Sometimes, children cannot explain what they are going through and how they are feeling. My bambino suffered from social anxiety from an early age and at first, I did the old ‘parental guilt thing’ that the Devil likes to shove onto us when we forget to take our problems straight to God. I thought that it was somehow my fault and I questioned if it was owing to something I did when she was a baby.
When the sadness became too overwhelming, I finally did what I should have done in the first place. I gave the problem to the Lord and asked him to sort it out.
The first thing I needed was understanding. He did this beautifully by helping me see things from her point of view:
Here I am again. Alone in the playground. Everyone’s got a friend or two, but nobody wants to play with me. It’s lonely and embarrassing and I don’t want to be here.
I pluck up a bit of courage and approach a group huddled together. “Can I play with you?” They say yes, but I don’t feel warm inside because they ignore me. They run, I follow, they run, I follow, they run, I follow again. I get fed up with this. They are not talking to me.
I walk away. No-one calls me back. There’s nothing to do – nobody to talk to.
What shall I do with myself?
A few straggly skipping ropes are left on the ground. I pick one up and start jumping. I flick it back and it gets caught in the hood of my coat. I giggle but there’s no-one to giggle with me.
My only companion
A hula hoop would be better, but I didn’t finish my lunch quick enough to get one. Mummy told me off when I said I left my food so I could get out of the dining hall fast, to get a hoop. She said, “You’re only 6 and very little. You need to make sure you eat well so that your body can grow big and strong.” She doesn’t understand that it’s my only friend and I’d rather be hungry than have nothing to do.
Someone walks past and I act daft by twisting my mouth and making a funny noise. Maybe somebody will notice and think I am funny and want to be with me. I don’t realise that this makes things worse. They are the same age as me, so they can’t grasp that I’m only doing these things for attention. A girl notices my twisted face and turns her back on me. She definitely doesn’t want to play with me now.
I see a girl in the distance who I think likes me. To my delight, she agrees that I can join in the fun, but then two minutes later, she says I must go because the game they are playing now has too many people.
People are huddled together talking. They are interested in what each other has to say. Nobody is interested in me. What I’ve got to say is obviously not important. No-one needs me, no-one wants me. Might as well stay at home. I don’t like school.
Back in class
When I get back into class, I don’t feel happy. I haven’t had a good play time and I’m dreading the next one. My pocket is full of sticks I collected when I had nothing else to do. Maybe I’ll collect some leaves next time, but I’d rather do it with someone else. It would be great to compare leaves; see who’s picked the biggest.
The teacher asks a question. I know the answer but I daren’t put my hand up because nobody likes my voice. What if my answer is wrong and everybody laughs at me? I don’t want people looking at me. Staring. Staring at the girl with no friends. They already think I’m silly, so if I get this question wrong, they’ll think I’m even more silly.
I look away from the teacher and bite my finger, but I really, really want to suck my thumb. I haven’t had a good play and now I have to do work. I just want someone to talk to me, so I sit and chat to the girl next to me instead of finishing my sums. I don’t understand them anyway.
The teacher gets annoyed when she sees I’m not working, but how do I explain that I’m not being naughty? The girl has been listening to me and it makes me feel good about myself.
The next play time is the same. I take ages to put on my coat to stall time. I pretend something’s stuck in the sleeve, then I fiddle with my Velcro fastening, making out that it won’t stick. I go to the toilet then play with the soap until the water goes cloudy. I hear boyish shouts and girly screams. I hear laughter.
There’s an empty bench outside. I sit down and pretend I’m not bothered. Nobody calls my name, so I keep my head down, counting my sticks. I wish it would snow, then at least I could have fun making footprints.
The whistle goes again, but I’ve had no play.
Later on, at bedtime, Mummy is cross with me and telling me off for biting holes in the cuff of my jumper. I want to tell her how I feel but she is not happy with me. Will she want to listen, and will she care? After all, I’ve wasted their money by ruining my uniform. She asks me to pray but I don’t mention about how I’m feeling. Better to say things she’s going to be happy with like, “Sorry God for biting my sleeve.” She’s staring at me funny, like she is trying to see into my mind. She looks sad. She prays and reaches forward and kisses me. This is my chance. I tell her I have no friends at school, and she listens. She asks me lots of questions and has that sad face again. I’m surprised because she tells me that a similar thing happened to her when she was little and that it happens to boys too. She acknowledges that it is a horrible feeling. I’m pleased that she’s listening and taking me seriously. She runs her finger across the top of my brow and lightly strokes my hair.
She then holds my hand and prays with me again. I feel good that she’s telling God about this. I know God loves me and makes things better, so I’m happy. I feel safe and it gives me peace knowing I’ve shared my problem with my mummy and God.
Mummy tells me I can talk to her about this as often as I like and says God never gets bored of us telling him the same things. She does an impression of God being bored and I laugh.
My smile is back
I’m so pleased he likes me. Daddy comes up later and talks with me. He tells me he’s sorry about how I feel. That’s nice. I’m asked a lot of questions again, but I don’t mind. It makes me feel good to be listened to. He calls me ‘chicken’ and ‘sweetheart’ and strokes my head in a way that makes me feel sleepy. He prays with me and I lie down and put my thumb in my mouth.
I’m happy now. I’m happy that God has given me a mummy and a daddy who loves me a big lot. I’m happy that even though I can’t see him, God is my very best friend.
Taken from, ‘God Loves Children’. Chapter entitled, ‘Primary Years: The Psychology of Loneliness’
Thank you for taking a moment out of your busy schedule to connect with this story.