The beginning of the school year was not what I was expecting. Jordan Grace had been so excited to go 3rd grade on the very first day. She couldn’t wait to see all her friends. I was so thrilled for her. I mean what else could I ask for, a little girl who loves school? This makes a mother’s heart so happy.
When we arrived on campus, she was so happy to see everyone, she said hi to kids she knew by name and the kids would just kind of look the other way. She found two sweet friends and one of the moms was there so I went and joined and said hi. As I walked home I was a bit disappointed on how the kids reacted, or lack of reaction I should say, toward her joy at seeing them.
The next day was worse, not one kid said hi to her. She was literally calling them by name and they would just look at her and then turn the other way. In front of me, they would just not acknowledge her. It hurt so badly to see this. I tried to keep my composure until I hugged her goodbye and I walked home crying. I couldn’t understand why the kids were acting this way. By the third day, I was more aware and more sensitive to the kids reaction and so was Jordan Grace. She ran up saying “Hi” to a certain child including her name, so there was no mistake she was saying hi to a specific kid like she had been doing the last couple of days. This kid was standing at the front of all the others waiting to go to class. The girl replied “get back in line Jordan Grace” as Jordan Grace was still running towards her for a hug. She stopped, put her head down and headed to the back of the line.
My heart hurt, my little girl’s soul was crushed. It was very difficult to witness. She looked up at me from the back of the line, as I held a smile that hurt so badly. She then smiled at me and ran over to me for a hug. I tried to lift her spirit up and wished her a great day. I walked home with more tears in my eyes then the last couple of days.
I wrecked my brain all weekend to try and figure out what to do for kids to understand that all they had to do was say hi back. I had an idea to throw a back to school party at the park. I gave her the invitations to hand out to both classes. I bought enough drinks and snacks for sixty kids plus siblings just in case they all showed up.
On the days leading up to the party I noticed the kids being more attentive to her. It felt so nice that my girl was finally being seen and heard. The party was a success; 19 classmates, siblings and parents (including grandparents, aunt, legal guardian) were in attendance. It was so wonderful to see so many kids playing and having fun. I spoke to the parents about what the party was all about. Everyone was so sweet, we had so many great conversations and they asked what they can do, how they can play a role in inclusion. Jordan Grace even got a few invitations for play dates and a birthday party coming up.
I learned a valuable lesson, we can’t just expect for others to change the world around us, we have to get up and change it for our children. It takes hard work and dedication, but the result is so worth it. The reality is that most kids learn their behavior from their parents or who is there influencing them. If they are taught at home to include everyone then we all win. But the conversations have to start at home. Jordan Grace has always loved school, and I didn’t want her to lose that love and joy of running to school to see her friends. My heart is at peace.