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Be Brave, Little One—And I’ll Promise To Do the Same

Photo by: iStock

Dear sweet girl —

There we were, walking down the hall to our apartment, your feet moving slower than usual, your hand tightly gripping my own.

Normally the journey to our front door after school involves you dancing and twirling so that your hands are in the air instead of wrapped up in mine. Normally you are chattering away, singing a silly song, happily laughing as your smile casts extra light into the fading day.

Yet there you were, quiet and close beside me, doing none of these things.

I tell myself you are tired, but I know better: because I can read between your lines—the ones that I’ve grown to know over the past six years—I know something else is going on.

I stop walking, and your stride stops, too. I kneel down in front of you, and when we’re face to face, our eyes meet, and I look at you, open and waiting.

Because I know that’s all it ever takes, that simple acknowledgement that I’m here, ready to listen, and, just like I expected, you finally speak.

“Can I tell you something, Mommy?” you ask.

Although we’ve yet to reach our front door—the one that’s only ten feet away—I don’t want this moment to pass. I gather you close and move to the edge of the hall. Our bags are at our feet, you’re sitting on my lap sideways as I lean against the wall, and your hand, still in mine, has yet to loosen its grip.

“Don’t just tell me something,” I say. “Tell me everything.”

And then, your tentative voice, thick with concern, tells me a story:

You tell me how a little boy was unkind to you today. How he made fun of you on the playground. How he told you your sweater was ‘ugly’ and how he said your headband was ‘stupid.’ How he pointed to your nose and said it was ‘too small.’ How he called you a ‘baby’ when he saw your eyes fill with tears.

I kiss the crown of your head as you share this story, my hand never once letting go of yours.

When you’re done, we sit there, quiet for a moment, before I finally speak.

“Thank you for telling me,” I say. “I’m sorry that happened.”

I hesitate briefly, but then I ask, “So what did you do?”

“I told him he was hurting my feelings. I told him he wasn’t being nice. And then…well, then I told him to stop. That what he was doing wasn’t right,” you answer.

I feel the tightness in my chest loosen, and the weight of the worry my heart is holding all at once is replaced with the lightness of pride.

“That’s okay, right?” you ask.

“Is what okay?” I brush the hair back from your forehead and tuck it behind your ear.

“That I told him to stop? That it wasn’t right?”

“Yes, it’s okay,” I say, gently turning your face so I can look you in the eye again. “In fact, it’s more than okay.”

And inside, my heart cries out the words again:

Yes. Yes. YES.

Corey Wheeland is a writer, graphic designer, and marketing professional. Her blog is The Nostalgia Diaries, and her writing has appeared on Red Tricycle and Perfection Pending.

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