You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging. — Brené Brown

last week i took chloe to the playground. not one of our usual playgrounds, but one that is a bit further away, near a thrift shop i know of, and a starbucks with a drive-through window. when we have a free morning this makes for a perfect little trifecta of events. first the thrift, followed by the star bucks drive-thru, and then the park. i do like this park, and chloe does too. it is big, with many large trees, and therefore plenty of shade. there are a few play areas which range from baby-sized to pre-teenager sized. and then there is the swing situation: the swings are perched in pairs along the outskirts of the play areas, but not close to the entrance or exit, they are perfectly spaced and placed to allow lots of room to swing, but not so close as to interrupt the flow of the playground. this design is genius! i love not needing to worry as much about her running too close to the swings (at our local one i am the mom always running after her kid as she approaches the swings!). i love that the park is big enough to seem spacious but small enough to be able to see everything with one glance. there are even pavilions near by and benches sprinkled among the play areas. chlo can run from one area to the next with me following not too far behind.

it was a saturday, and there were some older kids at the park that day. as a parent, i used to worry about the older kids being too rough with chlo, but i have found that they are usually very gentle and might even baby her too much for her liking. i'm mostly watching that she is behaving, not being too rough, and playing nicely with the other children.  she loves to run with them, play with them, and be included, even if she doesn’t know what they are playing or how to play their games quite yet. i was swinging her when she noticed three boys, probably about age six, playing in the smallest play-area. they were running and jumping on and off the platforms not really chasing one another, but just running wildly. chlo continued to allow me to push her on the swing as we watched them… and then one screamed: “BANANA!!!!!”. 

then another, “BAAAA-NAAAA-NAAAA!”

and then finally the third one as well, and then all of them together “BAAA-NAAAA-NAAAAA!!!!!”

a smile rose from chloe’s face as she wiggled and looked at me “ i ged down, i ged down!” so i stopped the swing and helped her out. once she was free she immediately ran over to the screaming boys and i looked on. she jumped up and down, and screamed:


i giggled a little bit and watched on to see what would happen. the boys just looked at her, a bit taken back. she screamed it again, and again… as they looked at her and at one another, and then started to disperse from their little game. i smiled at chloe and she smiled back at me as the boys left. then she ran to the next play area with a slide.

i told christian about the little episode when i got home. he and i had a good laugh about it. chloe had understood what they were saying, and was so eager to join them. i imagine the excitement she must have felt at finding a group of rambunctious boys who appreciated bananas just as much as she did - how fun! christian asked if she was upset when they walked away, and i was happy to report that she didn’t seem too affected by their polite, but undeniable rejection of her attempt to join their play-group. i eluded to the playground being representative of the world we live in, and said something to the effect of hoping her spirit won’t be crushed by it's cruelty.

because we have all experienced, at some point, something like the playground in our own lives. wanting to be included, but being excluded for whatever reason. of wanting to belong and instead being rejected. of going out on a limb to be noticed, of trying to connect with someone, or a group of someones and not making the cut or being ignored. whether it be on the playground, in middle-school or high-school, when sending out college applications, falling in love, asking someone out, asking for a raise or promotion, creating an internet dating profile, letting an estranged family member or friend know you are still thinking about them…. we have all set ourselves up for rejection at some point.
this week i downloaded a bunch of TEDtalks to my iphone before taking a short, but solo drive while christian and chloe stayed home. i am very impressionable when i am alone, and so each one i listened to really sat with me while i drove in the otherwise silent car. i let the words sink in as i made my way down the highway. i came to the conclusion that i must eat less meat, be more compassionate… and not be afraid of being vulnerable, and to teach and allow chloe to be vulnerable too (as well as that i am extremely impressionable!). if you have a few minutes i urge you to listen to the episode featuring Brené Brown, entitled, “the power of vulnerability”.  the episode brought me back to the week before when my little one had so fearlessly joined the group of children and tried to become one of them. the thought that vulnerability, often thought of as being a weakness, is actually a courageous act... and i couldn't help but to think about those events when listening to brené talk, and i ruminated on her words...

little does chloe know that this desire to belong with others will stay with her, to some degree, for the rest of her life. that she will repeatedly be faced with situations where she can keep to herself, stand back, and allow life to continue in front of her, or she can take a step, be the first to speak, say hello, show kindness, ask a question, tell someone how she feels.. and know that it might not be accepted every time, but to do it anyway and to expect that it will. i want her to grow up expecting that those who she reaches out to will in return reach out to her. i want her to feel that she belongs, that she has a right to belong, even if someone may try to tell her otherwise. i want her to be comfortable being herself, because she likes herself.

not that she won’t realize she has her flaws, not that she will be disillusioned and believe she is perfect - i don’t want that for her. i want her to be aware of these things, and to still believe that who she is, is good enough. and not just good enough, but is really good. that she doesn’t need to hide who she is, or change what she looks like, talks like, or acts like, in order to be liked. i hope that in teaching her this, that she also grows up knowing that she doesn’t need to change anyone else - that she can like them, love them, for being them. that she can take risks, that she can put herself out there, that it is good to be vulnerable. 

and for me to raise her this way means not trying to make her any “better” than she is, but loving all of who she is… allowing myself to be vulnerable and knowing there will be times when my love is not met with acceptance. it means placing my emphasis not on what she can do, but on who she is. yes, i will be proud of her ability to play piano, read aloud, ride a bicycle, play soccer, and whatever else she might do, but my work is in making sure she knows she is not loved for these things, but that she is loved for being herself - flaws and all… and hoping she is never afraid to show that to the rest of the world.

i think that is what the world needs - more people who know who they are, who know they are loved... and who are then capable of seeing others for who they are and loving them. 

oh, to be one of those people, and to raise more of them...


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