A Seven Year Old’s Sweet Vulnerability
It was Friday afternoon and I was driving home from school with my two girls when Sonia said to me, “Momma, I practiced vulnerability today”. For a moment, I thought I didn’t hear her clearly. “Sonia, what did you say?”. She repeated, “I practiced vulnerability today”. I almost wanted to stop the car to turn toward her. I asked her to explain a little more. She went on to tell me that during free game time at school she went up to four different people to ask if they wanted to play a game with her. Each of the four said no. My heart started sinking as I wanted to ask why they would have said no in the first place. Sonia is such a sweet girl. Why would no one say yes? However, quickly, I stopped that train of thought as it was less significant to the essence of what Sonia was sharing.
I told her that it must have taken a lot of courage to go up to the second person after the first said “no”, and not only, but then to sustain that courage enough to ask two more kids after that. Instead of asking her why no one was willing to play with her, I asked her how vulnerability felt. She said, “It felt lonely.” Her thoughts were so simple and clear. I cannot tell you how my heart felt beautifully tender and amazed all at once. I told her that yes vulnerability can feel lonely and that I was proud of her for having so much courage. I didn’t ask her what the circumstances were outside of this. This was enough and exquisitely beautiful. Sure, I want my girls to discover companionship at school, but having the courage to put themselves out there and to allow loneliness to be a part of their experience is huge. Many of us spend so much of life avoiding such experiences until we have no choice. Loneliness becomes this “big deal” in our minds, when really it’s part of any human experience at some point. Experience, as I have come to know it, is transitory. Things change all the time. Sometimes it’s through glimpses of loneliness that we discover a deeper connection to ourselves. We access the strength that is required to allow us to feel vulnerable, lonely, sad – the list goes on.
As a mother, it can be so tempting to want to shield my girls from the uncomfortable and difficult circumstances, but I trust that this is where the growth lies. These are the moments that build character, strength and the willingness to feel the full spectrum of humanity. You’ve heard me say it before, but it deserves repeating often. I am in awe of and so proud of both my girls. Sophia and Sonia, I love you dearly!
“Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heart-ache is not something we choose to invite in. It’s restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.”
~ Pema Chodron