Want to Like Other Parents? Presume Positive Intent

It happened when my daughter was 9, and I knew immediately by the look on her face that something was wrong.

While the kids around her were all smiling and running – thrilled that school had ended early – she was trudging toward me with her shoulders slumped and a defeated expression.

Before I could ask, my daughter told me that a girl in her class had invited all her friends except her to eat lunch down the street. Pointing over my shoulder, she showed me the pack, and my heart ached as I turned around and indeed saw all her friends giggling and huddled tight as they waltzed away together.

As my daughter tried not to cry, the Mama Bear in me woke up. I was angry at this girl and her mom, and when my daughter said, “This makes me want to plan something and not include her,” part of me agreed.

Deep down, however, I knew that was an immature reaction. And since I was the adult, I needed to think like one.

So I took a deep breath and tried not to assume the worst. I didn’t know how this lunch had transpired, and trying to guess would be speculation. Rather than go there, I focused on comforting my daughter.

I told her we’d do something special too, and maybe this was an oversight, not an intentional act of meanness. Maybe we should give this girl and her mom the benefit of the doubt.

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Be Real and Know Who’s Good for You

I’ve never been a fan of pretense. Even as a little girl, if I sensed that a person was acting fake or a little hoity-toity for my taste, it made me want to run the other way.

I suppose that’s why I’m glad for the cultural shift in recent years where being “real” is a popular idea. Words like transparency, vulnerability, authenticity, and truth telling have gained buzz, and while pretension is still alive and kicking (thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to put on a show), there is also a mass of people who are tired of pretending and so exhausted by the quest to impress that they’re officially over it.

The irony of being real, however, is this: While we love for other people to pull back the curtain on their lives, we hesitate to do it ourselves. We’re afraid that if people knew the real scoop on us – our insecurities, flaws, and struggles – they wouldn’t like us anymore. They’d be unimpressed or disappointed.

This fear keeps us on the hamster wheel of pretending and putting on masks. It creates internal strife as we waffle between wanting people to think we’re a big deal and wishing to kick superficial stuff to the curb and live real, honest, and simple lives.

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