It is Teddy Bear week at my daughter’s school. The children are allowed to bring their favorite Teddy Bear from home and show it to their classmates and teachers. Cute idea, right? I thought it was cute, until I was the Mom who forgot to remind her daughter to pack her favorite Teddy Bear in her backpack. As we enter into my daughter’s classroom, her classmates are clamoring around her, staring her in the face, asking her about her Teddy Bear. My daughter, of course, without reservation, starts crying and looks at me like I am the world’s worst mother. I proceed to console her, reminding her that the next day we will remember to bring her favorite Teddy Bear from home. I realize my words don’t matter to a four year old. She is still in tears as I leave her classroom.
Her reaction to being left out, not being able to show her Teddy Bear to her classmates, left me feeling unsettled and put me in a dilemma. Should I go home to retrieve her Teddy Bear or let her tough it out, chalking it up as a lesson of growing up? For me it wasn’t about just forgetting the Teddy Bear, it was about that sinking feeling, when you are left out. I thought to myself this was such an easy fix. I can drive home, get her Teddy Bear, walk into her classroom, and deliver it to her. This is exactly what I did. I redeemed myself. I lingered for a few moments around her classroom door and saw that she was now showing her Teddy Bear to her classmates, laughing and feeling like she belonged.
I wish sometimes, as adults, there would be an easy remedy when you feel left out. As life progresses, there are endless opportunities when the left-out feeling will appear: the sleepover you didn’t get invited to, the bowling league that wouldn’t let you join, and of course, the very popular, “everyone got invited to this party, except for me.”
I can recall my own feelings of being left out. In my office days, I had a boss, and as soon as lunchtime would hit, she would walk by each person’s office and loudly shout his or her name as invitation to lunch with her. There were many lunches that I would sit in my office, stare at the computer, and eat my salad, wondering what I did to be excluded, wondering why my name wasn’t shouted. At the time, I took it very personally, but now I know this boss’s behavior really didn’t have anything to do with me. Even so, you don’t forget that left out feeling. That feeling that you are not a part of what is happening at a particular given moment.
None of us like to feel left out, as an adult or as a child. We all intellectually know that it is an inevitable part of life and we all attempt to deal it with it in our own ways. For me though, by walking back into the classroom, armed with my daughter’s Teddy Bear, I postponed that left-out feeling for her for just a little while longer.