What I Want My Daughter Who Eats Lunch Alone To Know

by Holly Schumacher
Tomwang112 / iStock

At my daughter’s school, we recently had the first round of parent-teacher conferences for the school year. My husband and I sat there listening to her third grade teacher praise what a sweet girl she is, how she is so happy to have her in her class, and we all joked about how different her personality is from her older brother whom she had in class a few years ago. We listened intently about how she is excelling in math (no surprise) but could use a little work on her phonics (okay, easy, we can definitely work on that at home).

The teacher then pulled out a stack of three papers. The first was a list of questions that our daughter had filled out about how she felt her school year was going so far. The second was a drawing that she did about the first couple of months of school, and the third was a letter to us about anything she wanted to write about. The teacher’s face became concerned, and I adjust myself in my chair in anxious anticipation. I know that look. I don’t like that look.

The list asked questions such as:

1. “What is your favorite thing about school this year?” She had replied “math.”

2. “What is your least favorite thing about this school this year?” She had written “I don’t have any friends. It makes me feel sad at school.

The questions go on, all with answers of a similar tone. My heart ached a little, but we kept going through the pile. Next came the picture she drew. It was of her sitting at the end of a long lunch table, frowning. She drew tears coming down her face, while her classmates were all at the other end of the table laughing with each other. I felt my own eyes well up with tears, and I wiped away the hot drip that escaped my eye. When we read the letter she wrote to us, my heart broke for her as I scanned the words, “Mom and Dad, I’d like you to help me figure out how to make friends and find someone to sit next to at lunch.”

I picked her up that day, and we had a long talk on my bed when we got home. I asked her how she thought the conference went. She told me about her list of questions, the picture she drew, and the question that is baffling her, “How do I make these people want to be my friend?”

I called my mom, her dad’s mom, and friends who have children in the same grade. I googled normal development for 8 to 9-year-old girls. I picked up the parenting book that’s been collecting dust on the bookshelf for the past however-many years. I racked my brain of my own experiences in elementary school, trying to find the answer for her.

A week went by, and I found myself up at 2 a.m. overthinking as usual, when this voice boomed out of nowhere in my head. The advice I’d been seeking for her hit me deep down in that guttural place: You will never be enough.

I felt myself internally exclaim, What?! Of course, she is enough! She’s the sweetest, most considerate… No, listen harder. You will never be enough for some, and that’s okay.

Hmmm. I let that one marinate overnight, and woke up thinking, You know, that’s absolutely correct.

You will not be enough. For some people, you will not be enough — and that’s okay.

You are sweet.

Treating others with kindness means so much to you. You are not the “sorry not sorry” type. If you’ve offended, you are sorry because you are always trying to see others’ points of view — not in an insecure way, but because you care, and you care deeply about other’s hearts. You do your best to understand where others are coming from, even when their opinion is very different from yours. Some people will mistake this as weakness, but girl, I am proud of you for your compassionate heart! Still, you will not be enough for some people.

You are strong.

While you do care if you’ve offended and are quick to apologize if you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, you are also not afraid to stand your ground. When you believe in something or someone, you defend it like you’re going to war. This one may drive your dad and me crazy some days, and some people may take this as stubbornness. But girl, I am proud that you are strong and not afraid to stand your ground. Still, you will not be enough for some people.

You are quirky.

You love cheerleading for your team and wearing play makeup. You also love getting rough and tough on your roller derby team. You’re not even afraid of those gnarly bruises you come home with after practice. You love babies, the color pink, glitter, and snuggles. You also beg us to play tackle football and have us sign you up for boxing after watching an MMA clip on YouTube.

Some people won’t get you. But girl, I am proud of you for having a vast array of interests, and for not being a sheep by falling into one category. It would be easier for you to just have cheer friends, or derby friends, or girly friends, or tomboy friends. But you are who you are — intricate and deep. You will not be enough for the people who don’t understand this.

What I can tell you, though, is to keep being true to yourself. Don’t change your heart or your deep compassion for others’ hearts for anyone. Don’t let them harden you. Don’t let anyone change your mind about what you truly deeply believe in. Stand your ground. Don’t stop loving what you love so that it’s easier to fit in. You are you, and that is beautiful.

While you are not enough for some, you are more than enough for others. Some people will love you and see you and get you. Some people will not like you.

But from my experience, if you keep being true to who you are, the right people will flock to you — even if it’s not now at the third grade lunch table. You are amazing, and when you don’t change that for anyone, amazing friends will surely come along your path too. And that, my sweet girl, is more than enough.