Its been warming up here the past week. All the neighborhood kids have come out to play, and Ivy has been meeting them and in theory.. making friends. She seems oblivious to their looks, or their comments, or the tone in their voice... and I so wish that I was oblivious too, because it kills me to listen to them talk to her the way they do.
I can hear it in their voice.. "Oh my god.. she is weird!" when they say, "Let's go um... play over.. there.. somewhere not here.. (with her)"
I can see the looks they glance to each other and the whispers.
I can read between the lines when they tell her that they want to be her friend and then ask to go play at her house so that they can play together with each other and exclude her.. but use all her toys in her room.
I watch them laugh as she gets upset about something they said in fun.
I watch them call her names because she's a bit behind in some things. They taunt her, "You're a baby! Only a baaabyyyy doesn't know how to ride a bike! You can't even ride a tricycle!" And then I fight back the tears as I watch her sit there in silence.. pushing with everything she has on the pedals of that tricycle.. trying so hard.. so determined... I encourage her to keep trying, "Great job pushing your feet! Keep trying!" After awhile she finally gets off and shrugs her shoulders, and says "I change my mind. I change my mind."
I smile as I see her with her arm around one of her new friends.. and then fight to control myself when I watch her "friend" knock her arm away and say, "don't touch me!" I see the look on her face of confusion. I wish I could make her understand... but before I'm done thinking that thought, she has forgotten about it and moved on to something else.
Falling asleep at night she says, "Mama, do you love me or hate me?" and I know that someone has said this to her today... and she's trying to figure it out in her mind. Repeating those things that trip her up. I bite my tongue and hold back tears for what seems like the hundredth time today... I can do this. I can. I can hold it together.
"Mama loves you Ivy. Always."
"I don't hate you either. Either. I don't. I don't hate you." she says. "But some kids do. Its okay. Its an accident. Its okay." she smiles and closes her eyes.
I know that every child goes through days like today. I know every parent feels those pangs of sadness and helplessness. Its her innocence that makes it hard. Everything she experiences is like Teflon. No matter how much it hurts me, on the surface it seems to slide right off her. I only wonder how much it really slides off... how much sticks there? How much will she carry with her forever? And am I doing enough? How can I be there for every social exchange 24/7?
Does the feeling in the pit of my stomach ever go away?