at the end of a parent-teacher conference they ask if you have any questions and let you go on your merry way, but not this time. as i picked up my packet of sample writings and percentage score summaries letting me know where my kid lies within the national average, the teacher said she wanted to talk to me about something that happened on the playground. apparently hazel was playing with one of her favorites and a boy came up and hit her friend in the face really hard. as soon as the teacher told me this i remembered a conversation hazel and i had in the car one day after pick-up where she told me a boy had hit a girl in the face so hard she had started bleeding. this was where the story ended when hazel told it.
the teacher went on to say at that after the girl had been punched in the face, hazel stepped up, got between them, and said in no uncertain terms, “WE DO NOT HIT.” the teacher was telling me that she swooped in before my little hazel got clocked and that it might be in my best interest to explain to my sweet girl where she goes to school. the elementary school my kids go to is amazing. it is one of the most diverse, enthusiastic and caring group of students and teachers i have seen. it is an academically-gifted magnet school, which means families drive out of the their way to send their kids there, and it’s also a title one school, which means that 40% of the children are on free or reduced lunch. being mean or nice certainly isn’t based on economics. some kids have been exposed to crime and violence which may have given them a different view on hitting.
as i processed what hazel had done and all of the possible outcomes i felt one thing more than all of the others. i felt pride. hazel gets scared about way more than the average bear.she can see the danger in more things than most. let me be clear here, i think that hazel knew that what she did was not the safest option for her. this teacher wanted me to explain to hazel that if she stood up for someone while they were taking a hit that it could turn on her and she might take a blow. this is wise and true, and i should sit down and make sure that she knows that is a very real possibility. but i would never tell my sweet girl to change what she did.
fear is an awful decision-making partner. it has stolen more joy from me over the years than i care to admit. it has made me flee risk and possibility for “safety” and “lack of perceived failure.” in this ten-day lead up to my 40th birthday i’m sharing things most important to me and lessons i’ve learned, and this might be a chart topper (feel free to read it in the voice of Casey Kasem). this is it: nothing will change for the better without someone who’s not getting hit stepping up and standing between the one doing harm and the one being harmed. it’s the lesson of history, it’s the lesson of our collective human experience, and the lesson of our individual stories.
standing between the one doing harm and the one being harmed does so many beautiful things at once but my favorite is that it quenches the thirst to say that the one being hit is just being too sensitive or feels that they are entitled to more than they deserve or is just being unreasonable. in one fell swoop it says “this person is being hurt and they should not be hit because as a people we do not hit. it does no good. it does harm.” in order to make this change, though, the people watching have to turn into the people engaging.
so for today i want to say don’t walk with your head down trying to avoid pain. look up and see those around you. don’t let people get pounded in the face and just watch. there is a time to comfort and silently be there with someone who’s had harm done to them, but there is also a time to channel your inner hazel and get up in the face of someone who has already proven to be dangerous and say, “you will not do that again while i am here. she is not alone. i am standing up to you.” it will take more than one. while it would break my heart if hazel had been punched in the face that day, i hope that one of her friends would have then stepped up between her and this boy and said in no uncertain terms, “WE DO NOT HIT.”