurts. Ask her to walk with you, I think. Grab her hand just for a few minutes, I wish.

The time goes on and the girls start dancing in the middle of the track. I watch, willing my heart not to break in front of the crowd, as she stands right on the outside of the circle of dancing bodies, trying to get in. She’s trying to dance like they are, trying to be part of the group, but she’s too small and too far behind. They begin to do the conga line and she wants to join in. But she can’t catch up and she can’t get in.

I feel like I would like to be swallowed up whole by a hole in the ground and take her with me. This is not fair. This is too painful. This is what our life is like now. Always on the edge, wanting to fit in, but realizing it’s not possible.

Tears threaten to overwhelm me and the next thing I know, she’s next to me, grabbing my hand, asking me to run. “Run with me, Mama!” Off we go. We run, we walk, we dance, we giggle. She tries to do “The Worm” like her friend Justin. We end up on the ground laughing like hyenas. I pick her up and we dance along to One Direction and Justin Bieber because we really love them too. She sees other kids doing the wheelbarrow and she wants to try. She does it. It’s amazing. She finds Gabe and he reluctantly stops for a picture and runs with her for a bit. Soon it’s time to go back to class after a cookie and a class picture. I give her a kiss, because she still lets me, and watch her go.

To be honest, I’m devastated. Truly. My little girl, who is loved and treated kindly, does not fit in anymore. She doesn’t really have friends anymore. She’s on the outside and I have a feeling it will only get worse. But then I stop. I think back to the day and realize that she was not upset. She never stopped smiling that day. Even when she was on the edge, even when she was two steps behind, even when she was by herself. She was happy. It was my perception and feelings on her behalf that were making me sad, not hers. She is fine.

Olivia lives in the moment all the time. She doesn’t hold grudges, she doesn’t worry, she doesn’t get mad or jealous or sad. Because all she has is this moment in time, she’s always happy. It’s difficult for me to remember this when I am seeing things through my jaded eyes. I am projecting my feelings onto the situation, not hers. She is simply enjoying being outside with her class, dancing with her Mom, trying to do the worm. She’s not wondering why the girls don’t include her. She’s not sad that she doesn’t fit in.

She’s just Olivia, happy and loved, even on the outside.

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10 responses to “On the Outside

  1. I had one of these moments this weekend. Driving along I saw two girls about Jenny’s age playing together outside and it struck me that Jenny doesn’t have any girlfriends to come over to play. In that moment, my heart broke a little more. Thanks for this post. You are right. Jenny is happy and I need to see that, not what I think she is missing.

  2. This is such a heart-breaking and yet heart-warming post. As mothers, we want to protect our children and sometimes, we realize it’s not them we want to protect but ourselves. My girl is not quite six, she hasn’t been left behind yet but I know…it will happen and I also know she probably won’t care. She loves life, she loves her Barbies and her sister, and her imaginary friends. They make her so happy that I can’t help but laugh along with her as she pretends to be at the grocery store with six of her best friends, stocking up on imaginary food for an imaginary slumber party.

  3. My heart breaks with you, but I believe the it’s a cycle. The friends will come around and pull Olivia back into their circle.

  4. ” I think back to the day and realize that she was not upset” – “She never stopped smiling that day” – would that we all had this quality of life! I think that is the big secret we so often miss, even as family, so close to the situation.
    This actually made me feel better – I often think I’m not doing enough to facilitate friendship or social interaction. But our girls are happy, and their lives are RICH.

  5. Melanie Sheppard

    Beautiful!!!! So well written, you always give my heart a jerk because I feel and see all of the same things you do, but instead of Olivia, its Grace. I’m with you momma. And I thank you for being such a caring, feeling person who uses her talent to help others!!!

  6. Hugs to you. That’s all.

  7. This breaks my heart : ( I am so not looking forward to Ella getting older. I really really wish I could just freeze her right now. But you are right. As long as Olivia is happy that is all that matters!

  8. You are so lovely. Your kids are so lucky!

  9. As mother’s we want to protect our children and sometimes do not realize we are the ones who are really suffering. Our special children are such beautiful souls. They hold no grudges, they are happy and love life. If they get upset when it passes they don’t dwell on it. What a peaceful way to live. Sadly not everyone can understand the beauty of a simple life like this.
    When you look back at these moments what you will remember will be her smile and the glow of happiness that eminated from her that say or the moment Gabe stopped to snap a pic and even in the midst of his fun whole heartedly gave his sister love. Life is not one size fit’s all and not every one is meant to be a part of the social click. Olivia is experiencing life thanks to you for seeing her for who she really is a bright, loving, caring and beautiful child.

  10. That’s a hard thing to see. A hard thing not to feel. A hard thing to just let her be happy. Hugs, Mama. You’re doing a great job.

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