It is amazing what your kids tell you when they have you to themselves. When they have you and your undivided attention and they know you are not distracted by your phone or some other conversation you are trying to keep up with and you allow the silence to settle, they open themselves up all wide and reveal to you their truths. “Mom, there were mean kids there.”

“Mean kids? What kind of mean kids?” As if there are different kinds.

“Some boys made fun of me tonight while we were playing dodge ball. They said I couldn’t hit them if they stood directly in front of me. They told me I suck.”

I pulled into our driveway real slow and he opened his door to get out and I was not too far behind.

“I’m sorry. There will always be mean kids. Don’t let them stop you from showing up.”

As a mom, as his, I want to protect him from this hurt. Especially from being hurt THERE. Our kids have not been a part of a youth group for several years. We’ve given them space, we have all needed it just a bit but it is time to regroup and build some connections and get involved. But where? All of our kids are different. Some don’t mind showing up in a group without really knowing anybody and others feel completely out of their element in doing so. My last two teens need a strong connection FIRST and THEN they step into something so last night, my son went to a new church and a new youth group with a friend he is very comfortable with. It was a HUGE step for him.

And now this. The mean kids.

I’ve been reading Brene’ Browns new book called “Braving the Wilderness.” I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is timely and needed. Please, if you are looking for a good read that is mind and heart provking and empowering, put this book in your Amazon cart. You will have it Saturday and can read it this wekeend. It’s about belonging and fitting in…with ourselves. She says, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who were are; it requires us to BE who we are.”

Everywhere and anywhere.

My son walked ahead of me as I spoke those words and had already walked into the house by the time I reached our side gate. As I walked through the front door, I heard him go up the steps to his room. He needed some time. Later he emerged and was hurriedly getting his homework out of his backpack and was heading to the table to do his work. I grabbed his arm. “Hey. I love you.”

“I love you too.” That was all he could muster and it was enough. I thought of the things I could say, all the truths I could speak but sometimes you just need to practice being present. Presence says a lot you know, just being WITH someone and letting them know you are there. That they are loved. That you are not going anywhere.

My son is going to have to learn, like me, like all and any of us how to stand in WHO we are. We have to learn that we won’t always fit in and we won’t always throw the ball hard and hit our target squarely. People won’t like how we look or what we have to say and sometimes, most times, people wear their insecurities discretely and they project their hurts aimlessly and without thought and their comments and actions have NOTHING TO DO WITH US. Mean kids are everywhere, even in Church. I’ve had a mean kid. I’ve been one. We ALL say and DO ridiculously stupid things. We drop our comments like bombs and walk away thinking that we did not leave destruction in our wake but we do.

Words and actions matter.

We have to learn that despite whatever is going on with others, INSIDE others, we have to keep showing up US. This is NON-NEGOTIABLE. We have to make this one of our golden rules, that we will not compromise ourselves for another human being. We will not.

I hope my son goes back. I hope he tries again. I hope he does not let two boys who are probably one of your kids, who could be one of mine, stop him from playing dodgeball and inserting himself in uncomfortable places, like a new youth group.

That’s my hope. But the decision is his. He will have to decide, just like me, just like all and any of us that he is worth being seen. He is worth being heard. He is worth being present.

You are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong everyplace – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.  – Maya Angelou