Lessons from the Playground

Recently, when I went to pick up my children from school, my five-year-old daughter burst out of the classroom, leaped into my arms, and buried her face in my neck. When I asked her what was wrong, she said her best friend had told her, “I don’t like you anymore.”

Wow. It’s hard enough to hear this kind of sentiment as an adult. But for a sensitive five-year-old who has never experienced rejection? Devastating.

I’m happy to say it all blew over. After a little investigation and instruction from the moms, apologies were said, the girls hugged, and now they’re friends again.

Afterwards, my daughter and I came home and had a long talk. About friendships and strategies and coping mechanisms. And what struck me the most about this conversation was how wise I sounded. How, coming from an adult perspective, I could so clearly see the “right” solution to my child’s problems.

At the same time, I recognized I was being something of a hypocrite. Because, you see, the lessons I was trying to teach my daughter are the very ones with which I’ve been struggling.

Here are some of the things my daughter and I discussed:

1. You shouldn’t want to play with someone who doesn’t want to play with you.

So simple, right? So true. But if that’s the case, then why does rejection hurt so much? Whether it’s by an agent or an editor, a loved interest or a friend, rejection sucks. Big time. But it shouldn’t. Instead, we should just see the pass as information gained and move on with our lives.

For example, writers look for a literary agent in order to find an effective advocate for their work. If an agent does not love your work, then he/she, by definition, will not be an effective advocate. So you shouldn’t want to work with an agent who doesn’t want to work with you. Right? So simple. So true. And so much easier said than done.

2. If someone is mean to you, walk away.

It is so easy to get caught up in other people’s drama. To get drawn into an argument, to retaliate to their hurtful behavior. When the truth is, it is so much simpler to step away and focus on your own work, your own interests, your own family. I may have given this advice to my daughter as if it were truth, but it is something which I constantly have to remind myself.

3. If you want to have a friend, then you have to act like a friend.

I think we all learned this friendship adage a long time ago. I know I did. And yet, I am still learning the corollary: If you want to be a writer, then you have to act like a writer. That means, working on my manuscript, whether or not the muse strikes. It means being willing to do the hard stuff, the parts I may not particularly enjoy but that need to get done. It means getting up to write another day, no matter what blows have been dealt the day before.

4. Just because your friend wants to play with somebody else doesn’t mean she likes you any less.

This, perhaps, was the hardest truth for my daughter to swallow. In her mind, preference for another friend automatically equals rejection of her. As adults, we know better. Or do we? If the writing corollary were true (someone else’s success has no bearing on our own), then why, in the midst of our sincere excitement, do we feel that tiny twinge of, well, rejection when we hear another person’s good news? I honestly don’t know.

Maybe it’s human nature. Maybe it’s because our hearts and heads don’t always align. Or maybe these lessons from the playground are just ones that we continue to learn, every single day.

What do you think? What lessons do you continue to learn as an adult? Why is it so hard for our heart to follow what our minds know to be “true”? What is harder– dealing with friendship drama as a child, or having your dreams rejected as an adult?

21 thoughts on “Lessons from the Playground

  1. Pintip,
    What a great message! 🙂

    I am going to have to go out on a limb with this one. I think both the childhood drama and the adult rejection are pretty much equal. It’s all a matter of perspective.

    We are all still growing and learning, even as adults. We learned our early childhood lessons and moved on to share them with our daughters–we constantly learn how to handle our rejections as we move forward and look back on things-later. I still ask myself, was it worth all the tears and anguish?

    It still hurts initially–there is no doubt about that–but we move on. It’s all part of the ‘human factor’.

    Hugs and have a great day! 🙂

  2. You know what Loni? I absolutely agree with you. I think both hurt equally, in different ways, to different people, at different stages. But this is part of life — growing, dealing, learning. And we do the best that we can. Perhaps (hopefully? sometimes? on our good days?) as we get older, we are better equipped to deal with life’s little bumps.
    Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you, too, have wonderful day!

  3. Good Morning Pintip 🙂
    First, give your sweetheart a big hug for me. What a big lesson to have to learn at such a young age.

    There is so much I continue to learn as an adult, but coincidentally to your post being about friendship, that seems to be where I still have plenty of room to grow. I think it’s because as a military spouse, I focus on being a mom and wife. I have to protect that so much because often, the three of us are all we’ve got. Meeting you fishy sisters has been a great lesson of my adult life on how to appreciate friendship again.

    Thanks for sharing this post with us sister. 🙂 xoxoxo

  4. I will, Carlene. Thanks so much.
    You really struck a chord with me when you said that often, your family of three is all you’ve got. I often feel that way, as well. I think friendship can be a risk, but it is one that is well worth the reward.
    So here’s to the friendships that have been formed in the mermaid lagoon, between mermaids and non-mermaids alike!

  5. Oh man – my heart breaks for your daughter! I send her big smoochies and positive glitter!!! 😉 In fact, it’s stories like this that absolutely terrify me about possibly having kids one day. Ahhh!

    This is a really great post, Pintip! Number 2 struck a chord with me and is something I continue to deal with. 😉

  6. Don’t be terrified, Kerri. You would be a great mom. I think what is most important is having a loving heart, and besides, you have the best example from which to draw. You know all the support and utter faith your mom has for you? Just do that, and you’ll be fine.
    Best of luck walking away from those meanies! Remember, they don’t deserve your energy or your time. 🙂

  7. My daughter’s best friend in kindergarten teamed up with a mean girl. They made fun of her and sent her home crying. Fast forward fifteen years, mean girls are forgotten. My daughter is happy and successful.

    1. So glad to hear that, Mary Jo! That must have been such a heart-breaking experience, both for you and your daughter. Kudos to your daughter for her success!

  8. Pintip,
    My kindergartner has been dealing with this stuff, too. As I’ve been through it with older girls, I do have to say that it gets better. And I remember the little sayings that teachers learn to say to deal with little-girl dramas. For instance, my daughter took two friends to dinner and a movie for her 6th birthday. The girls didn’t know each other, but they ended up bonding and my daughter felt left out. I had to tell her exactly what I learned from my older girls. “You don’t OWN a friendship. It’s there to share.” Sometimes kids don’t get that you can be friends with others, and that doesn’t mean they don’t like you, too. But mean girls suck, and they don’t know any other way to word things. Their world is so black and white. As they grow, those shades of gray and basic understanding about friendship will grow with them. Hopefully.
    But, having said that, I think adults still struggle with that as well. With regards to writing, we can compare ourselves to others and fall short. Then we have to deal with all those pesky emotions and what they mean for us. Whether we can overcome them and move on or not. And the same thing can be said for editors and agents. Just because an agent represents another writer doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t like you AS WELL. Just the same way that our hearts are always big enough to love another child or to love more friends, an agent/editor usually has room enough for another great writer. We just have to make sure that we fit what they’re looking for. And BE a great writer. 🙂

    1. Hi Kim, thanks for sharing the story about your daughter. I love the saying about how friendships are there to be shared. I also love your comparison of clients and children. You are so right. Just as our heart always has room to love another child, there is always room in this world for another book (no matter how “crowded” the marketplace is, lol). And I’m thinking our girls should meet, sometime. 🙂

  9. “If you want to be a writer, then you have to act like a writer.”

    Pintip – your whole post is spot on, but this line seemed to speak directly to me. I don’t act like a writer often enough – and that’s a lesson in itself, tho’ of what I’m not sure! I don’t think the lesson is “quit” – but more like “get it gear, honey, and shake your write-thang.”

    Your daughter is lucky to have you – whether or not you feel authentic in the advise you gave, I’m sure she felt supported and loved. A nice antidote to rejection, verdad?

    1. Thanks so much, Keely. I appreciate your kind words. And I love your lesson about getting it in gear and shaking your write-thang! I may just have to write that out and stick it on my laptop, lol!

  10. Thanks Jennifer! Being a mom has definitely taught me a lot about writing and vice versa. But that’s probably true of all experiences. Every experience we have makes us grow — as mothers, writers, people, (insert whatever role here). Thanks for stopping by, and have a wonderful day!

    1. You’re right! Funnily enough, I just wrote a guest blog for a friend’s site about all the life lessons I learn through making jewelry…and how those lessons tie back in to writing. I think it’s all about being aware, don’t you? A sort of zen- interconnectedness-universal-soup-pot-of-wisdom just waiting to be ladled into our empty bowls. (hehe)

  11. Tough questions, Pintip. I love the idea of not wanting to play with people who don’t want to play with you in terms of agents. Very sage advice.

  12. Thanks, Avery. The more I think about, the more the “not wanting to play” idea can be applied to almost everything,

  13. Ha, Diana. I like to think I am wise, at least compared to my kiddos at the moment, but then something happens that shows me how much I still have to learn! Thanks for the vote of confidence! I hope you have a great day!

  14. Pintip, I am not looking forward to fielding these issues when my baby girl gets older! I can only hope I come up with some wise words, like the ones you managed, to soothe and reassure her. Parenting is the hardest job!

    And your parallel to writing is so true. Rejection sucks, although drifting in submission purgatory isn’t fun either. Right now, I think I’d take an “R,” and know where I stand, rather than waiting and waiting and waiting and…ah, shoot me.

  15. I absolutely agree, Meg. Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had. (But the most rewarding, too.) And the entire submission process is hard. Here’s hoping we hear good news from you, very soon! 🙂

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