By: Sophie Winik, IATG ContributorAugust 22, 2016
Fear. What a powerful word. It's a word that’s terrifying in itself. We all have things we’re afraid of, sometimes even things that simultaneously worry us. You might be afraid of heights. You might be scared of spiders, or maybe you're afraid of the dark. Whatever your fear is, you have to remember that it's perfectly natural to be afraid. It's a normal feeling, and being vulnerable can make you stronger.
So what scares me? Good question! I’m afraid of snakes. I mean ick (sorry if you love them)! But even more so, I’m afraid at times for others. When I see someone in a situation that’s potentially alarming, I feel afraid for them. Let me elaborate:
Children. When I see an adult screaming at them or ignoring them, I become scared for the child. I wonder what else is going on to make the adults act a certain way. I wonder what else is going on directed towards the child. And I wonder how the adult’s behavior will affect the child longterm.
Witnessing a little one be completely ignored hurts me.
Seeing a three year old play with a plastic bag for entertainment, because mommy and daddy didn't bring her any toys is hard to watch. Seeing a child fight for attention because mommy and daddy are busy being infatuated with one another really pains me to see. All of this took place at the beach one day. It was a beautiful sunny day and children were playing with sand toys, jumping over waves, and building sand castles. A little girl sitting right beside me was playing alone, while her parents ignored her. She had the biggest and brightest smile on her face with dimples that could warm your heart and little feet that desperately wanted to be in the sparkling, cold water. I watched her smile, oh that beautiful smile, whenever a nearby, kind soul attracted her to look at them. She poured sand on her daddy's back continuously. Pat pat. Her hands tapped his back as if to say, "Daddy, watch me!" But no movement of the father. The little one moved over to mommy and played with her hair, waiting for a sign that the mother acknowledged her. But nothing. Both parents simply laid in the sand, ignoring the girl, not laying a single glance on the poor little one, only each other.
I shook my head as I watched the situation. I couldn't believe what I was watching. A child, roughly three years of age, desperately wanting her parents to pay attention to her. But she just sat and watched, very intently, every movement they made, with the hope that she would be included. No words were spoken by this little girl. She didn’t say, “Mommy! Daddy! Watch me!” She simply watched and hoped that her parents would figure it out. Nothing for almost two hours.
I was afraid for the girl. Afraid that she was being neglected. Afraid that this wasn't the only time she was ignored. Afraid that this child was so used to this behavior, she didn't know it was wrong. I’m a teacher. When I see this type of behavior, it hurts me. I become scared for the child. Scared they will be harshly affected by this. Scared they will grow up not knowing anything different. Scared of them feeling alone, when they don't deserve it. Scared they will grow up and be taken advantage of, because they’ve always been compliant. It’s a powerful feeling to feel afraid for things you have no control over. I wanted so badly to rescue this poor child, play with her, tell her I’ll watch her play, and hold her hand as she jumps over the waves. I wanted to not be afraid. I wanted to not feel so vulnerable as I watched what was happening before me.
Finally, the family left. As I sighed with relief, my fears almost exploded inside me. There was nothing I could do. As they walked further and further away from me, I wondered what was in store for this child. I wondered if when they arrived home the parents would pay attention to her. I wondered if she would continue to show off that beautiful smile to others. I simply wondered and hoped that there was nothing I needed to fear. After all, despite my own anger and sadness, this child seemed to still be able to embody happiness, indicated by the bright smiles she would give to others who looked at her. So many children could have acted differently towards being ignored, but this little one was still remarkably happy. That little notion helped me turn all my fears into hope. I’m hopeful this little one will be fine. I’m hopeful she’ll be given the much needed attention she deserves. And I’m hopeful that I have nothing more to fear.
It’s scary to see others go through painful or difficult times, but we have the power to show so much love and compassion to those around us! Spread some kindness today to EVERYONE you meet. You never know who’s in need of a little extra attention.
Sophie is a preschool teacher in Southern California. When she is not teaching the little ones she is writing stories about her experiences with bullying, with the hope that her words will help others stand up against bullying and be another voice to end the hate. Sophie is also an artist who loves to paint and draw and is studying to be an art therapist, specifically working with children. Check out her anti-bullying stories at kindrevolutioncampaign.wordpress.com.