One day at the purple park

by Katie on November 6, 2016

Words are so powerful, y’all. That’s really the basis of this story.

When you become a parent, your biggest fears immediately shift to things that could hurt your child. And you begin dreading all the “hurts” you know they will experience. Because broken world and cruel humans.

You wonder if they will be “accepted” and dread the day they experience rejection, knowing it will come.

Well, at the ripe age of 3.5, it came, y’all. And it was every bit as hard on a mama (and daddy) heart as we had maybe imagined it might be.

One early evening a couple months back the temperature dipped below 100 and Leyton made the request for our little family to go to the “purple park”. It’s just the little community park with a playground (that is mostly purple) and ball fields near our house. All the stars were aligned and it was a day we actually didn’t have a reason to say no, and all of us were home, so we loaded up.

We were sitting in the shade to keep Bowen out of the sun a very short distance from where Leyton was playing.

Two girls approached her. One was definitely slightly older than Leyton, maybe 5 or so, and leading a younger girl around. They were little girls. Innocent enough, right?

Wrong. So very wrong.

We saw words exchanged, but weren’t quite close enough to overhear.

Then Leyton exclaimed, “No, I’m NOT!” Just before she turned, burst into tears and ran to us.

When she reached us, she wailed, “That girl said I was UGLY! But I’m NOT!”

First thoughts: 1) Is this girl blind? I mean seriously… 2) So proud of her confidence. Even in the middle of being upset, she boldly declared the words she heard were not true. It is probably just her personality, but I’m going to go ahead and count a parenting win on that one.

But really, there is nothing that will shatter a parent’s heart more than watching the heartbreak their child experiences in a situation like this. Gut wrenching, y’all. And if I thought I was having a hard time with it? Her daddy literally couldn’t handle it. I think this little playground incident may have been one of the worst days of his life.

So anyway, we had a chat right there about how God makes us all beautiful – where Leyton corrected us and made sure we understood He makes all girls beautiful, but all boys handsome. And we talked about how sad it makes Jesus to hear us say hurtful (and untrue) things like that to other people. And all of the other things we could think of to say to heal her heart and help her learn.

And y’all, I’m not even joking, after we got the tears dried on that girl’s face and finished up all our parenting lecture points, she got up, marched right over to where the girl was playing, and said, “Hey! You said I’m ugly, but I’m not ugly. I’m beautiful and so are you.”

We may or may not have wanted to high five in that moment. I can’t really say. But I can say that a parent’s heart can shift from torn in two to swollen with pride awfully quick.

I’d like to say the story ends there. That we all walked away from the purple park triumphant, undefeated.

But it’s not true.

You see, at least once every week, sometimes more often, our girl brings up “One day, at the purple park…” and we go through the whole thing again. Now, it is very clear she is confident those words were not true. But even that confidence hasn’t let her forget they were said. At 3.5.

It was definitely a parenting first I wish we hadn’t experienced. But I do think it was a very teachable moment in our family as well. She still talks very often about how all people are beautiful/handsome. We’ve even started to talk about how God makes us beautiful in different ways. Because she mentions how “the girl at the purple park” had “dots” all over her face. (We assume freckles?) And we have prayed for the girl at the purple park.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t immediately clench our fists and draw in a sharp breath every time we hear, “One day, at the purple park…”

Because there is no bandaid for that kind of playground tears. And we know there are likely more to come.

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