As a child, my family moved quite often. The beginning of 4th grade, end of 6th grade, middle of 8th grade, and middle of 10th grade.
As soon as my new girl status started to wear off, we moved. I spent most of my school aged life known as the “new girl.”
And every move was looked at as a fun new adventure.
New cities and house hunting and calling dibs on the best bedroom.
Packing and unpacking and redecorating.
My family and golden retriever were with me and when you’re a kid that’s all that matters.
But then, the first day of school rolls around and you’re the new girl that doesn’t know a single person or where you’re going.
And starting in the middle of the school year?
That was definitely the hardest. Everyone is settled into a routine… and then there’s you… who sticks out like a sore thumb.
And lunch time?
Oh gosh, the cafeteria was torture.
Each move consisted of the exact same routine… while standing in line to buy lunch I’d scope out the table that looked the least intimidating, I’d timidly walk over and quietly ask if I can sit with them, quietly eat my food, quietly tell them I’ll see them tomorrow, then wait in the bathroom until the lunch bell rings.
I probably looked like the strange quiet girl because, well, I was. I was shy. I secretly wished I was the outgoing new kid that everyone instantly accepted and there wasn’t that weird phase where you have the attention of the entire school but no one wants to talk to you.
Last year, my oldest daughter, came home from kindergarten talking about a new girl in her class. She said she looked sad. She said she looked scared. She said she didn’t talk.
So I asked Isabelle if she said hi to her?
She said, “No.”
She said, “No one talked to her.”
Then, my school-aged heart ached.
This conversation opened the door to teaching my littles to seek out the new kid.
I explained to my girls what it felt like to be a new kid. I put them in their shoes, in my shoes. I explained that it can be scary and uncomfortable. But I also explained that it doesn’t have to be like that for long. I explained how they have the power to make it easier for them.
Then, I told them with each move I remember that one person who would come up to me and say hi and offer a friendly face and a guiding hand.
Sometimes? It was my first day of school.
Other times? I was lonely for quite a while.
The next day my daughter came home and told me that the new girl rode her bus, so she asked her to sit with her and she walked her to class and she asked her to be her friend.
She told me she didn’t look scared anymore.
She now understood that her actions were powerful.
My momma heart was so proud.
Later that school year Isabelle was invited to the new girls birthday party.
As we walked in and introduced ourselves, we were showered with gratefulness. Her moms words expressed how Isabelle had made such a difference to her daughter and her kindness wouldn’t be forgotten.
Then, just last week my 5 year old came home telling me she had a new girl in class.
And from our previous discussions? Halle already knew what to do.
She said hi and introduced herself.
She asked her to be her friend.
She introduced the new girl to her two best friends and invited her to sit by them.
Then at the end of the day she took her hand and walked her to the bus.
My girls now seek out the new kids. They didn’t realize they could do anything to help. They didn’t know their actions had significant power. Since I am sensitive to this particular situation, I was able to give them the tools. But, let me tell you, they are the ones who chose to take them and use them.
There have been a handful of new kids in their classes in the last two years. And each time they tell me the same story of how they welcomed them.
I’ve had two parents reach out to mention how one of my girls eased their childs anxiety about a new school.
These what seem like small acts of kindness can mean everything to someone. A smile. A wave. A “Hi! My name is ____, what’s yours?” A “Welcome to our school!” A “Come sit with us.” A “Do you need help?”
Looking back, I am grateful for the people I met and experiences I had. I would never wish to change my journey. It’s a huge part of who I am. My third move led me to my now husband and some pretty amazing life long friends.
I learned to be independent. I learned to quickly read people. I learned to adapt… to let go… to move on. I learned that no matter where you are, home is where your family is.
But no matter what, being a kid in a new school is hard at first. And if we can teach our littles to be that friendly face that helps them get through their day? We would be teaching them the meaning of kindness.
I think we should make kindness the new cool! What do you think?